I want to share a quick story with you today.
After struggling with depression, binge eating and my body image throughout my young adulthood years, I turned to a weight loss challenge.
I figured it would be the fix that I needed lose weight and finally feel better- in my head and in my body.
At first, it was true. I thought I felt better. I felt in control. I figured I could do anything for "x" number of weeks! And once the weight was off, I’d figure out a way to keep it off. And that I’d finally be happy. With my life. With my body.
To make a long story short, I completed the program.
But then I kept going.
It was a weight loss challenge that led to an eating disorder. And years of struggle that I never saw coming when I started this seemingly harmless challenge.
Between restriction, binge eating and compensating with exercise, I was anything but happy. I was consumed. Isolated. Completely out of control. An anxious mess.
I was convinced that if I just tried a little harder, lost a little more, figured out how to stop binge eating, I could get there.
To the dream body that’s promised if we stay on plan.
I was convinced that my depression would lift. I would finally feel connected. I would be able to build the life that I had always dreamed of.
Instead I was caught in the middle of all too familiar binges, exhaustion, an obsession with my body and to top it off, my body was shutting down.
Ladies, weight loss challenges are harmful.
Not only because of my story and my personal struggle, but because 75% of other American women who are actively participating in disordered thoughts and behaviors around food and their bodies.
Will everyone who participates in a challenge develop an eating disorder? No.
But studies show that 25% of dieters will progress to a full-blown eating disorder.
And I’ve seen dozens of women in my office who have participated in and completed the same weight loss challenge I did.
Many of them doing so multiple times.
And these amazing women continued to struggle with their emotional health.
With binge eating that seemed even more painful and out of control.
This weight loss challenge that's offering you the moon and stars is full of shit.
Will you lose weight after a number of weeks? Maybe.
Will you be freed from your body image struggles because you lost some weight? Probably not.
Will you gain it back, plus some within 5 years? Most likely.
I’m not saying this to be a Debbie Downer.
I’m saying it because if you want to be freed from obsessing over the scale and food, a weight loss challenge is only going to make you obsess even more.
Ladies, I know you’ve seen the Facebook Ad’s, the check-ins on your social media accounts and heard comments from friends who have joined or even completed a weight loss challenge.
If you’re reading this you’re probably struggling with food and your body in some way. And if you’re considering buying into one of these programs, you’re probably praying that one of these challenges is your solution.
So before you dive-in, here are my most honest tips:
If it’s rigid, stay away.
If it’s restrictive, stay away.
If it encourages fasting for long periods of time despite hunger, stay away.
If it tells you that you can only be healthy when you hit a certain number, stay away.
If it requires workouts that make you want to puke during or afterwards, stay away.
If you’ve been obsessing over the way your body appears, stay away.
If you’ve struggled with an eating disorder in the past, stay away.
If you find yourself eating emotionally, stay away.
If it’s not a way of eating and moving your body that you can actually envision yourself engaging in next year at this time, stay away.
A weight loss challenge isn’t worth sacrificing even more of your emotional health or your physical health.
Ladies, you deserve better than lies from people who are happily collecting your money and reinforcing cyclical, painful food and body patterns at your expense.
So think twice.
Think about it three times if you have to.
Weight loss challenges are harmful.
And you deserve so much better.
I'm a body image and eating disorder therapist in Horsham, PA.
I specialize in treating binge eating and emotional eating and provide therapy and coaching to women who are tired of their lives being ruled by a number on the scale, their Weight Watcher's app and their MyFitnessPal account.