When excess weight is a protection

This morning when I was reflecting on what I wanted to right about in this weeks blog I found myself contemplating how often during therapy women identify that weight has become a protection from something. I believe this had been true for me as well. It is possible that men may experience this too but I have not spoken to any men for whom this is true.

What am I talking about?

Sometimes people with low self-esteem or who have experienced some kind of sexual abuse in childhood develop a coping strategy to avoid unwanted attention. This involves making themselves as unattractive as possible and in some cases this means packing on the pounds.

When I think about my own experience I can see this pattern very clearly. My self worth as a young women was very low, as a child I had experienced abuse from a visitor to our home and sadly my father’s attitude to women was disrespectful. All of this added up to create a confusing template within me.

As a teenager I was not overweight but thought I was. I received a lot of attention from young men and quite frankly I was desperate for love and approval. I didn’t think I had much to offer but somehow I thought that being sexually available would make them love me! Sadly the kind of men I was attracting at this point in my life were not interested in love and had similar attitudes to women as my father. As a result my self-esteem got lower particular when I “put up” with an advance from someone I was not interested in.

Then I got married and started to worry. Fidelity was a high value for me and even though right from the start the marriage was abusive I wanted to be faithful. The only trouble was I worried about maintaining boundaries and saying “no”. Unconsciously I found a solution. I put on weight so I wouldn’t have to be in a position to say “no” to an unwanted advance. This worked and during my short marriage I was faithful and didn’t have to handle any difficult situations.

Then I started addressing my self-esteem issues. I mentioned in an earlier blog the fantastic personal development course I attended called “The Turning Point”. Over the span of a weekend my self-esteem went from zero to healthy. As a result I removed myself from the unhealthy relationship I was in and surprisingly or not the weight fell off.

The old issues of boundaries arose again and I had some interesting learnings. The big moment came when I finally made the complete transition internally about my worth. I had been dating a man for about three weeks and one evening he rang me up. He started telling me about a woman he was in love with who wasn’t interested in him. Now he wasn’t breaking up with me, he was just sharing his feelings!

I listened to this for about five minutes and then heard myself quite calmly say:

“I’m not really interested in this conversation and have decided I’d rather not see you any more. Good luck for the future. Goodbye.”

I calmly and quietly hung up the phone, no drama, no excitement just a clear stating of my boundaries. In the past I would have tried to convince him that I could heal his broken heart and that I could give him what this other woman was denying him. I would not have realised that I was disrespecting myself. I would have got caught up in the drama of it all.

It felt to me like this was a turning point in my life. My weight went up and down a few times over the years for other reasons but this dragon had been faced. I didn’t have to put on weight to get rid of unwanted attention I could just say how I felt. This was somewhat of a revelation.

If you realise that your weight is part of a protection strategy and you want to make a change let me know. Here are some ideas to help you process your thoughts.

  1. Start by writing down what you are trying to protect yourself from.
  2. Is it working?
  3. If “yes” acknowledge to yourself how successful you’ve been.
  4. Now ponder this, if you could find an alternative way to get the same result would you be interested?
  5. If “no” acknowledge that too and reflect on how it would be useful to get a new strategy.
  6. For you ponder, if you could find a successful strategy that would give you the result you want would you be interested?
  7. Now brainstorm some alternate strategies and how you will acquire the necessary skills to use them.

Let me know how you get on.


About Melody @ GWizlearning

Melody spent fourteen years gathering experience of the business world working in banking, telecommunications and the public sector before co-founding The GWiz Learning Partnership in 1993. Melody has a Masters Degree in Applied Positive Psychology, a degree in Psychology and a diploma in Psychotherapy. She is an NLP Master Trainer which allows her to run NLP Practitioner, NLP Master Practitioner and NLP Trainer Training courses certified by the Positive School of Intrinsic Neuro-Linguistc Psychology. She is also a qualified Myers Briggs practitioner and EI practitioner and added to all this is five years Transactional Analysis training, meaning she is able to help organisations access the hidden potential in their staff. She is also in demand for her work in transforming average or even troubled teams into high performers. Melody is a visiting lecturer at University of East London, teaching "Wellbeing and Positive Psychology" to undergraduates. Additionally, she is a member of the CIPD and is ILM accredited. Melody's interests are many and varied. She has a keen interest in personal development, canine and wolf psychology, conservation, movies and running. She also enjoys western horse riding, walking the GWiz dogs, nature watching and stage combat (particularly sword fighting).
This entry was posted in Emotional Intelligence, Life in General, Self Esteem, Weight loss and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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