Coping with identity change.

As you begin to reach your goals, creating big lifestyle changes, your life can change drastically. This feeling can be uncomfortable for you, and for others in your life, and often leads to self-sabotage and returning to negative patterns. As you change your behaviors and lose weight, your identity and the way you view yourself and the world, and how others view you, will also change. This can be difficult to cope with.

Where you may see changes, and how this may feel uncomfortable…

Being overweight or obese and neglecting self-care can act as a protection from people seeing your other problems.

  • Rather than being seen as someone with depression, anxiety, or PTSD, you would rather be seen as a “fat person.”
  • A survivor of childhood sexual abuse may feel that giving up this part of his/her identity may invalidate the sexual abuse that happened.

People may hide behind food or their weight as a means of avoiding attention from others; whether consciously or unconsciously, they do not feel they deserve attention.

  • Some people who are losing weight, but still do not fully feel they are deserving of attention, may sabotage their weight loss when people begin complimenting or taking notice of them.
  • Some are afraid of being loved only for the way they look, worrying their personality is not loveable.


Some people use their weight as a way to gain attention, even if it means poking fun at themselves for being overweight.

  • Someone who has always related to others through being overweight may not know how to cope with weight loss, or will fear others will not like who they really are – not just a person who is overweight.

Sometimes constantly working toward a goal of weight loss makes people feel they are working to accomplish something, though this can be an excuse to avoid accomplishing other personal goals.

  • Some people may lack motivation to develop and achieve personal goals, and others may believe they do not deserve to work toward personal goals.

Some people use being overweight as an excuse for their unhappiness.

  • Being overweight or obese means there is always an excuse when things do not go as one would hope: “I did not get the job because I am overweight.” “That person was rude to me because I am overweight.” “People do not relate well to me because I am overweight.”
  • Some people worry they will lose the weight and still be unhappy, and then they will have to face the true reason for their unhappiness versus simply blaming their weight.

Oftentimes people think weight loss will bring them happiness, and then they lose weight and realize the feelings are still there. This can be difficult and lead back to negative coping strategies and weight gain.

Creating a healthy identity and working through the underlying issues that may have led to the weight gain initially, is just as important to the weight loss process as actually getting the weight off. This is another reason to take this process slowly, monitor your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors along the way, be kind and patient with yourself, and create psychological health along the way. If you find this process too difficult, find yourself continually self-sabotaging, consider seeking help through a therapist.




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