I wrote a book recently on neural rewiring. So if you want more, you can find it here.
If you have a restrictive eating disorder, you are likely scared of gaining weight — weirdly, this can still be true for those of us who dislike being thin and want to gain weight.
This fear of weight gain results in behaviours like weighing yourself on a regular basis, and other forms of body checking — for some of us daily or multiple times a day. It used to really annoy me, the constant weight checking. But not weight checking would lead to so much anxiety that I would do it just to quieten my brain. I felt like it was something I couldn’t control.
I was wrong. It was something I could control.
I used to weigh myself multiple times a day. If I saw a scale — in a shop, at another person’s house — I felt like I had to get on it. In my digs at uni I once snuck into a housemate’s bedroom as I had seen a scale in there and I wanted to check my weight on it and compare how much I weighed on her scale compared to my own. And she walked in. That was really awkward. In department stores I was the crazy skinny freak having to stand on all the different brands of scale. In the gym I weighed myself before and after exercise. At home I weighed myself before and after going to the loo.
Today, I can’t remember the last time I weighed myself. I know the nurse weighed me when I went to the doctor recently, and I know I saw the number, but I couldn’t tell you what it was. My brain didn’t retain the information. My brain doesn’t think that information is important enough to need to keep. In one ear and out the other. Just like algebra.
This is because I have taught my brain that my weight is not important.
If you are obsessed about your weight, currently, your brain believes that what you weigh is important information. Like all beliefs that you hold, this is something that your brain has been taught.
Take another belief. Say, for example, ff you are religious — these beliefs have been taught to you. Nobody comes out of the womb believing in God. It is learned. If you believe the world is round, this belief has been taught to you. Your political beliefs have been taught to you. Your spiritual beliefs are learned. Our brains, and our belief systems are a product of our experiences. Everything we think, and everything we do, teaches our brains something. All this learning and experience adds up to your current belief system. And it is all changeable. Yes, belief systems are changeable.
If your brain believes that your weight is important, it is because you (and your environment) have taught it that your weight is important.
Yes, knowingly or not, you have taught your brain that the information that the scale gives is crucial. Here’s how:
- Every time you have weighed yourself, you have taught your brain that your weight is important.
- Every time you have paid attention to people talking about weight, you have taught your brain that weight is important.
- Every time you have read something that is to do with weight loss, you have taught your brain that not gaining weight is important.
- etc etc
Every single action you take, gives your brain information. The things that you dedicate mental attention to, are the ones that ultimately your brain is going to think are of consequence. We teach our brain what we should pay attention to, by paying attention to things. Generally we don’t spend our precious time doing things for no reason. If you are weighing yourself, your brain will conclude that the information gathered from weighing yourself is important. If it wasn’t why would you do it?
So now consider, how many times you have weighed yourself over the past year or so. Every single time you have stepped on the scale, you have further confirmed to your brain that the information the scale gives you is vital. Think of it this way: every time you have weighed yourself, or thought about your weight, you have given your brain a data point that your weight is important. That’s a lot of data in favour of weight bias!
And I bet you are thinking “but I can’t help it.” I can’t help that I want to know what my weight is. I can’t help that I pay attention when people talk about their weight. I can’t help that my eyes gravitate towards ads about weight loss or articles about weight.
Bollocks. Yes you can. You trained your brain that your weight is important. You can train it the the contrary. You just have to be determined and consistent, and maybe a little obsessive. And luckily for you, if you have a restrictive eating disorder, determined and consistent (and obsessive) are probably things you are very good at.
If you want to your reality to be one where weight talk brushes over you, and you never even think about the scale, you have to create it. Here’s some starters:
- Blatantly obvious: DO NOT STEP ON THE FUCKING SCALE. No matter how much you want to. No matter how much your brain tries to convince you that information is needed. It isn’t. That information is not important. You do not need to know how much you weigh. If you do crack and get on the scale, every time you want to weigh yourself, eat something to counter the action. I’m not kidding. Trust your body to know what it needs to weigh and to get there without you micromanaging it.
- Don’t allow yourself to indulge in thoughts about your weight, or anyone else’s. When those thoughts come in, reject them. Push them out. Distract yourself. Think of weight thoughts as a bad habit you have picked up, and one you need to quash.
- Remember that as an adult you have the right not to know your weight. If treatment providers want to weigh you, you don’t have to look.
- When a weigh-loss ad pops up on social media scroll past really fast.
There are a few tips, now sit down and add to them. Devise yourself a plan to help you rewire your obsession with your weight. I wrote a blog recently about using your OCD traits to your advantage in recovery and this is a perfect example of somewhere to do just that. I became obsessive about not knowing my weight for a while. For a long while. Until I really didn’t care at all anymore. And now, now I could know my weight and that information wouldn’t torture me. In fact it is very unlikely I will even remember it 5 minutes later. Because my brain has things that it believes are more important to think about.