When Fear Blocks Transformation

One of my patients, let’s call her Anne, is massively obese.  She is a very sweet woman with a supportive husband and family.  Her family is well off financially and she is educated.  Why on Earth would she struggle so with her weight?

She has the means to hire the most expensive trainers available.  She could build an entire gym in her own home.  She can buy potions and pills and exercise videos galore.  Why can’t she lose weight?

I’m not sure, not with any real confidence, because we haven’t taken the time to dig into the whys and wherefores.  I’m not a trained counselor, after all, and it’s not something we can really get into in the confines of a 15-minute visit when I also have to address all her medical problems and refill all her medications.

But if I had to venture a guess, I’d say she’s scared.  Terrified, even.  There is something about the PROCESS of weight loss that has her so frightened it is easier for her to stay massively obese than to tackle her weight.  What can we do when fear blocks transformation in your health, your career, your life?

Lately I’ve been doing some reading in the leadership coaching industry in the interest of skilling up my ability to help patients with behavior change.  I AM first and foremost a coach, after all.  I’m not a surgeon to take out appendices or cancerous growths.  My most effective tool is my ability to help patients change their lifestyle to change their health for the better.

One of the most fascinating insights I’ve had in the reading I’ve been doing is the idea that patients resist change not because they don’t want the results but because they’re scared.  They see the goal, they know how to get there, they’ve gotten practical advice and a roadmap that works.  But there is something about the roadmap that scares them to death.

Even though I don’t know what Anne’s fear is, I know there is one.  Something about weight loss triggers her brain’s threat response and makes her completely UNABLE to move beyond that point in her efforts to get healthy.  We can speculate that maybe as a child her parents withheld food as a punishment.  Now anytime she even THINKS she might get hungry that threat response is triggered and she compulsively seeks to eat to reassure herself that she is not that helpless child anymore.

Maybe she has confined herself to the role of a sick person so thoroughly that if she gets healthy she won’t know who she is anymore.  She’s afraid her husband won’t take care of her anymore if she is able to care for herself.  Maybe she’s afraid if she loses weight he’ll want to have sex with her again and there’s a history of sexual abuse in her past buried so deep she can’t bear to remember it.

I don’t want to speculate about my friend Anne.  I would love to have the time to sit down with her and really dig in with her as a willing participant, to figure out what frightens her so.  I KNOW something does, because she tells me she wants to lose weight but we can’t make any headway.  She’s not weak, not weak-willed, and not self-sabotaging.  She’s afraid.

What about you?  What are you doing that you KNOW is hurting your health?  Do you eat the wrong foods when you KNOW which foods will support your body’s health and even know tasty recipes to cook them for yourself and your family.  Do you continue to smoke even though you hate every stupid cigarette you take out of the pack?  Do you find yourself making excuses about exercise even though when you drag yourself to the gym you feel amazing and sleep so much better?

What scares you?  What’s holding you back?  I would love to have you email me at drjen@jenniferwurstmd.com and tell me about it.  I will let you in on a secret – once we address that fear and make a plan to help you feel safe, you will be able to transform your habits, meet your goals and make your life even more amazing than it is now.

I’m a coach, after all.  This is what I do.  I help people transform their health and, by extension their lives.  But I can’t do it alone.  I need you to be brave, be honest and real and raw.  I will not judge you – I make my living dealing with real people and real problems.  Send me an email at drjen@jenniferwurstmd.com and let’s get started!

QUESTION: Would you like to share one of your fears?  I’ll start – I eat too many sweets because they soothe me when I’m stressed (stress = fear).  One of my goals is to find ways to soothe stress that do NOT involve food.  I have good days and bad days with that, like most of us.

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2 thoughts on “When Fear Blocks Transformation

  1. Sigh – food just tastes good! And I always feel hungry, so even when I try to eat right, I still feel like I am hungry all the time. Hunger is one of the strongest drives we have, so it is SOOO difficult to psyche myself up for feeling that way constantly. Also, now that I am in my 50’s, it takes a lot less food for me to gain weight. I feel like I eat about half as much as I did when I was in my 20’s, but my stomach doesn’t realize that. it’ so depressing.

  2. Everyone’s weight lose journey is different. I am not afraid to lose weight but I have different issues. I have lost 60 lbs. over the course of about 1 1/2 years and try to stay active. It is not easy.

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