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          When Losing Weight Causes Anxiety

          July 13, 2005

          If you thought that losing weight would solve all your problems and eliminate your insecurities, you probably found out the hard way that fixing external issues doesn’t fix internal issues. In fact, losing a lot of weight quickly can intensify anxiety. Dr. Phil offers the following advice.

          • If you’re experiencing disappointment about your weight loss, you may have had unrealistic expectancies. For example, what you could have expected was to feel healthier, more energetic, to lower your risk of diabetes or other diseases that are related to obesity. Unrealistic expectancies can include eliminating your insecurities, changing the way you feel about yourself and the world, etc.
          • If the anxieties you felt while you were overweight have been amplified by your weight loss, ask yourself if you gained weight for a reason. Was the weight just a symptom of something going on inside you? Were you using excess weight as a pay off?
          • Decide if you were medicating yourself with food. Overeating can provide comfort by pushing down anxieties and insecurities. It can be a coping mechanism. When you eat in a healthy manner and don’t allow yourself to overeat, you take that unhealthy coping mechanism away. All of the anxiety you’ve felt is still there, but you don’t have the tool (overeating) to cope with it anymore. It’s no wonder that the anxieties start bubbling back up again.
          • Realize that you’ve got the same problems you had when you were overweight; you’re just in a smaller body. Now you don’t have a tool to fend it off and “self medicate.”
          • Understand that while it’s important to manage your external environment (your weight), it’s just as crucial that you manage your internal environment (your fears and anxieties).

          Try this exercise designed to help you uncover and manage your internal feelings relating to food and weight.

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