the myth that healing emotional trauma will ‘fix your body’

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Written by Meg Kant

the myth that healing emotional trauma will ‘fix your body’

One of the really harmful ways that fatphobia, weight stigma and diet culture collide to impact mental health is with the underlying belief that if someone is emotionally well, they wouldn’t be fat. It flows from the idea that in order to lose weight, individuals just need to “recover from their emotional trauma”. People say “once you get to the root of your trauma then you will lose weight from the heaviness that the trauma was weighing on you”.

recipe for disaster

This is a recipe for disaster. Telling someone who lives in a big body, in a society that is very fatphobic, that solving their emotional trauma will make them lose weight can lead people to destructive and obsessive thoughts about their lived experiences.

It jumps to the conclusion that people in big bodies have an abundance of trauma that needs to be resolved, which is not the case for many large bodied people. Furthermore, telling someone that losing weight will resolve their trauma could potentially send them on a never ending search for ‘healing’ to change their bodies.

healing trauma as a form of weight loss

Please don’t think that I consider the processing of trauma to be unimportant. I believe that understanding our experiences and seeking support and treatment for our emotional wellbeing can benefit everyone. But where it can do more harm than good is when individuals link the size of their body to the trauma they have experienced. This leads to feeling pressured to resolve the trauma as a form of weight loss.

*It is possible that processing emotional trauma can positively impact someone’s mental health, leading to behavioural changes that could cause unintentional weight loss*

eating as a coping mechanism

One of the underlying beliefs in this myth is that people who live in big bodies are overeating in order to cope with their feelings through food. Typically this behaviour falls into one of two categories, emotional eating or binge eating, and understanding the difference is very important. Emotional eating is a very normal human experience (find out more about that here). On the other hand, binge eating can happen when someone feels physically or emotionally restricted around food. 

Binge eating happens for a variety of reasons, some of them include societal pressure, weight stigma and fatphobia. People feel pressure to live in a smaller body, and therefore they need to restrict their food intake.

But the assumption that all folks in big bodies use eating as a coping mechanism is unfounded. Body size diversity exists just as does diversity in all other areas of human bodies, and the size of people’s bodies is largely out of their control.

being set up for disappointment

Society is setting people up for disappointment and confusion. What happens if a person feels like they have processed their trauma and they still aren’t losing weight? Do they need to keep “digging” into their pain to finally release the thin person who has just been hiding underneath all that weight? 

This could keep people searching forever. It could have them intensely or obsessively analyzing their experiences, which can be devastating for their mental health. 

embracing body diversity

It is important to remember that there is not a thin person living inside a fat person just waiting to get out. It is simply a person in a different sized body, living their life. People in big bodies feel immense pressure both internally and externally to lose weight, and if we can start to better understand and embrace body diversity then that pressure could lessen, and people in bigger bodies could just exist without fear of judgment.


Is this a myth that you have heard before? Feel free to share in the comments.

the myth that healing emotional trauma will ‘fix your body’ 

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Xoxo,

Meg Kant

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