Episode 039: The Emotional Side of Weight Gain
My behind-the-scenes mini-series continues with a very frank and honest conversation on the emotional side and mindset of weight gain.
You’ll hear me share all about how I developed an unhealthy obsession with calories and the sense of control counting them gave me. I also talk about the temptation and effort it takes not to fall into old habits and limiting beliefs.
And I share with you the one question that helps me reframe my mindset and perspective on weight gain.
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Welcome back to The Live FAB Life Podcast, and Part Five of my six-part the behind-the-scenes mini-series.
If you missed Parts 1-4, you’ll find links to all of them on the show notes for this episode at www.livefablife.com/039.
The first three episodes, Episodes 035, 036 and 037 were behind-the-scenes in my business, primarily around my mindset of how I approached it.
Then the last episode, Episode 038, I shifted to taking you behind the scenes in my own health, which is where we’re continuing it with today.
Today I’m going to have a very frank conversation with you on the emotional side and mindset of weight gain.
It is not lost on me that when I started going to nutrition school, my weight started to climb. And in the past couple of years, its climbed a lot. It feels ironic, especially when for most of my life, I equated weight with health, and here I am, a health coach, trying to help people improve their own health.
So it’s felt like the elephant in the room especially when I’ve been asked questions like, “Did you really gain all this weight because of hormones?” or “Is it really because of heavy metals?”
So before we dive into all of this, let me give you some background, because I believe that context is everything.
I grew up in a family where one of the first questions asked by women who hadn’t seen each other in a long time was, “So what size do you wear now?” So size, not necessarily weight, was something that I always concerned about for myself.
By the time I was in high school and through my twenties, I wore a size 12 (and I’m five feet tall). As I’ve shared many times, back then, I wasn’t active, meaning, I didn’t exercise at all. In fact, I took pride in not exercising because I hated it, and in hindsight its because the physical education I received in school, was dismal, atrocious actually but that’s a story for another day.
I had zero concern for my diet and ate whatever I wanted - which often was dining out.
Then I turned 29 and decided I wanted something different. I wanted to feel good about how I looked and how I felt about myself so I joined a gym, worked with a personal trainer and dropped over forty pounds and four dress sizes, surpassing what I thought I was capable of.
I was getting all of my nutrition advice from my personal trainer who, by the way, had no formal nutrition training, told me that being healthy was easy - all I had to do was to burn more calories than I ate - and he introduced me to Calorie King - a website that I came to use religiously to count every morsel of food that I ate.
I became obsessive about it. I knew that approximately 23 raw almonds equaled one serving size and that it had about 190 calories. I knew that one banana was about the same amount of calories. And the same with all the other foods that I ate. I had these numbers memorized and ate the same things, day in and day out.
I knew how many calories I’d burn in one hour of running versus one hour on the stair climber versus one hour on the elliptical. And if my food number exceeded my workout number, then I workout more - no matter what.
Life became all about those numbers.
I equated my successes and failures,, my joy and happiness, my confidence and self-worth to those numbers.
Essentially, I’d developed an unhealthy obsession with those numbers because it gave me a sense of control.
And why not? Counting calories - both the ones going in and the ones I was burning off, helped me lose massive amounts of weight, dropped dress sizes, and felt good and confident about myself like I never had before. I got a lot of positive attention and compliments, I could buy clothes off the rack without even trying them on and people noticed me.
So what was wrong with this picture?
Well, for starters, I was basically starving my body. I was over-exercising and not providing it with enough fuel that it needed. My meals were in no way nutrient-dense. Meaning, it may have been low in calories, but most of the time, they were junk calories. There wasn’t any attention paid to whether I was getting a healthy dose of essential vitamins and minerals. The quality of food just wasn’t there.
So here I was, exercising too much, eating too little and what I was eating wasn’t real, nutrient-dense foods. We’re talking things like Lean Cuisines here.
After treating my body this way for a few years, I started to notice shifts in my body. Chronic digestive issues, poor sleep and a gradual increase in my weight - that hasn’t stopped.
I’m not going to get into every detail of all the things that have gone on, I’ve done that quite a bit in other episodes and will continue to talk about them in other episodes, but for today, I want to talk about the emotional side of this ongoing weight gain.
When my weight started to go up, I went into total panic mode. Because that was my biggest fear - going back to the old me - the person who had poor self-esteem, hated to look in the mirror, was angry all the time.
After all of the courses and trainings and things I’ve studied, I’m in a much better mindset about it because I understand that it is not all about calories in and calories out. It’s true, but partial.
I understand that my toxic load is high. I have a fatty liver which is one of the major organs for detoxification. I have a family history of kidney disease - another detoxification organ. So I get that my body’s natural detoxification system has to work harder than others.
So that means that it’s more difficult for my body to get rid of toxins naturally.
And when toxins linger in our bodies, it wreaks havoc on how our bodies are supposed to work. It disrupts many systems in our bodies, like our immune systems, which in turn disrupts our digestive system because upwards of 70% of our immune system is in our digestive system.
It disrupts our endocrine system, which are our hormones, which are the chemical messengers in our bodies that regulate our sleep, our appetite, our metabolism.
So when just one system is disrupted, other systems are also impacted, because they all work in concert together. This is what Dr. Alderson referred to in Episode 004 as dysautonomia.
So for me, probably the most noticeable thing that all this dysfunction has resulted in, is a 30 pound weight gain. In other words, I’m almost to the size of where I was when I didn’t pay heed to my health.
And that’s super frustrating because here I am, a health coach, putting in so much care and effort into my well-being and yet, here I am, almost back to where I started.
It’s also frustrating professional, to see the amazing progress that I’m able to help my clients make, yet, much of what I teach them and have them do, hasn’t work for me.
So I do a lot of detective work on myself, always trying to collect clues and try different things to see what may work and what just doesn’t. And I have to admit, there’s a certain element to this that intriguing. Because I like investigating and finding clues and putting pieces together.
But there’s also the side of me that feels so fallen because my clothes just don’t fit anymore. Remember, the idea that size matters was ingrained in me at a very young age and even though I know its just a number, the emotions around don’t go away easily.
And perhaps what’s even more devastating is when your stretchy workout clothes don’t fit anymore too. And some might say, and I’ve even read some brazenly say, “Well just buy new clothes.”
But that’s expensive. So not only is your self-confidence shot, so is your wallet.
And I gotta tell you, sometimes I still have to fight my natural inclination to run to the gym and drop two hours of cardio.
And that’s where it gets hard. Because I have overtrained before, and have had adrenal fatigue, I have to find that careful balance between working out just enough, but not too little or too much. It’s hard to know what that balance looks like - for me.
Its a lot of work not to fall into old habits and mindsets about this.
So why am I sharing this with all of you?
Because I know I’m not alone in my experiences or emotions about this.
Despite all that we know to be true about ourselves, about health, about mindset, despite all that we may have learned and progress that we’ve made in personal growth and understanding, the emotions may still be there.
And I guess, with this episode I just want to acknowledge them and say they are real, and it’s okay to feel them.
I’ve talked to a number of my fellow colleagues, other practitioners in the same boat who have their own struggles that they’re dealing with, whether it may be weight or other challenges, andas practitioners, it’s perhaps even tougher to deal with because let’s face it - in our society, everyone wants to lose weight - and so do we! - and when we’re not, it can make us feel like we’re failures not just in our health, but in our businesses.
But I will tell you this - as emotional as my weight gain has been, I know that its 100% helped me feel more empathy with my clients, whereas I may not have had I not experienced this. Before, I thought it was as simple and cut and dry as the “calories in versus calories out” mindset.
So if you are struggling with your weight, and you’re doing all the things, just know that you’re not alone, by any means, and its okay to feel how you feel about it, and it doesn’t have to be that way forever.
As I close, I want to leave you with this one question that someone posed to me, that I still ask myself all the time, and it’s helped me in framing my mindset around this -
Weight gain can be our body’s way of protecting us, a protective mechanism. Like perhaps the way it may have been protecting me when I was essentially starving myself by overexercising and undereating.
So, what’s YOUR body protecting you from?
I’ll be back next week with the final installment, for now, of this behind the scenes mini-series, then hopefully we’ll be back to our regular educational solo shows and interviews.
See ya next time.
Naomi Nakamura is a Functional Nutrition Health Coach. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, programs, coaching services and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop!
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