Do You Have a Fear of Weight Gain? Learn About Obesophobia

Fear of gaining weight is a common issue that affects many people. It can lead to anxiety, low self-esteem, and other mental health problems. This fear can stem from societal pressures to conform to certain beauty standards, as well as personal experiences with weight gain or body shaming.

Understanding your fear of weight gain involves recognizing the psychological and emotional aspects that contribute to this fear. Negative self-talk, past traumas, and distorted body image can all play a role in developing this fear. It is important to address these underlying issues to effectively manage and treat this fear.

Psychological and emotional aspects of the fear of gaining weight are complex and require a holistic approach to treatment. This may involve therapy, self-care practices, and lifestyle changes. With the right support and resources, you can overcome your fear of gaining weight and improve your mental and emotional wellbeing.

What exactly is it?

The fear of gaining weight, also known as obesophobia or pocrescophobia, is a specific phobia that affects many people. Estimated It is characterised by an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming “overweight”. I always say the “fear of weight gain” is really any body change, not just weight gain.

There’s no exact numbers as it’s hard to measure how many people struggle. Research doesn’t give any statistics, but those who are/have tried to change their body tend to fear body change most (1). That makes sense, right?

Causes and triggers

There are several causes and triggers, including:

  • Negative body image
  • Trying to change your body – this puts focus on your body
  • Societal pressure to be thin or meet body ideals. “Thin” isn’t always in,¬†right? There’s been a decade of “slim-thick” or “curvy thin”. Your fear or worry of body change is likely linked to what body ideals have been in style at important times in your life
  • Stress and anxeity can exacerbate your fear
  • Past experiences of weight gain or body shaming. Or worry of how you would be treated with body change
  • Worry about health, due to the perception that health = weight

Signs you have a fear of weight gain or body change

There are many ways that fear of weight gain shows up. It’s really different for everyone. It’s also different depending on things like time of year, clothes you’re wearing, who you spend time with, and health things like menstrual cycle.

Signs that you have a fear of body change include:

  • Avoiding social situations
  • Obsessive thoughts of food, weight, and your body
  • Distrust in your body and food
  • Restrictive eating in order to change your body
  • Sucking in or angling your body in certain ways
  • Intense emotions relating to your body and how you look and are percieved
  • Body checking
  • Any disordered eating behaviours tend to go alongside a fear of body change

It is important to note that the fear of gaining weight can have serious consequences for one’s physical and mental health. Seeking professional help, such as therapy or counselling, can be beneficial in managing this phobia and improving overall well-being.

When you realise that you struggle with an intense fear of weight gain, the next step is probably working to overcome it. It doesn’t feel great, to say the least. There are a few options to overcome it, including:

Therapy

Therapy is usually what people think about first. I think therapy is a great option (duh, I am a therapist after all) but there are a few caveats.

The most recommended therapy is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT doesn’t work for everyone, so don’t despair if you’ve tried it and it didn’t help. CBT aims to help you identify negative thought patterns and behaviours and teaches you coping mechanisms to manage your thoughts and feelings.

But the thing is: Your fear of weight gain isn’t all thoughts based. It’s body based too, right? Which is why getting stuck in a CBT-mindset might not be the best idea. CBT tools can definately help, but I don’t think it’s a 100% effective tool for your fear of weight gain.

Instead, I recommend finding a professional who is trained in CBT but uses other techniques too. I’m trained in CBT but use lots of other tools too, like Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), somatic therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and general talking therapy. I’m an integrative therapist which means I work with you as a whole-person, rather than one set therapy protocol.

Self-help and coping techniques

I have seen many people help themselves through their fear of weight gain. Usually they’ve had some therapy or nutrition therapy too, but they do a great job on their own too.

Tools like mindfulness, self-care, and meditation can be helpful. As can pushing yourself out of your comfort zone then using soothing tools to become grounded again.

If you ask anyone who used to be intensenly scared of body change, they will tell you one thing: You need to heal your relationship with food. I know you would love to keep engaging in disordered behaviours with food, but stop feeling so stressed about your body. But it doesn’t work like that.

Here are a few of my self-help recommendations:

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