Savvy Therapy

Our weight issues and fears are something to be moved through; not turned away from (Felicity Luckey)

Fear is the one emotion we are born with – it is hard wired into us and into our minds.  It is the emotion that triggers the stress response of hormones flooding into the body to trigger the fight, flight, freeze or fawn responses.  

Fear and weight issues are very complex – we will look at one recognised condition – a phobia – concerned with weight gain.   Obesophobia, also called pocrescophobia, is the fear of gaining weight. It’s most common in teenage women, but men can have it too.Like all phobias, obesophobia is a type of anxiety disorder. Phobias involve an intense and irrational fear of a specific object, place, or situation. If you have obesophobia, talking or thinking about weight gain makes you feel an exaggerated sense of anxiety. You may also experience overwhelming dread around situations associated with weight gain, like being near a scale.  If you’re afraid of gaining weight, you might go to extreme lengths to avoid it. This increases the risk of developing an eating disorder, or it could be a sign that you have one.

What causes people to develop obesophobia?

Obesophobia doesn’t have a clear cause. It’s likely due to several factors, including:

Weight stigma

Weight stigma is the practice of judging people based on their weight. It’s a significant part of modern Western society, which often praises thinness.  Some people might also experience weight stigma from other environmental factors, like familial expectations or peer pressure.  Weight stigma generally discriminates against people with overweight or obesity. As a result, it can cause certain individuals to develop a fear of gaining weight.


In a culture that idealizes thinness, weight gain is portrayed as a flaw. This can cause obesophobia, especially in those with a strong need for perfectionism.  Perfectionism, like weight sigma, may be related to pressure from friends and family. Some individuals might also have a genetic tendency for perfectionism.

Anxiety disorders

Other types of anxiety disorders may contribute to obesophobia.  For example, obesophobia might stem from social anxiety disorder, which involves a fear of social rejection. You may be scared of gaining weight because of society’s attitude on weight gain.

Personal experiences

Obesophobia could be due to your personal experiences. If you’ve been teased for your weight or appearance, you may associate weight gain with negative judgment. This can make you afraid of gaining weight.

What are the symptoms of obesophobia?

The symptoms of obesophobia involve negative emotions when thinking or talking about weight gain. They can include:

  • an intense, overwhelming fear
  • anxiety
  • stress
  • panic attacks
  • high blood pressure
  • dizziness

You might also have these feelings when you experience weight gain or are in situations that you associate with weight gain, like social events with food.  Obesophobia could also make you do certain things to avoid gaining weight, such as:

  • fasting
  • obsessively counting calories
  • exercising too much
  • frequent dieting

Or on the other hand, fear of losing weight can be hard to overcome too. 

Anyone who has tried to lose weight — and failed — knows that mental roadblocks can play as big a role as diet and exercise in your success.

“We all wish it was only a matter of ‘calories in and calories out, but there is  a psychological component to losing weight for most people.  The task is to find out what about losing weight scares them.  Weight is intertwined in people’s sense of security and self-confidence,so it has a far-reaching emotional impact in a lot of important areas in people’s lives.”

Burying your fears or dismissing them as silly could sabotage your plans to get healthier. The first step: Identifying what could be holding you back. Tthe most common reasons people are afraid to lose weight.

Fear of the Unknown

There are a million wild cards related to weight loss, especially if you’ve been on the heavier side most of your life. Some fears concern the physical. People worry about what the “thin version” of themselves might look like: Will my face look too gaunt? Will I be left with extra loose skin if I lose a lot of weight? A big weight loss is a major life change, which can be frightening. “

Fear That Your Relationships Might Change 

It’s a common fear a reason: Consciously or subconsciously, people develop expectations of friends and family members, which include elements of people’s appearance and self-esteem. Partners, too, or even co-workers, might feel threatened or resent your weight loss, particularly if they struggle with weight themselves. They might feel abandoned when your progress surpasses theirs.

Even if loved ones are genuinely happy about your weight loss, there might still be a fear that people in your life just won’t view or support you the way they did before.  The possibility of new relationships after a weight loss can inspire fears, too.

“Extra weight can be a great defense mechanism, because it provides an excuse not to have to face uncomfortable new experiences such as dating or establishing new friendships.

Fear of Unwanted Attention

Extra weight also can create a protective barrier between the person carrying it and people in the world who can make you feel vulnerable.  After a trauma that made someone feel vulnerable or taken advantage of, extra pounds can be comforting because a person might feel he or she generates less attention at a heavier weight.

And although the possibility of more people expressing sexual interest in you might be a reason to lose weight, the flip side is that it also might raise the risk of having to deal with uncomfortable and unfamiliar experiences in the dating world.

Fear of Failure

People often tell themselves, ‘If I’m thin, I’m going to find the love of my life,’ or ‘I’ll be successful in my career once I lose weight,’” “It’s a typical cognitive distortion, thinking, ‘I just need to change this and everything will be better.  The idea that you could do all that work and then still have many of the same problems can be terrifying, he says. It can be scary to have to confront the thought that it wasn’t the weight, it’s you.  Still others fear that if they lose a noticeable amount of weight and gain it back over and over again, people will criticize or ridicule them.

Fear of Giving Up What’s Comfortable

Weight gain is interwoven with all sorts of coping mechanisms. It’s extremely common for people to hide behind their weight or eat to make themselves feel good, no matter what their level of actual hunger. Eating is a common way to quell anxiety and depression, so when you lose that effective coping mechanism, it can make you feel anxious,  The snack-as-security-blanket habit is one of the most difficult for many people to let go of, he says. Also common for introverts who struggle with weight is using it as an excuse to stay home and isolate themselves.

If you have social anxiety, weight is a wonderful way to keep you at home. This is a big reason why losing weight is scary for some people.

I certainly decided to put on weight after my first marriage failed.  I wanted nothing to do with men and decided that being overweight was the best defence.  Facing the fear is the best way of balancing your relationship with food.

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