The Quest for the Right Question: Your Weight vs Your Life


Read these statements and try to imagine the person who said each of them:

“I want to change my body.”

“I think about my weight all the time.”

“I am petrified of gaining weight.”

“I get really stressed out about eating in front of people.”

“I worry that the way I’m eating is bad for me.”

“My doctor has told me my weight is a problem.”

“When I get stressed out, it affects my eating.”

It’s easy to think that an overweight person would have these thoughts… or an underweight person would have these thoughts… but if you’ve ever been in treatment for an eating disorder, or attended an eating disorder support group, you know that anyone, of any weight, can have any and all of these thoughts. You may have had all of these thoughts yourself. They really have nothing to do with weight.

So why is it so tempting to think that changing your weight will chase them away? Why are you trying to “fix” your weight? Why are you so sure that weight is the answer? Because you are smart. Because you are trying to find a solution. Because weight is an “easier” problem to solve. If all of your life could be fixed by your weight, wouldn’t that be a wonderful treat? It’s better than going to rehab to get things straightened out. And better than taking time out of your life to figure out the real problems… especially if they seem insurmountable or especially painful to ponder.

Then there are the personal messages you receive… Your doctors weigh you at every visit and tell you that you are killing yourself. Eat more, weigh less, eat less, weigh more – something has to change or you will die. That may be true, but if you are depressed, or suffering, or hurt, then maybe this life doesn’t feel worth saving. And the added stress of that doctor visit just makes you want to do more of your behaviors that got you in this mess in the first place. Or worse, make you want to stop seeing the doctor. Loved ones want to know “Why are you doing this to me?” and you think, “I would stop doing this for you… if only I could,” and it makes you feel worse and more out of control. Which leads you back to the same behaviors, just more hidden and secret this time.
And then there’s society – where weight is the answer no matter the question, because fortunes rise and fall along with your weight. Because weight and weight loss is big business and money.

Whole industries thrive on your quest to lose and gain and lose again. There is no money to make from you if you maintained your weight throughout your life. You wouldn’t need to buy diet drugs or diet plans, or bags of chocolate to eat in secret. You wouldn’t buy new clothes every time your weight went down, or up, or a scale for every room in your house. You wouldn’t buy magazines with a diet on the cover, and you wouldn’t buy brownie mix to eat in the middle of the night.

So if weight isn’t the answer, what is? And this is the hard part… to find the solution, you must know the question. What in your life are you trying to solve? But you don’t have to start with a blank piece of paper… you already have clues that can guide you to the exact kind of problem you’re trying to solve (although ineffectively) by changing your weight.
Here are some examples that you can consider – the original statements at the top of the page, plus a possibility for what they could mean:

This weight-oriented statement: Could also mean:
I want to change my body. I want to change.
I think about my weight all the time. I always feel distracted.
I am petrified of gaining weight. I am scared something bad will happen.
I get really stressed out about eating in front of people. I am worried people don’t like me.
I worry that the way I’m eating is bad for me. I feel like I am always doing things wrong.
My doctor has told me my weight is a problem. I feel like a failure.
When I get stressed out, it affects my eating. I don’t know how to handle my uncomfortable feelings so I use food.

Do any of those alternate meanings feel right to you? Do you see why it’s tempting for your problem-solving mind to turn those difficult feelings into thoughts about weight?

Write down your weight thoughts today. See if you can check for other, not weight-related meanings. If it seems like your thoughts are only about weight, or you can’t come up with an alternate meaning, ask your counselor to suggest some other possibilities. Discuss your realizations with your counselor or another person who offers you support. Or share your list with the intake staff at Casa Palmera, who are available 24 hours a day and can tell you if Casa Palmera treatment center can help, or direct you to resources in your community. Take the first step to answering your questions, by finding out what they really are.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.