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Life After Emotional & Binge Eating

Why Are We So Damn Proud of Weight Loss?

Why are we so proud of weight loss?The other day, as I was swiping my credit card at the Costco checkout line, I was surprised to hear a man’s voice say, “Hi, Ellen”. It was a very nice man I’ve known for 25 years. He works for the computer company that has sold me and serviced every business and personal computer I have owned since 1989.

It had been about 18 months since I’d seen him (no computer crashes in that time). The last time I’d seen him he was on crutches and clearly in pain. I asked how his knee was doing. He shared that he had had a successful knee replacement. Good for him, I said.

As he walked me out of Costco and into the parking lot, he volunteered how pleased he was with his 30 pound weight loss in prep for the surgery. Then, he told me how proud his wife was of him for losing the weight. Then, he went on to say how thrilled his doctor was that he had shed 30 pounds. And then, we said goodbye and headed to our cars.

I was so struck by how proud he was of his weight loss.

On my drive home, I found myself thinking, what else might he be proud of in his life. In the few minutes we had together, I would have loved to have heard about some interesting or selfless act he had done for a neighbor or friend. I would have loved to have heard that since his surgery he’d been walking homeless dogs at a local shelter, or about a wonderful trip he and his wife had taken to a new city, or country, or to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

What is it about sticking to a diet, weight loss, being or getting thin that makes people feel so proud… or so ashamed, when the outcome is not what they hoped? Is that really what we covet most in life? Is that the most important goal we could possibly achieve?

What do you think? Have you ever missed out on more enlivening, enriching, enlightening, enjoyable life pursuits or activities because all you could think about was how much you weighed?

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Ellen Shuman is an Emotional Eating Coach who specializes in helping people overcome compulsive eating, binge eating disorder, and food addiction. She is continuously amazed and saddened by how much time people spend obsessing about weight; their own and others!  She is the founder of A Weigh Out & Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present), Past President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (2011/2012), and Co-Founder of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, Contact Ellen, ellen@aweighout.com, or 513-321-4242.

Comments

  1. I think it’s got everything to do with a sense of moral superiority. That’s a pretty seductive thing.
    Most slender people I know regard their natural slenderness as a point of pride. They are cosmetically adequate, and therefore superior to people who aren’t. So when a person loses a noticeable amount of weight, they’re joining the “In” club. They act a bit like the loser who just scored the corner office; suddenly better than those poor schleps still down there in the mail room.
    I cope with this attitude by relabeling it. In my own mind I call people who take moral pride from their appearance as “cosmetically compliant”. It’s snarky, but I don’t share it out loud.

  2. Ellen Shuman, Emotional Eating Recovery Coach; A Weigh Out says:

    I wish that were not so, but I think you’re right on about the superiority…in insecure people. In my TeleSeminar with Paul Campos (author of The Obesity Myth), he talks about pride in being thin as a way to not be seen as someone who oveconsumes—I’m not going to give up my McMansion or my gas-guzzzling SUV, but look how thin I am! And then there all all the people I know who are physcially thin, and still feel inferior…still dislike certain (or many) body parts…evidence that this all has so little to do with size and/or shape!

  3. Maryalice says:

    I’m very proud of my weight loss! Not because I’m now thin but because I’m dealing with my issues that had me eating anything I could get my hands on. I don’t believe there is a magic number that makes me better at all. But to know I now have the tools that are helping me with my issues is making me damn proud!!!

  4. I know this is from quite a while ago but I don’t agree about the superiority written above. I am proud of losing weight because for me weight was a mental health issue. I have an eating disorder and use food to cope. When I was finally able to train my brain to be ok with healthy food, that in tern had me lose weight and not feel so ashamed of what I was eating and how it was affecting my health. I am proud of being stronger than my cravings. I am not proud because I look better. I’m proud because I was able to do something that made me feel better. I am able to play with my kids. I am able to run around with my dogs. Losing weight isn’t something that happens overnight – it takes a long time to do it the right, healthy way and sticking to something even when it gets rough is something to be proud of. It’s not necessarily about appearance for a lot of people.

  5. Ellen Shuman, Emotional Eating Recovery Coach; A Weigh Out says:

    I love the feedback this reader posted about this post on her website,
    “Beautifully and honestly captures the angst and futility felt by so many of us who have held out for happiness in the form of weight loss.”

  6. This was an interesting read. I’ve never been on this site until today, & I found it after typing ‘so proud of my weightloss’ into Google. I typed that in because I wanted to connect with others who are in a similar situation. I just tried on 4 pairs of jeans I found in the back of my closet. I haven’t been able to get them over the widest part of my thighs in more than 5 years. It is December, & I weigh 165 lbs. In January of this year I weighed 203 lbs. I have worked like crazy to whip my health into shape after 6 years of emotional hit after emotional hit: I finally became pregnant after a long time trying but the pregnancy was ectopic & ended in emergency surgery to have part of one of my fallopian tubes removed, leaving me with a lesser chance of becoming pregnant again. I lost my beloved little dog to a sudden stroke caused by a particularly vicious form of cancer. I lost my favorite uncle to liver disease last Christmas, & watched my dad & his remaining 5 siblings grieve for the first of them to pass away. I grew the strength to call it quits with my alcoholic husband, who, while once a great friend, was never a great partner. I am extremely proud of my weightloss. I was medically obese for more than 5 years, which caused me to have very high cholesterol, hypothyroidism, sleep apnea, crippling anxiety, & major depression. I still found joy in life, but my health & my weight overshadowed everything. My self-esteem hit an all-time low. I finally decided this was the year of health, of looking after myself longer than a few weeks at a time, of putting myself first for a change. I look after everyone who comes into my life. I care for others so much it’s nearly a fault. I had to put myself front & center for a while. I don’t go around telling people I haven’t seen in some time how much I volunteer & how great of a person I think I am. I’m only mentioning my caring for others now, here, to give context to why it was so important that I take time for myself & to possibly help you understand why the man you spoke with at Costco didn’t tell you about all the wonderful things he’s been doing for other people. It seems to me espousing one’s good deeds is a bit more self-centered than being proud of one’s own health successes. I am extremely proud of my weightloss because it has taken massive amounts of discipline to get myself back in good health. I have made myself exercise when I didn’t feel like it. I have changed my eating habits, tracked my calories, & learned how to live a happy, healthy lifestyle. My bloodwork, my body, & my mind all reflect the benefits of this healthy journey. I made it my mission to lose weight & rediscover my health not just for vanity, but for longevity & energy & the ability to be present in my fullest capacity for my family, my friends, my community. Being overweight & unhealthy taints many things in a person’s life. Losing weight does not automatically make a person happy or charitable or superior. It does, however, show you the power you have, the discipline you have, to get what you want out of life. It is hard work. It is worthy work. To me, the way a person reacts to another person’s weightloss says more about the former than the latter.

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