May - Jun 2017

Check Your Emotional Baggage Here

By Laura Little, PsyD


When you’ve been holding in your emotions for a while, it’s a natural reaction for it to spill out sometime. All the things that have burdened you come out once you talk about a break up or the problem with your boss. It’s happened to all of us at some point.


For many of us our emotional baggage holds us back from accomplishing our weight loss goals. We struggle to rid ourselves of all the feelings that build up inside us over time. What we need to learn to do is pack a little suitcase of our emotional troubles and dump it whenever we like, freeing us to make progress.


An important component of losing weight successfully is first recognizing whether there were emotions that contributed to gaining or maintaining the weight in the first place. Addressing those issues and letting them go can help increase your chances of success. Here are some common emotions that can keep us feeling overburdened:


Guilt and Shame: Many times people feel guilty over mistakes they have made in the past. Sometimes people experience shame and chronically feel ’not good enough’. These emotions can lead people to punish themselves. We may believe that we do not deserve to be fit and healthy so we continue to avoid behaviors that we know will be helpful to us in the long run. Learning to forgive yourself and others and recognizing our flaws as part of being human, can lead to more positive behaviors.


Anger and Resentment: If you grew up in a home with controlling parents, particularly regarding your eating or dieting behaviors, it is not uncommon to continue to feel leftover anger and resentment. Eating can be a way of rebelling and affirming to yourself that no one can completely control you and that you are in charge of your eating. Ironically, if you are eating to prove something to others (or yourself), you really are not in charge at all. Taking charge of your health is recognizing that although people may have been hurtful or controlling in the past, you do not need to continue that cycle. You are now free to make healthy choices that are all your own.


Fear and Trauma: Although the majority of people have never suffered from abuse or traumatic experiences, those people who have survived abuse can have difficulty as they lose weight. Many of those who have experienced abuse discuss how being overweight has helped them to feel safe by being ’invisible’. As the weight comes off and they receive positive attention, it can provoke anxiety and lead some patients to consider slowing down or sabotaging their progress. If you have survived abuse and notice these kinds of thoughts, you are encouraged to consider speaking with a therapist who can help you to recognize that excess weight never keeps you safe. Learning to cope with the new attention takes time. Being active and healthy are your new greatest sources of strength.

Learning to let go can be the most challenging part of our journey. Through letting go of old wounds, we can finally let go of our excess weight.  As the author C. JoyBell C. writes: “You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles”.