Will losing weight help my self-esteem? February 19, 2024 – Posted in: Advice, Confidence, Leaders and Teams, Personal Development, Relationships, Spirituality

In the world, the pursuit of a perfect body often overshadows the quest for genuine self-acceptance. As we dive into this month’s Coaching Insights, we look at the link between losing weight and self-esteem, prompted by a question asked by a reader from my advice column in a national newspaper.

Q: I’ve put a lot of weight on and I can’t recognise myself in the mirror anymore. My self-esteem is at an all-time low. Will losing my chubby tum even help? 

A: As a specialist confidence and self-esteem coach (and as a woman who has battled serious body image issues herself) I always say that confidence is both an inside and an outside job. What I mean by this is that just losing weight won’t give you back your self-esteem, but equally being unhappy with your size won’t help either. So, we need to tackle this on all fronts; physical, emotional and spiritual.

I’m going to assume for this column that you’ve seen your GP to rule out any underlying health concerns that could result in weight gain, and with that in mind, my first question to you is, “Why?”

Why have you gained weight? What issues in your life are you trying to avoid by overeating? What comfort does food give you? What feelings are you avoiding by choosing to eat instead? Or, what crash diets have you attempted in the past that have made your body vulnerable to bingeing as a survival instinct? Are there some foods you find addictive – i.e. you have one bite and you can’t stop?

These are deep and probing questions but if you can sit with them you will start to consider the real reasons why you find yourself in this position. We are taught from a very early age to eat rather than to feel our feelings. It’s often quicker and easier to soothe a screaming child with a treat than it is to stop what you are doing and give them the love and attention they are seeking. We all do it because sometimes we simply can’t stop what we’re doing. But it sends a message: don’t feel, eat, which results in many of us walking around with the inability to feel our feelings. But unfelt feelings sit inside us wanting attention and can, I believe, be one of the reasons we overeat in a vain attempt to try and drown out those feelings that keep calling to us. 

And then we have our perfection-obsessed culture which filters and airbrushes itself into a corner, and wonders why our teenagers are dying from anorexia and bulimia. And while I’m here did you know that the BMI index was lowered in 1998 after lobbying from the diet industry which resulted in millions of perfectly healthy people suddenly being “overweight”? And there’s our addiction to sugary treats and our over-reliance on ultra-processed foods which don’t nourish us at all meaning we’re perpetually hungry and seeking more. Do you see where I’m going here? The culture we live in DOESN’T HELP!

So, you have to (like me) find your way and it starts from a place of self-care. 

  1. Maybe you need some therapy to deal with some of the feelings you are eating. Invest in this because your life and your sanity depend upon it.  
  2. Clean up your social media feed. No one looks the same in real life as they do online so become aware of the filters people use, unfollow them and find real people online who post the truth about themselves, their bodies and their lives. 
  3. Ask your body what foods make it feel alive and happy. I can guarantee you that when you do this you will realise that what your body wants is whole foods, real foods and not the non-foods you’ve been sold as treats. That doesn’t mean you won’t have an ice cream occasionally if you choose to but choice is the operative word here.  You will be choosing to have the ice cream rather than your unmet feelings making that choice for you.
  4. Find a way to move your body, preferably outside – not to lose weight necessarily but because it feeds your mind and your soul.  Walk each morning, cycle to work, use the Couch to 5K app, join a netball team, dance, swim, learn pilates – I don’t care what it is but you must move because you are living in a machine designed for daily movement. All life is made to move so to deny yourself some exercise is to deny yourself a basic human need. 
  5. Start journalling daily. Why? Because it’s the best way I know for really getting to know yourself and connecting to a deep, quieter, wiser part of yourself that knows you are okay just as you are. Remember, change only happens as a result of self-acceptance so you must learn to know yourself on this journey to high self-esteem and weight loss. 

If you need more support I can highly recommend Overeaters Anonymous in which you will find peer encouragement and accountability from people who are recovering from many different types of disordered eating patterns and addictions. You could also use the Noom app, which I’ve heard excellent things about. 

The bottom line here is that you need to take action. Work on your deeper issues, find a plan of eating that works for you, move your body and do something each day that fills your soul with joy.  Your self-esteem is all to do with self-care so work on that and you will find your confidence and your body changing for the better.

You can read my advice column monthly in Pick Me Up magazine. This particular response has been expanded upon for this blog.