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How To Stop Obsessing Over "The Last 5 Pounds"

Erica Mather, M.A.
June 12, 2015
Erica Mather, M.A.
Registered Yoga Teacher
Photo by Shutterstock
June 12, 2015

When I was working as a holistic health counselor (a coach who helps re-educate people about how to eat whole foods), women would come to me desperate to lose five more pounds.

It went like this: a beautiful, accomplished woman would sit down and start to tell me she was fat. While I was always listening, at the same time, I was searching for where (on their body) they were actually, truly overweight. Not that it would matter if I found it, because I think everyone is beautiful in their own skin, but back then, it was my job to help these ladies accomplish their goals.

For these women, the truth of the matter was that they did not need to lose weight. They had, what I like to call, the “Last 5-Pounds Syndrome.” They were gorgeous, feminine, and had (GASP!) women’s bodies with curves and maybe even some cellulite.

Yet I still had to help these women work on “eating better,” because that was my job. In today’s world, being on a diet feels almost compulsory, and virtuous. In fact, if you’re NOT on a diet, or “watching what you eat,” or maintaining a “fitness” routine, you expose yourself to all kinds of criticism that often has a distinctly moralistic overtone.

I’d like to put an end to the “Last 5-Pounds Syndrome” once and for all. Here’s how you know if you have it, and what you can do to change your mindset about it:

1. You imagine that your life will be more fulfilling and happier once you’ve lost just a little more weight — or toned your arms, or lost some belly fat.

You tend to believe that people who look a certain way lead lives that are happier and more fulfilled. You scour magazines reading about the lives of the rich, beautiful and famous. You believe that your emotional state will change when you look different, and therefore your life will feel better all-around. You will be happier, more loved, appreciated, validated and successful.

2. You’re waiting for life to happen.

The mental habit of withholding food has spilled over into every part of your life, and you’re holding back everywhere. You are waiting to “look” a particular way to allow yourself to date, to get a better job, to go back to school, to get married, to do all the things that you would really like to.

3. Whether you have a good or bad day depends entirely on the scale.

When you step on the scale and see that you have lost some weight, you are elated. The rest of the day is going to be a good one — you feel confident and in control. You’re a winner! If you step on the scale and see that you have gained some weight, you feel deflated and ashamed. The rest of the day is going to be a drag — you are distracted, checking to see if you look like you gained weight and thinking about your plan to “get back on track” and finally conquer those last five pounds.

Do any of these describe you and your experience with your weight? If so, there are ways to tackle this! Many people spend countless hours of their weeks tied up with these sorts of concerns.

The first, and most important step to take is in response to holding back on your life. It’s crucial that you begin to live your life today. Dress your body in a way that compliments it and makes you feel good about where you are right now. Reach for that promotion. Go on a date. Go out on a Friday night instead of cooping yourself up at home waiting for the night that you feel good. You have an appointment with life. Stop waiting. Be sure to show up, NOW!

If you feel hesitation, which you will, dig deeper to find out the true reason that you are waiting to begin your life — most likely it’s not because you feel fat. Fat — as a friend of mine likes to say — is not a feeling. Something else lurks beneath that “feeling” and once you find out what it is — well now we have something we can work with!

Erica Mather, M.A. author page.
Erica Mather, M.A.
Registered Yoga Teacher

Erica Mather, M.A., E-RYT 200, is a lifelong teacher, and a Forrest Yoga Guardian. She has been teaching yoga in New York City since 2006. Erica created “Adore Your Body,” a Signature System for addressing body image challenges, and is the Founder of The Yoga Clinic NYC. Check out her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.