What is the REAL, under-lying reason women struggle with their weight? Has every woman who has gained weight struggled with body image issues? No. Is she lazy? No. Lack self-control? No. Been sexually assaulted? No. Been used and abused? No. In a bad marriage? Broken-hearted? Over-stressed? No, no, and no. Not EVERY woman. Those are all things that happen in people's lives, and are certainly reasons that can contribute, but not the one common denominator. There is one common experience that every woman who has ever had unwanted weight gain has, one common denominator.
Someone or some thing has deceived her, purposefully or not, verbally, or nonverbally, deceived her into believing that "YOUR FEELINGS DON'T MATTER." But much of the time it goes further. Women have been convinced, not just that their feelings don't matter, but also that their feelings are fallible. She has been told not to make decisions based on feelings. She's been told to "get over it" or called "over-sensitive", which communicated to her that feelings were not normal or that she shouldn't feel what she feels. The corporate world shames feelings, family life can cause us to keep them bottled up, and often, churches and communities can't accept them if they are against their doctrine. Some doctrines teach her that her feelings are inherently wicked or evil. No matter how it's communicated, she has been deceived into simply, not trusting her own feelings. Subconsciously, she starts shaming herself, privately, deeply, internally for being "too sensitive", feeling too much, and then judges herself for being selfish for thinking that what she feels matters. After all, her "feelings don't matter, are not valid, and will lead her astray in their wicked deception, in making bad decisions and screwing things up." So, she shuts down her feelings.
In shutting down her feelings, in essence, she is ignoring valid messages and indicators. Let's define what feelings are. Feelings are involuntary; feelings are reactions, involuntary reactions to our experiences that send us a valid indicator and a message. (I.e. - I feel involuntary pain, as a reaction to the experience of touching a hot stove; there's a valid indicator here - this stove is too hot to touch, and message here - I should be careful around stoves.) It's that simple. But because of the deception that feelings are voluntary and shameful, feelings (really, our inner voices) that are designed to help us make decisions, are now silenced. The woman adopts, "How I feel doesn't matter, so inner voice, I'm not listening to your indicators and messages, don't talk to me." She is left with no help to make good, logical decisions.
Once a woman is fully deceived into not trusting herself, she will listen and believe all the misleading and deceptive lies of the diet industry that will cause her to gain weight. Here's a sample story of how that happens, how it all begins. A normal weight woman participates in some kind of special event, a wedding, party or holiday, and at this event, is a lot of delicious food available. She does what everyone does - consumes too much and gains a few ounces. This happens again and now she has gained a few pounds. She has done nothing wrong here. Normally, she would listen to the voice inside of her that has a sense of this gain, step on the scale, and know the truth - she's gained some weight. If she doesn't want or like this weight gain, she would listen to the inner voice inside of her that says, "Okay, no problem, it's just a few pounds, so just eat a little less for a few days or so, you'll be fine, and you'll lose the weight." And with full confidence that this is not a big deal, and trust in herself, she absolutely could do that and successfully lose the few pounds she gained. Not a big deal. End of story. All okay.
But that's not what happens when she does not trust herself. Here's the story re-written: A normal weight woman participates in some kind of special event, and at this event, is a lot of delicious food available. She does what everyone does - consumes too much and gains a few ounces. This happens again and now she has gained a few pounds. She has done nothing wrong here. Here's where the story changes - since the voice inside of her is now silent, she doesn't step on the scale. Instead, she hears the other voices that have told that her feelings are fallible (too sensitive you are), and she certainly shouldn't obsess over the scale, so she ignores everything, and she doesn't really know the truth that she's gained weight - she has no data (the number on the scale) to process. Essentially, she sticks her head in the sand about it.
And that is just the first few pounds of weight gain. When this happens again, and she accumulates a gain of 5 or 10 lbs, her clothes don't fit, and then, she is feeling really discouraged and defeated. But again, she's told that it's her wickedly vain ego that cares about her weight, or it's her lack of will-power that has caused her weight gain. There is more judgment and more judgment heaped onto her - that it's her own fault she made bad choices, and that she's a little vain or selfish. (Unless you're a fitness model, you might be judged for caring about your body by someone, most likely. Society does one of two things with a woman's body - shames it or exploits it.)
With no inner-voice to send her valid messages (that she really has done nothing wrong and that all of that judgment is invalid), she will absorb the judgment. She will also believe everything the diet industry tells her. Oh, what's the harm in that? It's not like the diet industry is going to lie to her, right? A multi-billion dollar industry (that preys on women not trusting their feelings), knows that if you successfully lose weight, you won't need to buy their product. If you (collectively) don't buy their product, they are out of business. The diet industry in the largest culprit in America in deceiving women to not trust themselves. These lies sound like this - "You make bad choices on your own", "Let us make all the decisions for you", "You have no will power", "You have excuses", "You are lazy", "You are not smart enough to do it on your own", "You can't make decisions for yourself." Every time you sign up to follow a diet plan - this is what is communicated - "Follow this menu and this routine that we spell out for you, since you're not smart enough to make your own decisions for yourself. If you don't lose weight, then it's your own fault for being lazy, having excuses and having no will power."
Is it any wonder why we find it so difficult to lose weight? These under-lying messages exist in the very nature of diet programs and are being sent to us constantly. The "diet challenge" you took on with a team, the fitness trainer who you've hired to "kick your ass" at the gym, or nutritionist to tell you exactly what to eat - it's not personally their fault, and they can be the nicest person in the world, but by hiring someone to beat you into submission in your nutrition or fitness, you have entered into the relationship with these messages of not trusting yourself on the table from the get-go. Hiring someone for help and instruction can be very beneficial; I've done it myself and I have been able to take away a lot from it. However, I never submitted myself to letting anyone else's "routine" or "plan" trump my feelings. My feelings were my guiding light in what I wanted to do.
Your feelings do matter. They always matter. When you can trust that your feelings are involuntary and your feelings are reactions to your experiences, and silence all the other voices from outside, you will begin to see the valid indicators and hear the messages your feelings bring to you. When you can do this - you can lose weight easily. The one common denominator to all of our weight loss success stories - they have healed their hearts by un-silencing their own feelings. They know they can trust themselves. When they trust themselves, they have weight loss mastery. Trusting herself is the one common denominator of every woman with weight loss mastery.
Shelley Johnson is the Creator & Founder of The Losing Coach®.