I have been a counsellor/ psychotherapist and coach specialising in the field of weight management for many years. Sometimes clients come to see me about weight loss, sometimes it is about weight gain and sometimes it is about long-term weight maintenance.
Sometimes weight issues brought them for their initial appointment but bubbling underneath the surface there might be relationship stress, depression, anxiety, self esteem issues, trauma, a history of sexual abuse, mental health problems, metabolic concerns, illnesses such as diabetes, PCOS, fertility problems among a myriad of other reasons.
I am not saying for a minute that weight was the only cause of any of these things or that weight loss will fix any of these things. However sometimes weight loss is something that for what ever reason the client will want or need.
Maybe their doctor has suggested weight loss, maybe they have PCOS and a small amount of weight loss will help them feel better. Sometimes it may assist with fertility. Sometimes they just may feel a bit more comfortable in their bodies. Their reasons are personal and must be respected.
In the past few years it has come to my attention that the word weight and in particular weight loss and any thing associated with it has become part of an ideological battlefield. There is a growing movement that has huge traction who claim that “weight loss” should never be discussed or encouraged. They say it is possible to be healthy at every size. I do not dispute that it is possible to be healthy at every size.
Nor do not think weigh of any size is the only indicator of health.
I also acknowledge that weight loss and diets can be triggers for eating disorders and we must be very careful to prevent and protect against disordered eating.
However just telling people to stop thinking about their weight and that weight loss is wrong and that the size they are is just fine can be dismissive and dangerous emotionally and physically. That message is fine but they may need ongoing support from suitably qualified people to do this not just from people with a militant philosophy.
From my perspective people who are obese or very overweight are often vulnerable. They are caught in the middle of two fierce and rigid ideologies. One is the commercial world of weight loss fuelled with the message that if you lose weight you will be happy and blames the individual for their weight. They then ruthlessly sell potions, lotions, miracle cures, gym memberships and a bullying like attitude that says all they need to do is eat less and move more and that they just need to try harder.
The other says they shouldn’t buy into any of that and to accept the weight they are and focus on other healthy behaviours. This is a sound and reasonable message. Except, that they refuse to engage with practitioners like me who think that it is ok to focus on healthy behaviours and of course it is wonderful to feel good whatever size we are but it is also ok to want to manage your weight.
People are complex, their stories are complex, their inner dialogue, their inner world, their self talk, family or origin, culture , physical needs, medical needs all differ and a simple slogan or message fails to address the extraordinarily complex beings we are.
Instead of being divisive why are we not able to be supportive of our clients.
I have seen people nearly die from weight related issues and I am not being dramatic here. If I told them to just refuse to engage with weight loss and accept the weight they are they would not be here.
I am anti diet, I am not into restrictive eating behaviours, I believe in encouraging the joys of eating, I believe in healthy body image but I also want to be able to help people manage their weight from a compassionate caring and ultimately respectful way if that is what they need.