Being Able To Ask For Help With Weight Loss Without Being Judged, Shamed, Or Blamed Is Imperative
As a counsellor working in the area of weight management, I sometimes I feel like I'm sitting in the corner occupying a space that is always hidden. I'm talking about the great weight debate.
There seems to be two main discussions (I'm sure there are more) but these two dominate the media and mainstream ideologies around people living with excess weight.
I am not a spokes person for either so am cautious around definitions about these two camps but broadly speaking there are the people who are concerned that carrying too much extra weight is dangerous and unhealthy and that weight loss is important, and then there is the camp that fights for accepting bodies no matter what size or shape, and that any discussion around weight loss is unacceptable dangerous and wrong. From my corner both are right and both are wrong.
You see, in my work I encounter hundreds of people who feel so caught in this struggle that when they reach out for help they are silenced or shamed. For some of these people, they might have a very secret binge eating disorder that is so hidden that even acknowledging it is painful. Or, they have an illness that is already hard to manage, let alone having to justify to others why weight loss is so difficult.
With the camp that insists that people should never engage with weight loss behaviours, what I feel is remiss, and even negligent is that sometimes people are crying out to have help for a condition that causes them much physical, emotional and daily pain including a self expressed discomfort about carrying excess weight.
Instead, they are told to love the body they have, accept the body they have and in essence just to not give in to the idea of weight loss. But from what I often hear from clients, is that the weight gain that occurs as a result of the binging or from other causes can be very distressing for them.
There are also people who have or are at risk of a serious medical condition such as type 2 diabetes, thyroid conditions, heart conditions, sleep apnoea, PCOS and many more conditions where through managing their weight, they may be able to ease or lessen some of physical the impact of these concerns.
They have a right to be heard, and offered assistance without being criticised either by those that tell them to not engage with weight loss behaviours, or from those who can help with weight loss without the inference that their weight struggles are a result of a moral failing or laziness and that it is self inflicted.
Which is absolute rubbish. It is one of the above.
So, I sit here in the corner, saying that as a counsellor working in this field I absolutely do not judge anyone for being overweight or for their size. I honestly do want people to feel good within themselves in the body they have regardless of their weight, shape or size, however I also want people to be able to feel safe enough to reach out for help if they do want to lose weight because the two worries can coexist, and deserve dignified and judgement free help.
I also want to address the role of shame when discussing these issues.
Feelings of shame can pervade our sense of self in the most powerful and devastating ways. Shame can hide away in nooks and crannies deep within ourselves, and sometimes we may only get fleeting glimpses of it, because it stays mostly hidden, even from our selves because it is just too painful to go there.
"Shame is different from embarrassment or guilt. Embarrassment is to be uncomfortably visible. Guilt is the sense that we have violated a standard – we feel bad about something we did. With shame, we feel bad about who we are. And when that happens, we go into hiding."
This is a fragile and delicate discussion that clients often raise in our sessions. I feel talking about this is as important as any diet or exercise when addressing weight management.
Please know you do not have to go this alone.
Ginette Lenham ©2020