Sometimes we hyper-focus on losing weight, because we yearn to feel lighter. Because right now we feel so heavy. Which we assume is because of the number on the scale. In our society, we always assume that the culprit is the number on the scale. We always assume that our weight is the issue, the end-all, be-all issue (and, of course, it’s all our fault).

But are you sure it’s the weight? Are you sure it’s not something else?

Because maybe it’s loneliness. Maybe it’s anger. Maybe it’s shame. Or sadness. Or fear. Or disgust. Maybe it’s a pain you can’t quite name or pick out, but it’s considerable. Maybe it’s massive.

Maybe it’s the thought that you are a complete and utter failure. You are a failed wife. You are a failed mother. You are a failed friend. You are a failed student. You are a failed person. Maybe it’s the thought that you are weak or unlovable or deeply lacking.

Often the reason or reasons we feel so heavy is because heavy, complicated emotions, thoughts, situations, circumstances are weighing us down. (This breathtaking essay by Jennifer Batchelor is a prime example.)

We see weight loss as a cure-all for everything that ails us, which is one reason we cling to the desire to whittle ourselves down. It’s also easier to calculate calories than to unpack and heal a complex heart. It’s easier to perform punishing exercises than to explore your shame or sadness or your anger (which just might be the hardest emotion to acknowledge and feel). It’s easier to fixate on pounds and points and macros and jean sizes than on abstract, nebulous, uncomfortable things like feelings.

But why turn to solutions that don’t fix our actual problems? Why try to lose weight when it doesn’t work?

Before you start pursuing weight loss, pause. Go beyond your surface desires. Delve deeper to see what’s really going on. Because weight loss might not be the answer or solution you really need. It might even make things much more confusing, and take you further and further away from what will help, from what will work. Because no amount of weight loss can erase your sadness or shame. No amount of weight loss can shrink your self-doubts or beliefs of failure. No amount of weight loss can change how you feel about yourself at your core. No amount of weight loss can make you lovable—in your own eyes or in someone else’s (and if it seems to, you might want to reconsider that relationship, because a relationship predicated on weight is not sustainable, and is not based on authentic connection; and all healthy relationships require that).

As Geneen Roth has said, “Weight loss does not make people happy. Or peaceful. Being thin does not address the emptiness that has no shape or weight or name. Even a wildly successful diet is a colossal failure because inside the new body is the same sinking heart.”

If your heart is sinking, focus away from weight loss, and toward genuinely helpful support, like talking to compassionate loved ones and working with a therapist and journaling and engaging in fulfilling activities. In other words, focus on what will really lighten your load. Because doing so creates meaningful change. Because doing so does heal your heart.

Photo by Cyril Saulnier on Unsplash.