Do I Really Have To Give Up The Dream Of Being Thin?

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Every once in a while, I get one of those emails that nearly knocks me over.

“I am afraid to give up the dream of being thin. I have good days, where I can accept myself and think I am beautiful, but I can never let go of the dream of being thin, and I am afraid that if I fully commit to your methods, I will be a failure, and that no matter how amazing my life is, everyone will know me for a failure if I stay fat.”

Raise your hand if you know what this woman is talking about! (Yes, my hand is up too.)

The dream of being thin is a collective sort of dream. One that we’re sold and told to believe in from such an early age that even just acknowledging it as a dream (and not a truth) is a huge step.

But what do you do with the dream of being thin when, at least intellectually, you know it’s a dream that isn’t worth dreaming anymore?

The dream of being thin: Nude woman from a Rubens painting, thinking "When I'm thinner I will: be healthier, ride my bike, get a job I like, feel really fit, be more social, go to the beach, get a massage, connect with old friends, have hot sex, love my body, ask for a promotion, feel relaxed, buy clothes I really like." A stop sign in the corner reads "Stop. You don't need to lose weight to do, be, or have what you want in life."Do You Have To Give Up The Dream Of Being Thin? I’ve worked with lots of clients who told me that even though they think Health At Every Size® makes sense, they still want to lose weight. They want to embrace Health At Every Size® and stop worrying about their weight but they don’t feel ready to fully let the concept of weight loss go.

What I tell them may surprise you.

I say, okay. That’s really okay. You don’t have to let go of the dream of being thin or the desire to be thinner. But for the next few days or weeks or months, or even just for today, I want you to just push it to the side a bit. Just shift it over a few inches and try, as much as possible, to try my suggestions.

As I sometimes tell them, dance with the dream. Let the dream be light. Let the dream of being thin be your momentary dance partner, not your boss.

This slight mindset shift can make a big difference.

Clearing The Dream, Finding True Desire
As dreams go, the dream of being thin is really more of a nightmare. The dream of being thin keeps you trapped in patterns that don’t serve you. When you believe the dream, you fixate on your weight and on food, feel good when you lose weight, feel horrible when you gain it back, and since weight gain means you’re moving farther from the dream, you inevitably look for a new weight loss solution again and again.

What’s the dream of being thin really about?

The dream says that weight loss is the ultimate prerequisite, the ultimate key to unlock all of your desires. Want health? A better job? Hotter sex? Beauty? Confidence? The envy of your peers? You’ve been told over and over again that weight loss is always the answer.

What no one ever tells you is that the prerequisite is b.s. You can take the advanced class right now. You don’t need the key to unlock the door, the door is flimsy. In fact, there is no door! (I know I’m mixing metaphors here. Bear with me!)

So your task, should you choose to accept it, is to ask yourself two questions:

  1. What is the dream of being thin getting me?
  2. What is it that I really want?

Question #1 is actually quite important. It can be scary to realize, but sometimes you hold on to the dream of being thin because pursuing other desires feels kind of scary. You know how to worry about your weight, worry about food, worry about exercise. If you’re anything like I was, you basically have a PhD in dieting right now. It’s hard to leave the world you know, even one you’re sick of, for the world you don’t know. And loving your body, eating intuitively, experiencing better health while fat, experiencing hot sex while fat, and anything and everything else that you want may seem scarier than what you have.

Once you realize what the dream of being thin is or isn’t getting you, you’re able to make a real decision about whether you want to wake up from it or not.

The second question can be scary too. Asking yourself what you really want is a big freaking deal. So I recommend looking at it from a place of fun rather than a place of “have to.”

If Everyone Else Is Caught Up In The Dream, Am I A Failure For Not Going Along?
I want to address the last point from that email above. Are you a failure if you’re happy with your body and everyone else thinks you’re a failure for not losing weight?

To me, that term “failure” is a huge red flag. I know for myself that when I hear it, the inner critic (my own or my client’s) is working on overdrive.

This is another mindset shift that is required for waking up from the dream of being thin. Are you a failure if you don’t lose weight and keep it off? No, you’re just really, really normal.

To me, feeling great in your body, loving it, adorning it happily, engaging with the world in it, denotes a huge success. In essence, when you give up on the dream of being thin, you have to redefine the meaning of success. If success always meant weight loss, what does it mean when weight loss is off the table? Success then becomes a personal question of your own desires and values, and isn’t that what success should really be anyway?

I would love to know what your experience has been with giving up the dream of being thinn(er). Let me know in the comment section below.

Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight.  She is now enrolling for The Big Beautiful Goddess Academy. Click here for details!

3 replies on “Do I Really Have To Give Up The Dream Of Being Thin?”

I’m trying to focus on increasing my fitness level, which is low enough that I really do need the physical therapy to do it safely thanks to fail joints and poor balance, rather than size or weight or anything. (To be clear, the issues with my joints are ones I’d have regardless of weight, but which can be harder to manage with the stress on them. woo hyper-mobility + poorly strengthened muscles = more places on the joint exposed to wear and tear.)

But I do have a dysmorphia bad enough where I don’t recognize myself in pictures sometimes, because in my head I am thinner. It’s more distressing some days than my semi-regularly falling over because my hip popped out of joint getting from one terminal to the other in the airport.

Great advice. I think whether or not you do try to lose weight, focusing on being happy and healthy at an size is the way to go. I don’t think that wanting to be thinner is in and of itself “wrong,” even if you love being healthy at any size. (This is where I think some “fat activists” can go wrong– denigrating thin women and referring to thin bodies in a negative manner.)

I agree it’s important to examine your motives. WHY do you want to be thin? If you think it will be the answer to all your problems, it won’t. If you’re doing it because you think other people (or maybe one person in particular) will like you better, then you should realize that that is unlikely to work and is unlikely to stick (similar to trying to change aspects of your personalty for others). If you want to be able to wear high fashion clothing (ala Gwen Stefani), well, you have to want that look more than you like regularly eating larger portions of X Y Z. If you want to be healthier, well, losing weight can help sometimes. But most likely being healthy AND losing weight simultaneously will be a longer process than just “getting skinny.” And there are things that you can do *right now* to improve your health before you get “thin.”

Anyhow, I think that by, examining your motives, you can become more accepting of yourself. Maybe you will decide that your motives make your goal of losing weight worthwhile. Or maybe you will realize that your true goal is not necessarily “being thin,” but something else entirely. Either way, being stressed or unrealistic will be contrary to your goal, so be easy on yourself!

This is a fantastic post.

I don’t know how well I accept giving up the dream of being thin. I don’t think about it with anyone else. But it’s hard to accept my own body as it is, since currently I’m at the heaviest I’ve been. (Which, surprise surprise, was spurred on by my fixing my eating habits, so I returned to my old weight and then some)

I acknowledge that overall I am healthier than I was, but it’s hard to forget the idea that because I am overweight, I am less likely to receive the respect and acknowledgment I crave, not only in my professional life but as a whole. It’s hard to forget that some people will automatically see me as less attractive for it. When I’m talking to others, it’s easy for me to reassure them, because I know that all is bull. I know that if people respond that way, they’re not worth my time anyway. But deep down, I know that I will HAVE to deal with those people…and despite myself I still want their approval.

Most days I just try to forget about it. It’s not usually something at the forefront of my mind. It just likes to rear its ugly head sometimes.

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