You can feel it, and you’re devastated.
Your once loose pants are tightening around your hips and thighs. Your jeans no longer fit as well as they used to (or simply no longer fit). Your shirts are slightly pulling. You feel so big.
Maybe you’re looking softer in your midsection. Maybe you stepped on the scale, and the number has gone up.
You’ve gained weight.
When we feel the pounds inching up, we’re told that we need to be vigilant. We’re told that we need to cut down on our calories and up our exercise. We’re told that weight gain is a signal that something has gone wrong.
We’re told that we need to panic. There’s a palpable pressure to feel bad—and to make a change.
So what should you do if you’ve gained weight?
In short, nothing.
But here are some specific tips:
- Keep taking care of yourself. Many of us think that we need to punish ourselves for gaining weight. We think we don’t deserve kindness or care. We think we don’t deserve to feel good. Because we need to hold ourselves accountable.
Because kindness somehow excuses the awful thing we did (which, of course, is to gain weight). And we don’t need excuses. We don’t need to be absolved of this sin. However, this kind of thinking is nonsense. These are myths manufactured by the diet industry (and misguided medical professionals). You deserve to keep caring for yourself. You do. Remember that.
- Eat what you like. Your impulse might be to stop eating certain foods, such as cookies, pasta, pizza, ice cream, and bread. Your impulse might be to start some diet (like the Whole30) or detox. Your impulse might be to count calories or macros (or ….). Your impulse might be to skip meals.
In other words, your impulse might be to restrict. Don’t. Keep listening to your body. Keep eating when you’re hungry. Keep eating for pleasure and nourishment. Keep eating dessert. Keep eating carbs. Keep eating a wide range of foods.
- Keep engaging in physical activities you enjoy. Another impulse is to ramp up your exercise routine, or start a new routine, or focus on exercises that are “guaranteed” to help you lose weight, whether you actually like those physical activities or not.
This is another way we think we need to punish ourselves. So we get up super early and drag ourselves to the gym. So we run, even though we hate running. So we take a spin class, even though we hate spin.
Again, keep moving your body in ways that are fun or empowering or energizing or soothing for you. Use enjoyment to guide your decisions (instead of using fear).
- Focus on what’s making you uncomfortable. Often it’s not weight gain that makes us feel uncomfortable. Maybe it’s that we’re feeling stressed out or overwhelmed. Maybe we’re anxious. Maybe we’re lonely. Maybe we need to process a certain emotion or better understand a certain situation.
Maybe we haven’t been sleeping or resting enough. In other words, go within.
Weight loss has become a panacea for all our woes. What happens when you take weight out of the equation? What are your body, mind, and heart trying to tell you? What internal change or perspective shift might you need to make? How can you address the real issue or need?
- Let it out. Jot down how you’re feeling about gaining weight, and the different thoughts swirling inside your mind. Jot down any pressure you might feel. Jot down what’s frustrating you or making you sad. Jot down the contradictory feelings. It’s important to honor whatever arises. Naming our feelings and accepting them helps us to feel better.
Weight loss is celebrated in our society. Weight gain rarely is. So I know it’s hard when you find that your weight has shifted in a seemingly negative way. It’s hard when you’ve gained weight—and we can make it much harder by berating ourselves and believing that we need to make changes (which often don’t lead us to be particularly healthy or happy).
But really the key is to keep caring for yourself. It’s to keep listening to your needs, and to keep reminding yourself that you did nothing wrong. It’s to keep reminding yourself that you deserve compassion, care, and love at every weight, shape and size.
Because you do.