One of my most viewed posts is Coping With Weight Gain Fear Post Weight Loss. Awhile ago, I received an email from a reader who was struggling with weight gain fear after weight loss. It’s a letter I much too often receive from readers who are filled with desperation, pleading for help.
As I read what this reader wrote, it broke my heart because I could relate to every word she wrote. What struck me most about this particular letter was when she said her nutritionist “didn’t get it.” Those words struck me like a lightening bolt. Weight gain fear after weight loss is very real and it reminded me of the one and only time after weight loss I saw a registered dietician four years ago.
It was two years post my 80 pound weight loss when I saw an registered dietician. I was at training at an employer’s training center which had a state of the art fitness and nutrition center. The center offered employees personal training and nutritional counseling services so I made an appointment to meet with the RD.
The year leading up to seeing the RD, I suffered from constant weight gain fear, worry, obsession and preoccupation that I would get fat.
Despite eating well and exercising, I didn’t trust my body nor myself. I constantly feared my body would one turn around one day, laugh at me for losing 80 pounds and start hoarding every ounce of food I consumed making me fat again. The months leading up to seeing the RD I felt so overwhelmed not to mention I was incredibly stressed at work which didn’t help matters. I felt very alone and ashamed of weight gain fear.
When I finally met with the registered dietician, I explained to her the stress I had been feeling about my my weight gain fears along the immense stress I had from my job. As I burst into tears I asked her “How I’m supposed to eat now? How do I workout? How do I know the weight won’t come back What are you supposed to do after you lose this much weight?”
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I was shaking and crying uncontrollably as I revealed to her the feelings I was so ashamed of sharing with anyone else.
I thought surely, she of all people would understand how I was feeling. But she didn’t. She stared at me with a blank expression. She had no idea how to respond making me feel even more ashamed of what I was feeling. Instead of discussing my feelings, we went over my typical meals and how I exercised. Her one piece of advice was that I could add another vegetable to my dinner. Um, gee thanks! I left feeling defeated, embarrassed and even more alone.
The problem was I didn’t need someone to tell me what I should or shouldn’t be eating. I needed someone to tell me the way I was eating wasn’t going to cause me to get fat again. I needed someone to say it’s okay not to exercise every single day.
I needed someone to say unless I ate an absurd amount of calories and ate unhealthy foods all the time it would be impossible for me to gain that much weight back. I needed someone to tell me weight gain fear post weight loss was normal and that it would pass. I needed someone to tell me it would be okay. But she didn’t. Maybe she didn’t know how to react or maybe I wasn’t clear. Either way she just didn’t get it.
That was the one and only time I saw an RD.
Many of the blogs I follow are authored by registered dietician’s and quite often I see RD’s responding to a reader about weight gain fears with a simple “just focus on healthy eating.” I read those responses and cringe for the person on the other end. The RD isn’t understanding the grave desperation that person is feeling and how destructive those emotions could become if not addressed. It’s not just about food or meal planning.
I’m not saying RD’s are bad because they definitely are not but like any medical professional, there are good ones and there are bad one and every individual has their strengths and weaknesses based on their experiences and backgrounds. When it comes to weight loss, I think it’s a matter of finding the right RD or nutritionist, preferably one who specializes in weight loss and integrative medicine.
I was too ashamed to seek out the right RD to help me work through how I was feeling.
Now when I see people going through what I call post “weight loss trauma” I feel a stabbing pain in my heart for them. You’ve lost the weight so now what? Losing the weight is the easy part. No one tells you what you’re supposed to do after that. How do you live normal again? How do you not weigh yourself obsessively morning, stop calorie counting, turn off the incessant worry that pounds will sneak up on you again? It’s daunting, scary and isolating.
For me, my first injury in 2014 forced me to let go of weight gain fear. Only then did I realize that unless I ditched my healthy lifestyle, stopped exercising and ate pizza, chips and cookies everyday, I wasn’t going to go from a size 2 to a 14 again. I learned to trust myself again. I lived with weight gain fear for four years. That’s longer than it took for me to lose weight and those were the worst years I’ve ever lived. I am so thankful for that injury because it liberated me.
To all of you reading this dealing with weight loss trauma, you don’t need to obsess about what you eat or do after weight loss. You don’t need to punish yourself by exercising more for eating a little bit extra one day. You don’t need to weigh yourself everyday obsessing over a few pounds up or down on the scale. Trust your habits. Eat healthy, exercise regularly and you will learn to trust yourself again. Be patient with yourself, be kind to your body and know you’re not alone. It will be okay.