... and nothing to be ashamed of, or beat yourself up over. And please bear in mind that this is coming from someone with a B.Sc. and an M.Sc. in Nutrition, as well as a lifetime of experience, gaining and losing weight.
In my mid-teens, I started to get a little bit... rounder. It bothered me, and so I dieted... stringently... and lost quite a bit of weight. But the psychological consequences of constant hunger and of forbidding myself particular foods were devastating, despite the satisfaction of losing weight. I've spent the rest of my life since, gaining and losing weight, within a greater range than most people. I've experienced the shame and sense of failure that accompanies weight gain, and the victorious sense of accomplishment that comes with weight loss, many times over.
What is the "set point" theory about body weight?
Most people tend to fluctuate in weight within a range of about 5-10 pounds. The "set point" theory about body weight, a theory that seems to hold true for myself and for many others, refers to a specific weight to which our bodies tend to return, time and again, after gaining or losing weight.
When we gain weight, our body expends more energy doing all the routine things it does to keep us alive (even during rest), it increases body temperature (again, to expend energy) and releases hormones to curb our appetite. All this occurs inside of us naturally, without us needing to step in actively, in order for us to lose the excess weight and get back to our body's "set point" weight. This is a part of homeostasis, our body's natural regulation of itself to maintain the balance within. Alternatively, when we lose weight, our body expends less energy at rest, it lowers body temperature (to expend less energy) and releases hormones to increase our hunger, all in order to return to the higher "set point" weight our body is used to.
I will note that it is possible to change your "set point", both to lower and to raise it, but it will require time and effort. Even if you have been at a higher weight for years and you aim to lower your "set point", know that it can be done! However, be prepared to experience hunger and overcome certain natural cravings for a period of time while your body loses weight and adapts to a new, lower "set point".
What are the emotional ramifications of weight fluctuation?
The unavoidable fact is, losing and gaining weight has an immense effect on us at an emotional level. Gaining weight means we are more self-conscious of the space we take up, less secure in how we look. It means we can no longer fit into the clothes that make us feel attractive. And sometimes, it means that we give up trying to! We might think "I'll join a gym, lose the pregnancy weight and then buy beautiful clothes". Meanwhile, we're wearing sweatpants and oversized shirts for 4 years straight because we haven't yet lost the weight. Or we're wearing clothing we hope will help us fade into the background. A lifestyle like that will leave us demoralized and depressed because feeling attractive is an emotional need. And it's possible to feel beautiful, even with the extra weight we're not used to! It's all a matter of the right clothes.
Losing weight impacts us just as greatly, emotionally, though in a very different way. After having shed some weight, we might find ourselves at a loss for how to dress our new figures. Even as we are filled with fresh confidence and enjoying the fruit of our hard labor, learning how to dress our new svelter selves can feel overwhelming.
If you've been struggling with this issue for years, or even just recently, a personal stylist can help. No matter what your situation, whether you've gained weight or lost weight, I can help you find clothes to make you feel confident, attractive, fabulous... and that's a crucial aspect of your emotional well-being.
So if you, or someone you know, would like help in this area, that's what I'm here for!