A case study, as told to us by a client.
When I was growing up, some stuff happened to me that was very painful and traumatic.
Food was my only comfort at the time, and I also discovered that if I gained a lot of weight, I felt “safer”.
Over the years, I settled in to a heavier body and regular over-eating to soothe myself.
My weight and body fat were like my armor against the world, and food was my solace from it. I used my body shape and my eating habits as a way to avoid difficult situations, including having relationships, or socializing.
This worked for a while… until it didn’t.
I felt lonely, and eventually, not even my best friend food could fill that void of human connection.
I started having chronic pain, especially in my knees and feet. I felt short of breath, and it was harder to get around. I felt tired a lot. My blood sugar and blood pressure started edging upwards.
I realized I needed to change.
Except I didn’t want to.
Food and my body had protected me. Who would I be without over-eating, or without this body shape and size? What else would I do to cope or calm down?
How would I deal with the world in a different body? What if I had to confront social interactions, such as dating, that I didn’t feel prepared for?
I felt torn.
Reluctantly, at the urging of my doctor, I met with a nutrition coach.
I looked through a lot of coaches’ websites before I found one that looked approachable and the least intimidating.
I liked that she talked about her own struggles with food, eating, and body image.
Her story sounded a lot like mine. She looked normal, not like a superheroine. She’d lost over 100 pounds (45 kg). She was also a bit older.
I thought maybe she’d have some life experience to share, and I felt like she would understand me.
When we met, we talked about what I felt ready, willing, or able to do.
I liked that. I’d always thought I’d have to follow a bunch of rules, overhaul my life in one fell swoop, and be deprived.
Instead, she told me that this was my journey, and she was here to help me do small daily actions that would “nudge” me into change without being overwhelming.
We also talked about how my old behaviors were valid and logical.
She explained that they were protecting me, and that I didn’t have to give up anything that I wasn’t prepared to give up.
She told me that we could track progress using any measure that I felt comfortable with — I didn’t have to get weighed and measured if I didn’t want to, and we could use other indicators like a food journal that recorded how I was feeling at each meal.
What’s weird is that somehow, her accepting me as I was, and telling me it was OK not to change, made me feel more ready to change!
I felt like I could change on my own terms, while slowly building the skills that would replace my old coping mechanisms.
What assumptions or beliefs do you have about individuals who are significantly unfit or obese, and/or who do unhealthy behaviors consistently?
Consider where those assumptions or beliefs come from. For example, are they based on diverse and representative data? Your personal experience? Are they coming from a client-centered, compassionate, and curious place?
How are your current behaviors, even though they might look destructive or “illogical”, actually helping you cope or solve a problem?