Don't Kid Yourself...We're All Victims of Weight Stigma

Did you know that it's Weight Stigma Awareness Week!

Could weight stigma be the reason why you're frequently binge eating, feeling depressed, hating your body and struggling with low self-esteem? According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), people who are victims of weight stigmatization are more prone to these things.

My primary intention in this love note is to define weight stigma and help you to see how it may be affecting your life, especially as it relates to your relationship with food and body. It's very important to realize that even though some may believe they haven't directly experienced weight stigmatization, because weight stigmatization manifests itself in internal and external fat phobia and/or weight bias (defined as fear of becoming fat or of fat people) it does affect us all.

If we want to continue to grow and be more inclusive of others, it's important for all of us to continue to examine our beliefs and bias toward all marginalized groups. Make no mistake that weight stigma hurts us all and I'm going to briefly highlight a few reasons why.

What is weight stigma?
According to NEDA,

"Weight stigma, also known as weight bias or weight discrimination, is discrimination or stereotyping based on a person’s size. Weight stigma also manifests in fat phobia, the dislike or fear of being or becoming fat."

What are some weight stigma facts?

  • It affects people of all shapes and sizes

  • Disordered eaters and people with diagnosed eating disorders are affected by it

  • It occurs more frequently than gender or age discrimination

  • "Concern trolling" (people concerned about your weight for "health" reasons) is another form of it

  • Those exposed to it engage in more frequent binge eating

  • Those exposed are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with binge eating disorder (BED), depression, and body dissatisfaction

How do medical providers perpetuate weight stigma?

  • Provide patients in larger bodies with less health information and are often dismissive because they believe cause of ailment is solely due to a person's weight and/or size

  • Spend less time with patients who are in larger bodies or dismiss concerns of patients in thinner bodies

  • View larger bodied patients are undisciplined, annoying and non-compliant

  • Eating disorder programs base treatment on a person's weight and won't treat if weight is too low

  • Insurance companies often use weight as a deciding factor for eating disorder treatment and/or discharge based on a patients weight not on their recovery stage

What can we do about it?

  • Educate yourself about what weight stigma is and how it may be showing up in your life

  • Recognize how you may have weight bias toward yourself and others

  • Continue to observe your eating and body dissatisfaction triggers to discern if they are influenced by weight stigma

  • Continue to seek out anti-diet communities in social media, listen to anti-diet podcasts, and strengthen your intuitive eating practice by working through the Intuitive Eating Workbook or schedule an Embrace Anti-Diet Living Connection Session with me

  • Continue cultivating your self-compassion practice

Other weight stigma resources to check out
Weight Stigma FAQ - NEDA
Weight Stigma - NEDA
Talking to Your Child About Weight Bias - NEDA
The Health Impact of Weight Stigma - Today's Dietitian, Carrie Dennett
Fat Is Not the Problem—Fat Stigma Is - Scientific American, Linda Bacon & Amee Severson

Virgie Tovar challenges fatphobia, how it hurts mental health - Virgie Tovar

View more posts about this topic by searching for the #WSAW2019 and #ComeAsYouAre hashtags. Follow my Instagram weight stigma posts.

If you're tired of battling with your weight, fed up with the cycle of yo-yo dieting, and yearning to be free from your obsessive thinking about food and your body, schedule your complimentary Embrace Anti-Diet Living Connection Session.

We’ll get clear on where you are now, what you want instead, and what might be getting in the way of your success.

I’ll also share some powerful recommendations and resources to get you started on creating a peaceful relationship with your body and food.

10 Tips to Manage Anxiety About Weight Gain

weight gain picture.jpg

Whenever anyone quits dieting (defined as intentional attempts to control weight and size) and decides to practice intuitive eating, their body and mind go a through significant transition. While it is often a relief that they no longer have to follow strict rules around food and movement, removing them can be anxiety producing for a variety of reasons. Many will wonder, “What is going to happen to my body now?” or “Won’t I just keep gaining weight if I do not have any rules in place?”. The truth is that no one can answer these questions with certainty because each body may respond differently based on its dieting history, current health status, genetics, medications, socioeconomic status, etc.  We do know with certainty that one of three outcomes may happen: Weight remains the same, weight loss, or weight gain.

While the focus of intuitive eating, which is a practice that teaches ex-dieters and previous food restricters to tune-in to their bodies innate cues related to hunger, fullness and food satisfaction, among other things, is not to focus on weight loss but instead improving ones relationship with food, sometimes weight gain does occur as part of the recovery process.

I will stress that if you are one of the people who gained weight while practicing intuitive eating, it does not mean that there is something wrong with you or with your intuitive eating practice.

Understanding that weight gain is sometimes the body’s response to periods (sometimes decades) of restriction is important. Continuing to practice intuitive eating is the best course of action even though the weight gain may be uncomfortable both emotionally and physically. After all, we cannot ignore the fact that weight stigma is real and can have profound negative effects on our overall health.

To help my clients, and others who ask me, manage the discomfort from weight gain, I offer them the following suggestions.

  1. Cultivate self-compassion – While this is often the furthest thing from most people’s minds during life’s ups and downs, it is often what is needed most of all. The first step to being more self-compassionate is acknowledging the discomfort. So, take time to lean into the discomfort even though that may seem challenging some days. Acknowledge that anyone who breaks up with dieting and no longer allows the unattainable nonsense of diet culture to ruin their lives, undergoes a period of transition, so you are not alone. Be kind to your body as it gets used to this new way of living knowing that the transition is temporary but well worth it.

  2. Trust – Realize that during this transition, you are learning to trust your body again and your body is learning to trust you. One of the many things that dieting and/or food restriction does is strip away that trust. When we practice intuitive eating, we are re-learning how to listen to our body instead of following external rules and self-imposed restrictions. On the flip side, our bodies are learning to trust that they will continue to be honored and cared for by consistently getting enough of the foods that nourish and satisfy them. Rebuilding this trust takes time and patience, but it will happen.

  3. Know there is an end in sight – While it may seem like the weight gain will never end, believe and trust that it will. Understand that the body is sorting itself out by trying to find its ideal weight. It will draw a line and you will need to do your best to trust that your body can and will to do that. Caring for yourself by taking time to educate yourself about the mechanics of weight science can be very helpful and empowering. A great resource for this is the book Body Respect by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor.

  4. Rethink your old beliefs - Challenge the mechanical thinking and belief that weight is as simple as calories in vs. calories out. Unlike what we are told by commercial weight loss programs, TV, and social media ads, weight science is very complex, and many things may impact a person’s weight. The belief that fat and larger bodies are “bad” is the problem, not the weight itself. A paradigm shift is needed for healing not another diet.   

  5. Dump the scale – Do not step on the scale because that disrupts months of progress and may even lead you back to restrictive eating again. For those who have used a scale to control their food intake or assess their self-value based on their weight, stepping on the scale can be even more detrimental to them.

  6. Reduce body checking – Do not get caught up in obsessive mirror gazing, clothes checking, feeling for bones, etc. as that is detrimental to progress also. When the urge to body check surfaces, think of an affirming statement to get yourself back on track like, “May I trust that my weight is working itself out and doing its best to take care of me.” or “May I be kind to my body as it transitions and heals.”

  7. Practice patience – Remind yourself often that normalizing food and eating behaviors after years of dieting takes time and patience. There is no shortcut around this. Just keep noticing your shifting beliefs and observe them non-judgmentally.

  8. Keep your dieting memory green – Remember why you broke up with dieting in the first place. Make a list of the consequences you suffered as a result of dieting and make it accessible so you can re-read it often. The Intuitive Eating Workbook has some great exercises related to this that I recommend doing.

  9. Let go of the illusion – Let go of the illusion that you can control your weight long-term. Yes, while dieting you probably lost weight (most did this repeatedly), your long-term experience maintaining the weight was fleeting. Understanding that continued attempts to lose weight will do more harm than good because they will just put you back into the restrict/binge cycle.

  10. Mourn what was – Acknowledge that you may feel grief about the changes your body is experiencing. Make room for this grief while doing your best not to judge yourself for it. Repeatedly make room for the grief because it will continue to resurface from time-to-time. This is not easy when diet culture continually reinforces that smaller bodies are better, healthier and more attractive. Be aware of who is gaining financially when you are feeling negatively about yourself and your body. Understand that while it is natural to feel pressured by the demands of diet culture, continuing to practice intuitive eating and learning more about how manipulative diet culture can be will eventually help you to feel more confident, satisfied and joyful in your body. This will finally allow you to live your life to the fullest without the constant preoccupation with food and body dissatisfaction.

If you're tired of battling with your weight, fed up with the cycle of yo-yo dieting, and yearning to be free from your obsessive thinking about food and your body, schedule your complimentary Embrace Anti-Diet Living Connection Session.

We’ll get clear on where you are now, what you want instead, and what might be getting in the way of your success.

I’ll also share some powerful recommendations and resources to get you started on creating a peaceful relationship with your body and food.

Have You Ever Tried a Self-Love Diet?

I believe that nourishing and caring for our bodies, in whatever way we deem appropriate for ourselves, is an act of self-love. However, more often than not, when I hear people speaking of self-love as it relates to their relationships with food and body, it’s often in a restrictive, rigid, guilt-ridden, and judgmental manner.  

For example, phrases like, "I love myself too much to eat _____ because it’s X (processed, fried, etc.) or has too many X (calories, sugars, etc.). While some may not eat _____ because it doesn’t make them feel well, most of the time it’s because they fear it will make them gain weight and/or get fat(ter). Or, because they believe they’re “addicted” to the food and won’t be able to stop eating it. And some won’t eat ________ because eating _______ isn’t “healthy”.

Others will say things like, "I don't emotionally eat anymore because I love myself too much for that.". And, when people do eat for emotional reasons (which the majority of us do from time-to-time) they usually feel ashamed and judge themselves harshly because they believe if they loved themselves enough, they wouldn’t need to use food as a “crutch” to cope with life’s ups and downs. 

Before I discovered intuitive eating, I used to believe that relating to food this way was an act of self-love too. Now I see that I was just following a Self-Love Diet

I feel it’s appropriate to call it a Self-Love Diet because a diet is when we are purposely trying to lose or control our weight by eating and/or exercising in a certain manner. This is done by physically restricting food or calories and/or by using exercise to compensate for additional calories eaten. When the rigid rules of diets become impossible to follow (which is inevitable), we’re left to feel guilty and shameful about our perceived dieting failures and about our food choices, lack of exercise, and “emotional” and/or binge eating, etc. Of course, research indicates that it’s the restrictive eating behaviors that are causing the majority of these eating difficulties in the first place, but most don’t realize this fact.  

It’s not surprising that many people are on a Self-Love Diet because on the surface, it seems like a nice idea, right? After all, love is one of the strongest human emotions. So, if we could harness it for the purposes of having the body that we’ve always wanted, we should be able to love ourselves thin, maintain our weight throughout all the phases of our lives, and/or finally get our eating “under control”. In theory, it sounds like it would make sense, but the reality is that diets aren't successful long-term which is why over 85% of people who diet gain the weight back, plus more, within 3-5 years. 

The truth is, in this case, self-love is being conflated with control. Self-love is supposed to make us feel good and uplift us. A Self-Love Diet is having the opposite effect because it’s nearly impossible to follow long-term, causes self-judgment, guilt, and shame. None of these emotions make us feel good about ourselves so how could that be self-love? 

I don’t think self-love is a lost cause for caring for ourselves, but I would like to redefine self-love from a weight-neutral, anti-diet perspective.

  • Self-love is learning to listen to your body and honor it as often as possible.

  • Self-love is letting go of harmful beliefs that eating needs to look a certain way or it's wrong or harmful.

  • Self-love is trusting that your body will work its weight out on its own without trying to manipulate or control it.

  • Self-love is sometimes eating even when you're not hungry.

  • Self-love is moving your body in a way that brings you joy and isn't used to punish.

  • Self-love is knowing that we don't need anyone to define the parameters around what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat. ⠀⠀

  • Self-love is eating satisfying foods whenever you're able.

  • Self-love is sometimes eating for emotional eating reasons without feeling shameful.

  • Self-love is caring for your body in a way that is sustainable and defined on your own terms.

  • Self-love is acknowledging that you have individual and unique needs and you can decide how to best satisfy them.

Now that's the kind of self-love that will make us feel good about ourselves and take better care of ourselves. And, this redefined form of self-love is more sustainable and will likely result in a peaceful and flexible relationship with food.

If after you’ve read this message you realize that you are following a Self-Love Diet and want to change that, you can! Remember, it’s never too late to look at things from a fresh, new perspective. Now that you have this awareness, you can start moving toward a peaceful relationship with food by practicing intuitive eating! 

I’d love to hear from you! Have you ever followed a Self-Love Diet?

If you're tired of battling with your weight, fed up with the cycle of yo-yo dieting, and yearning to be free from your obsessive thinking about food and your body, schedule your complimentary Embrace Anti-Diet Living Connection Session.

We’ll get clear on where you are now, what you want instead, and what might be getting in the way of your success.

I’ll also share some powerful recommendations and resources to get you started on creating a peaceful relationship with your body and food.

Are You Making This Common Intuitive Eating Mistake?

One of the reasons why I love practicing Intuitive Eating is because it has given me freedom from food and negative body image. In fact, this is the main reason why clients seek out my services. They are ready to uncouple their self-worth to the number on the scale or the size of their jeans. They are ready to reclaim their lives and free up the time and energy they had previously used to count calories, fat grams, carbs, or “points”.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with intuitive eating, it’s a process that teaches you how to stop dieting and/or restricting food and start listening to your body’s internal wisdom as it relates to hunger and fullness, cravings, movement, etc.

Intuitive eating is the polar opposite of dieting because it does not have any rigid rules or “have tos”. Instead, it offers 10 principles to gently guide you out of the elusive and damaging diet culture and into food freedom.

One mistake I made when I first began practicing intuitive eating was treating the principles like rules. This is a very common experience for newbies and can be very problematic if not caught. Mistaking the principles for rules is no different than being on a diet; that rigidity still exists. After all, the primary purpose of practicing intuitive eating is to break free from diet culture so one can experience freedomflow, and flexibility in their relationships with food and body. This can only happen when we ditch the rules, rigidity, and harsh personal judgments and start listening and trusting our bodies again.

So, how do you know if you’re making this common mistake?

One of the best ways to recognize this is to observe your language. Being mindful of how you talk and think about the principles is key. Whenever words like alwaysneveronly, and should are used in conjunction with the intuitive eating principles, it is often a sign that rigidity, perfectionism, and food morality are present. This is the epitome of diet culture!

A few of the principles that I mistook for rules were related to hunger, fullness, and emotional eating. My clients often make the same mistakes. Over the years, I’ve heard many of my people say things like:

But I thought I should only eat when I’m hungry.


I’m only supposed to eat until I’m full, right?


I try to never eat for emotional reasons because that violates the principles.

But, when you begin to embody the principles you’ll likely discover this:

Sometimes you will eat when you’re not physically hungry just because something looks yummy and you don’t want to miss out.

Sometimes you will overeat.

Sometimes you will eat to soothe yourself.

And, it’s all okay! In fact, this is what Ellyn Satter, Registered Dietitian, family therapist, and author at the Ellyn Satter Institute describes as normal eating.

None of these examples mean that you’ve done anything “wrong” or that you’re not practicing intuitive eating the “right” way. It simply means you’re human. Intuitive eating isn’t about being “perfect” around food. It’s about developing a healthier relationship with food. The more tuned-in and open you are to listen to our body’s (hunger, fullness, satiety, etc.) and the less perfectionistic you try to be, the more relaxed and joyful your relationship with food will eventually become.

I will add that as you continue to nurture and heal this complex relationship, it’s best to make curiosity and self-compassion your daily co-pilots instead of self-judgement and perfectionism.

Please understand that if you feel that you’re frequently eating in a way that isn’t aligned with your intuition or feel that your eating is consistently uncontrollable, it’s best to seek guidance from a trained anti-diet professional

Judging ourselves for our perceived “mistakes” and/or beliefs that we’re not doing intuitive eating “right” keeps us stuck in diet culture. When these guidelines are used as gentle parameters and not as rules, it makes room for that freedom, flow, flexibility with eating that so many of us have yearned to have. It’s no longer about “perfect” eating. It’s about doing our best to listen to our body’s cues knowing that sometimes we may not. The good news is that with intuitive eating there’s room for all of this. This is part of the beauty and delight in practicing intuitive eating. It allows us to be human and enjoy a healthful and flexible way of eating that dieting never could.