Weight Gain and How You Feel

TL;DR - Blaming your weight for how you feel is overly simplistic. Society, behaviors, and circumstance influence your physical and emotional experience.

I just feel better when I weigh X pounds.

This is a phrase I hear frequently as a fitness coach, and I’ve even uttered it to myself on several occasions.

There’s some truth to it (we’ll get to that later), and I invite you to examine whether some of your “feeling good” could be attributed to factors outside of your weight.

Let’s flash back to a time when you were at your “goal weight,” or a weight that’s lighter than you are now.

  • What daily activities did you do? This includes formal exercise, as well as walking, and physical chores and tasks. Are you getting that much or that intensity level now? If you were more active then, could it be that you felt better because you used to be more active and your strength, conditioning and flexibility were better?


  • What was your relationship to your body like? Did you have more acceptance, compassion, and generally good feelings about it? What if you had that same level of positivity towards your body now? Could it be your emotional state is influenced by your weight?


  • How were your relationships back then? Were they fulfilling? Simpler? Are your relationships now a bit harder to maintain, more complicated, more demanding (were you single before, and now you’re a spouse, parent, and caregiver to others)? Do you agree that you feel better when your social life is strong and nourishing?


  • Describe how your relationship to food and eating was: Did you worry about portion size and eating nutritiously? If you did, how much of your life did it take up? Did you need to plan and prep meals, use a tracker, avoid certain social situations? Is that something you want to (or can) pay attention to and implement now?


  • How much sleep did you get? What times did you go to bed and wake up? Did you sleep through the night?


  • Consider the stressors in your life at that time - how do they compare in intensity and total amount to what you experience now?

These are the top questions (there are even more!) to consider when you compare your feelings in your current body to your past, or to a fictional “version” of yourself.

Weight isn’t the result of only your exercise routine and food intake - it is a much more complex result of your gender, age, genetics, hormones, social, financial, mental, environmental, and emotional life.

To say that you feel better when you weigh a certain amount denies all the circumstances taking place around that weight.

I mentioned there’s some truth to that statement: Our society loves thinness and weight loss.

So if, during that time you were thinner and/or had just lost significant weight, chances are you got a lot of positive attention and were treated well. That probably made you feel great! Made you feel accomplished, in control, powerful, confident.

If you’re heavier now, all those compliments are gone. Maybe you feel some shame. Perhaps people, including your doctors, treat you poorly.

That’s not your fault - our culture has trained us to be terrified of weight gain. We learn early on that being fat is because we’re lazy, we’ve “given up,” or that we’re uneducated in exercise or nutrition.

So, how can we feel good (or at the very least, feel neutral and not crappy) in whatever body we have right now, right in this moment?

First, we can question the belief that our weight determines our mood, self-esteem, and physical state. Moreso, we can question and actively fight against the societal belief that weight and health determines one’s worth - that’s baloney.

If you physically feel tired, slow, out of breath, weak, stiff, immobile, you can take steps to improve those without a focus on your weight.

You can participate in enjoyable movement that improves your cardiovascular system and strengthens your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. And, since you enjoy it, you might improve your mood, reduce your stress, sleep better, and make a few friends. (Also note that those symptoms could be tied to conditions totally unrelated to physical activity).

Basically, stop using weight as your measurement of how you feel. It’s just too simplistic. Start looking at all the factors in your life. Yes, this is much more emotionally difficult, and challenging to confront, but you’ll actually get to the root of what’s really going on.

Also, if you make big changes like incorporating exercise, getting therapy to improve relationships, eating more vegetables, and getting more sleep, and it happens to result in some weight loss, please do not hold up weight loss as the illustration of how good you feel now.

Instead, consider talking about all those other changes - the emotional work you did to address workplace stress, the sacrifices you make to get to bed early, the way you got out of your comfort zone to try a new exercise class. This way, we can help others shift away from their old beliefs around weight, too.

Curious about how to incorporate enjoyable exercise in your life? Message me to set up a free intro phone call. I offer online and in-person body positive fitness coaching for people who want to feel better in their bodies.