“I’ll call her Anna. She believes her weight gain started when she was in the fourth grade. That was the year she moved into her stepfather’s house and he began sexually abusing her. She remembers it was then because she loved the little purple flowers on the wall paper in her new bedroom. She methodically would count the purple petals hoping he would stop touching her by the time she reached one hundred. When I saw her in my office some thirty years later, she was depressed, overweight and didn’t realize her obesity had anything to do with being sexually abused. It was only when she realized that her weight gain was her incredibly resourceful way of trying to protect herself, that she understood. She then could begin to set herself free.”
If you were sexually abused as a child, and have had difficulty releasing weight and keeping it off, you are not alone. Your weight loss struggles have nothing to do with a lack of willpower. It has nothing to do with finding the right diet or exercise plan. It has nothing to do with “being lazy.” On a subconscious level, gaining excess weight was your solution to the fear of unwanted sexual advances. Compulsive overeating was the only way to self-soothe and self-nurture when no one was available for support. If this reflects your experience, here are three suggestions to help you release weight in a way that is emotionally safe and self-loving.
Before beginning any weight loss plan, it is important that your current home environment is safe and secure. If you are in a difficult or abusive relationship, or in a strained family situation, deal with this first. Create for yourself an atmosphere of love and support. Before you can release excess weight, your inner child inside, and the adult that you are today, needs to feel safe.
Make sure you have at least one trusted friend or family member that you can talk to about the sexual abuse you experienced and how this may emerge for you as you begin to release weight. Give yourself the gift of professional help. It is not unusual to feel anxious as you start to lose weight because you are letting go of something that, on a deep level, has served to emotionally protect you. It may feel scary. A skilled therapist can help support you through this process and help you to manage overwhelming feelings that may emerge.
Take your time. Have patience and realize that this process isn’t just about releasing weight. It’s about releasing your fears and your pain. The longer it takes to release weight the more you can trust that an inner shift is happening. You need that time to transform your thinking and your beliefs so you can develop an emotional readiness to release weight. And to feel safe. This reassures your inner child that the comfort and familiarity of excess weight will not be taken away from her before she is ready. Having patience will help you adjust to small, incremental weight loss shifts and the feelings that go along with that. Your developing inner strength then becomes the foundation that will help you release weight with confidence and self-love.
Be gentle with yourself~
In love and peace,