Louise Hay, in her bestselling book You Can Heal Your Life, asserts that “we create every so-called illness in our bodies. The [physical] body, like everything else in life, is a mirror of our inner thoughts and beliefs. The body is always talking to us, if we will only take the time to listen.” I believe this. As I have listened and responded to my body’s communications to me, I have been able to heal various pains and illnesses, like the milk and tomato “allergies” which used to be a problem but aren’t anymore.
One of the ways our bodies communicate with us is by gaining or losing weight. In this post I want to touch briefly on unwanted weight gain, because that’s something I have personally dealt with. In my experience, excess weight has lots of emotional layers, but Louise Hay’s explanation was one of the layers I personally needed to address. She says that being “overweight represents a need for protection. We seek protection from hurts, slights, criticism, abuse, sexuality and sexual advances; from a fear of life in general and also specifically.” If this idea seems hard to swallow, I know how you feel. It took me a while to wrap my mind around the idea, but the more I learn to understand it, the more I understand it to be the truth. The lie is this: extra weight protects us emotionally. A lot of the time, it’s the reason our bodies pack on extra weight, because we believe it will insulate us from whatever is a threat. The threat is real for us, but the truth is, extra weight doesn’t really protect us from it.
In some ways, I guess it could. If, for instance, I was someone who had experienced sexual abuse when I was younger, (which I did) and subconsciously I decided that if I made myself heavier and less attractive, people would be less likely to hurt or abuse me, that may be true. But it’s not the weight that’s keeping me safe from people who would hurt me, it’s only my belief that’s keeping me safe. Do you see what I mean?
Margarita Tartakovsky, associate editor at Psych Central, wrote something similar: “Some women…wear their excess weight as a shield. Why a shield? For individuals who’ve experienced a traumatic event, usually some kind of abuse, their weight helps them create a barrier to the outside.” (Wearing Your Weight As Armor)
From the same article, Mary Anne Cohen, CSW, the director of The New York Center for Eating Disorders, writes: “Many survivors of sexual abuse often work to become very fat or very thin in an attempt to render themselves unattractive. In this way, they try to de-sexualize themselves. Other survivors obsessively diet, starve, or purge to make their bodies ‘perfect.’ A perfect body is their attempt to feel more powerful, invulnerable, and in control, so as not to re-experience the powerlessness they felt as children. Indeed, some large men and women, who are survivors of sexual abuse, are afraid to lose weight because it will render them feeling smaller and childlike. This, in turn, may bring back painful memories that are difficult to cope with.”
Another example of how weight protects us is from criticism or ridicule. Carol Tuttle did an amazing healing session with her client Michelle in this video:
Michelle had a belief that if she stayed overweight, she wouldn’t offend anyone. I thought this was fascinating. Carol Tuttle has worked with lots of women to help identify weight-related emotional issues. I recommend her YouTube channel and her blog.
It’s important to understand that excess weight does not actually protect us from real or imagined threats, but I think it’s more important to focus on the real issue. The real issue is not the excess weight. The real issue is the underlying emotional trauma causing your body to gain and retain weight that it doesn’t really need. Once those traumas are resolved, the weight will come off on its own.
I haven’t shed all of the extra weight that I would like from my physical body, but I’m okay with that for now because I’m working through the issues that are keeping it there. I’m working on shedding emotional weight. I fully intend to work through all those layers and be able to tell the world that I became my ideal size by simply improving my emotional and spiritual health. I believe it can be done. And if I believe it, it will happen.