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What Lies Beneath Our Desire To Lose Weight

NYC in Oct 2012

Years ago I was intent on losing weight. It was my goal for a long time (essentially a decade). Today, I realize that’s not what I wanted after all.

What I really wanted was to feel better about myself. What I really wanted was to feel more comfortable, confident and secure in my own skin.

What I really wanted was calm — for the anxious thoughts to quiet — and connection — someone to love and someone to love me.

What I really wanted was to feel strong, energized, recharged, excited.

What I really wanted was to be more adventurous and independent and easy-going. And happier. A whole lot happier.

Years ago I couldn’t articulate this. And I didn’t even realize that weight loss became a kind of umbrella term for me. It encapsulated all that I wanted and all that I wasn’t.

I yearned for a quick fix, a quick way to make those deeper wishes come true. Because it was those deeper wishes that were buried beneath the seemingly simple desire of losing weight.

What lies beneath your desire to lose weight?

Is it self-compassion? Maybe you think weight loss will be a good enough reason to finally be kind to yourself and practice self-care.

Is it someone’s approval? Is it an end to overeating? Or is it better health and more energy?

Weight loss is not a panacea. It doesn’t give us these things. Intellectually we probably know this. But it’s harder to grasp, in part thanks to our thin-obsessed culture.

It’s harder to internalize. It’s harder to feel in our bones. Advertisers for fitness and diet programs would love for us to think that weight loss delivers a bounty of beautiful gifts, gifts that nothing else could give us.

(How many ads promise that weight loss will lead to a brighter, better future and a more confident you?)

But that’s not the reality. There is no quick fix.

This isn’t bad news. In fact, it’s great news. Because instead of bypassing our deep desires by seeking weight loss, we can go straight to the source.

If you want more energy, you can focus on getting more sleep, savoring nutrient-rich foods, and finding physical activities that you like.

If you want connection, you can schedule lunch dates with friends and phone dates with family. You can find a support group, spend more time with your partner or explore dating.

If you want someone else’s approval, you can explore the reasons you do, and how you can work on fortifying your sense of self and creating solid boundaries.

If you want calm, you can practice yoga, meditate for several minutes, and take deep, slow breaths throughout the day.

If you want to stop overeating, you can see a therapist and work through a book on the topic.

In other words, weight loss is needless. Instead, it hides what we really want and what we really need. Seeking weight loss creates a kind of windy road with tons of construction and debris blocking our true path.

It’s the reason we get lost. Thankfully, we can always return to ourselves. We can always discover our deep desires and focus our attention and energy on those wants and wishes.

In other words, we can act directly and pursue our real dreams.

What lies beneath your desire to lose weight? How can you make those wants come true?

What Lies Beneath Our Desire To Lose Weight

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2014). What Lies Beneath Our Desire To Lose Weight. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 29 Jan 2014
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