How to Stop Feeling Guilty for Losing Weight

By , SparkPeople Blogger
We talk a lot about all the good things that come with weight loss. There's the lower risk of heart disease, improved cholesterol, increased mobility, renewed confidence, reduced chance of diabetes—the list goes on (and on and on). But parting with pounds can also come with some not-so-positive side effects, many of which go unspoken, disguised or overlooked.
Like weight loss guilt.
Sounds crazy, right? After all, guilt is typically associated with midnight refrigerator raids, fast food drive-thru trips and skipped workouts. Why, then, would anyone feel guilty about successfully losing weight and embracing a healthier lifestyle?

Why Does Weight Loss Make Us Feel Guilty?

Achieving your weight-loss goals can be one of the most exciting and liberating feelings you'll ever experience—and in an ideal situation, everyone in your circle will be just as thrilled with your accomplishment. But as weight-loss therapist Dr. Candice Seti points out, it is common for others to feel jealousy, which can then trigger feelings of guilt in the one who has lost the weight.

"The reality is that most of us have weight-loss goals and most of us don't achieve them, which sets us up for feelings of envy and frustration when we see others achieve them," she explains. "But feeling guilty for achieving your goals does nothing to help you or them."
The guilt is often amplified when multiple people are trying to lose weight together, such as within a couple or alongside a group of friends or co-workers. Even when everyone sticks to the same exercise or nutrition program, other factors—such as metabolism, age and body type—can cause some to lose significantly more or faster than others.
In addition, Dr. Seti says, sharing your weight loss successes with others can sometimes feel like boasting or bragging. "For many, that much self-focus doesn’t feel natural, and can set them up for feelings of guilt."
And positive feedback, even when it's delivered with full support and encouragement, can also trigger misguided shame. "Many people become self-conscious and uncomfortable with comments from others about how great they look," notes Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed. Particularly for those who have never felt confident or comfortable with their own bodies, shifting their mindset to accept compliments can be a struggle.
Finally, many people who have changed their lifestyles might feel guilty about the time they have taken away from their families, households, jobs or other personal interests in the pursuit of weight loss.

How to Overcome Weight Loss Guilt

While weight loss might not be the boundless bliss you imagined, you don't have to let nagging feelings of misguided guilt suck all the joy out of your success. With a little mindfulness, you can learn how to squash that shame and embrace your newfound health and confidence.
Be mindful of your audience.
While it's absolutely okay—and even healthy—for you to take immense pride in your weight loss achievement, Dr. Seti recommends keeping your audience in mind when discussing it. "If there are people in your life who are super supportive and prideful for you, by all means, share your joy with them on a regular basis," she says. "But if you find there are others who may have difficulty seeing past their own setbacks in order to feel joy for you, you might not share as much with these individuals."
For those folks, instead of waxing eloquent about how many pants sizes you've dropped, take the opportunity to lead by example, serving as a quiet motivator and inspiration. For example, Dr. Seti suggests offering to go for a walk together or making dinner together so you can show how you cook and portion your food. Share tips and ideas that you think might be helpful, without focusing on your individual results.
"Always keep encouraging and supporting, even if they are having a hard time showing their support for you," Dr. Seti says. "You know you have done well and their issues are their own—they are just having trouble seeing past them."
Take control of how you are feeling.
People may be envious of your weight loss, which can trigger guilt for having something they want. If you tend toward guilt—as many dysregulated eaters do, notes Koenig—this is a time to pay strict attention to how you are feeling.
"Remember that no one can 'make' you feel anything, even though we use the expression, 'they made me feel…' often," she says. "People can try to make you feeling something, but only you can choose what to feel."
Don't make it a competition.
Before engaging in a weight-loss program together with a friend, family member, co-worker or loved one, clinical psychologist Aviva Gaskill, Ph.D, says it's best to set some ground rules—specifically, that there is no "race to success."
While many tend to engage in "friendly competitions" that include regular weigh-ins and incentives for those who lose the most weight the fastest, Dr. Gaskill says this can be a destructive practice and should be avoided.
"Talk with your weight-loss partner about the idea of having a 'personal best' and competing with yourself, rather than competing with each other," she advises.
Have an honest conversation.
If a friend, family member or loved one hasn't lost as much weight as you, your first instinct may be to feign blissful ignorance of the contrast. Sidestepping the topic can lead to the proverbial weight-loss white elephant in the room, though, which could end up putting a strain on the rest of the relationship and perhaps cause irreparable damage.
According to Dr. Gaskill, one of the most significant ways to cope with a sense of guilt is to have an honest conversation with your friend, family member or weight-loss partner. Share how you are feeling, and reiterate your support and encouragement of their goals.
"Always continue to encourage each other's hard work, and really stop to listen to the person if they're complaining about how hard it is for them to lose weight instead of writing off their complaint because of your own sense of guilt," she suggests. "Be honest with yourself that you have this sense of guilt and remember that everybody is different."
Give your health the attention it deserves.
It's easy to feel guilty for missing family game night to make a yoga class, for leaving the dirty dishes in the sink in order to squeeze in half an hour on the treadmill or for neglecting your to-do list in order to spend a Sunday afternoon prepping healthy meals. The key is to recognize that by putting your own health, fitness and wellness first, you are setting a positive example.
Talk to your family about why that morning run or hour spent perusing recipes is so important to you, and how taking that time for yourself is helping you to be a happier, healthier version of yourself. Of course, balance is key, as it’s also not healthy to completely neglect your other obligations.
"Your best bet is to stick with feeling proud of taking caring of your health and compassion for others who aren’t doing it as well," Koenig says. "Moreover, rather than being proud of weight loss, feel proud that you value yourself enough to want to be healthy and have acquired the skills and focus to meet your health goals."
Above all, recognize that what you've done for yourself, your family and your future is extraordinary, and try to be graceful if you sense that others want what you have achieved. The best way to maintain your weight loss might just be staying accountable, staying humble and helping others along the way.

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I'm not much for guilt anymore, an advantage of getting older. Report
From time to time I feel guilty about neglecting household chores in favor of going for a walk. They all eventually get done, though. It helps that my children (ages 9-16) have started pitching in more. I think they finally realized something as simple as cleaning the letter box or putting away the dishes helps me a lot.
I shout from the mountaintops when I am down anther 10 pounds, especially after I was stuck in the 170's for a couple months. I brag to my oldest daughter because she doesn't get tired of hearing about my efforts. Report
I love your blogs, Melissa! Your compassion and common sense are priceless. Report
Thanks for a great article Report
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Thanks for sharing! Report
I don’t think I’ve ever felt guilty about weight loss. Report
Thanks for sharing this! Report
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very interesting Report
"But Mary Anne's friend didn't share her new commitment to healthy eating." -- this line sounded arrogant to me. Maybe Mary Anne's friend does not have the same fears about eating as Mary Anne did. Perhaps her friend did not have the same biometric as Mary Anne did. I do no eat fast food; I do not look down on those that do. Report
I know its a cliche , but people who do thus sort of thing its says more about them than it does about you. Report
Interesting. Report
This was a good read and timely for me. While I've never felt guilty for getting healthier, I have felt badly for some people I love who started out with me, gave up, and are now heavier/less-healthy. I can empathize, as I was one of those for many years before I finally had that "click" moment.

I particularly resonated with the information about feeling guilt over time spent working on getting healthier and letting other things slide. Just recently I've been reflecting on the need to let go of a couple of recurring social commitments, as I need more down time and workout time for myself.

Thanks for a well-written and timely-for-me article. Report
Love this article. Report
Thanks Report
I've lost 53 pounds and want to tell the world, but I don't want to be seen as bragging. This article helps me understand that guilt for losing weight can sabotage my efforts. And I need to take credit for all the hours I've spent exercising and monitoring the calories I eat. Report
Jealous people are insecure and it is their problem, not mine. I gently let them know that I did this FOR myself and BY myself. Report
We should all be mindful of others and how we "share" our ups and downs but never feel guilty about your accomplishments. Report
I do not EVER feel guilty about weight loss! I put in the HARD WORK and the determination, effort and COMMITMENT to it which others [not on SP] DO NOT see!! All those times of working out a when you do not want to, passing up those goodies for your greater good is not SEEN by others,but they see the result! I am PROUD of my results and WANT to live a healthy lifestyle in my eating habits. Those who do not , have their choice and THEY have to live with it! Report
I have not felt guilty about losing weight, but sometimes I think other people perceive me as showing off (e.g., when I wear figure-hugging "skinny clothes" that I haven't been able to wear in more than a decade.) I don't dress provocatively and I don't MEAN to be a show-off; I'm just trying to feel attractive and glamorous again, even at age 55.
Thank you Report
I have never heard of weight loss guilt until reading this article. For myself I have never felt guilty about losing weight. I felt proud of myself for my accomplishments. Nor did I ever have anything but positive comments about my healthy lifestyle. I agree with PamBrown62's comments. I am not in a competition with anyone and I have worked hard to be where I'm at, why would I feel guilty. Report
thank you Report
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Great article! Report
I found this a very thought-provoking read actually. I work with some obese women, and I hope I've got it about right in supporting them, because they do talk to me about their weight, and I sympathize with the difficulties, and praise their efforts.

I think I have had some guilt about keeping my weight down to a healthy number. I see this in the way I will sometimes try to 'act normally' in social situations and also sometimes sabotage myself.

I do sometimes wonder about the amount of time I spend on food and exercise - but realize that keeping my body alive and working well IS a full-time job! Report
I have never felt guilty but others have TRIED to make me feel somehow responsible for their feelings, and that’s a different story.

Maybe I would feel guilt if I was not working so freaking hard to create a healthier lifestyle. However, I am making the choices that are necessary for ME to have a successful journey and I will not allow someone’s negative feelings get in the way of my success.

So, no, I haven’t felt any guilt because I am not in competition with anyone. If asked I tell people what is working for me but I don’t suggest any method for weight loss because one size does NOT fit all; in clothing or weight loss. Report
Hmm, I have never felt guilty for losing weight so not sure what that feels like. Report
Enjoyed article Report
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I have never felt guilty. I figure i worked for it. If others aren't on board, that's their decision. Report
great information Report
Love this article! Thank you! Report
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I could totally relate. Very good advice Report
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Thank you for these great tips! Report
I must say, I never had this problem. Report