Add as bookmark

Practical NLP: Negotiating Being Fat

by Nancy Blake(more info)

listed in nlp, originally published in issue 158 - May 2009

One of the most serious dangers to our health (mental and physical), particularly if we are women, are the ubiquitous and extremely powerful pressures on us to be obsessed about our weight.

I was fourteen when I had my appendix out. Weighing in after the operation at 121 lb (8 stone 9 lbs), my doctor suggested I should go on a diet and try to lose ten pounds. Full of enthusiasm, I went on a 1,000 calories per day diet, and lost ten pounds in two weeks. At 109 lb (7stone 11 lb) my mother said I had never looked cuter, and I delighted in a new, petite skirt.

During that two weeks I had spent most of my time looking at advertisements for cake mixes, and recipes for sweet things, and as soon as the diet was over, I started indulging my new obsession with food, as well, of course, as my new obsession with my weight. When I was supposed to go for the next check-up, I rang the doctor, weeping hysterically, and told him I couldn't come in. (I remember some chocolates with a cream filling – a whole bag of them. And my new-found guilt, fear and desperation.)

All of that has accompanied me, with varying levels of distress, throughout my life – its shadow, reinforced daily, hourly – by mirrors, headlines, photographs, Hello magazine, scare articles about obesity, the bodies of fat older women doggedly swimming up and down the lanes at the pool, the bodies of women in magazines, on TV, in films – the heroines are always thin – (the stars mocked for the extremes to which they go to keep thin, mocked if they fail to keep thin), the sight of my own body, how I feel when trying on clothes – this is my story, your story. Listen to the conversation when a group of women are out for a meal in a restaurant – what they will eat, what they won't eat, how they will feel if they eat.....listen to the torment behind those voices.

And by the way, we get fatter and fatter, those of us who are not anorexic, or 'naturally thin'. We are told in resounding scientific terms that it is just a matter of calories and exercise. Oh, and genetics, and variations in the way we metabolize sugars and fats, and the balance of hormones which affects whether our calories turn into muscle or fat ----

The magazines provide us with a balanced diet of formulas for weight loss, recipes for the lovely food we are supposed to cook for our families, and commentary on the weight loss/gain of various celebrities. (And fashion photographs of women, who are castigated for staying thin with the help of heroin, and who will lose their incomes if they gain weight.)

We are supposed to starve (all you have to do to create neuroses is demand that we eat less than our body requires) and we get fat.

And this is, of course, the fault of each of us, each individual woman, who is a failure because she fails to be thin enough, fails to have the 'will power' to deprive her body of needed nourishment. Who is a failure, because her starved body fights for its survival by demanding more than it needs, storing fat against the future.

We are warned of the health effects of obesity (and warned and warned). There are many fewer warnings of the health effects of staying too thin, but of course, as we desperately diet and then fail to diet, are warned of the health risks of 'yo-yo' dieting.

Who warns us of the health effects of being under such constant pressure, such attacks on our sense of confidence, well-being, the fact that almost every visual image of a female we see is an impossible, dangerous 'ideal'; or a terrible warning of the dangers of getting fat? Who warns us of the loss of energy, will, time to live happily and constructively, which constant confrontation by these conflicting, demeaning messages imposes on us? Who warns us of the effects of this ongoing stress in depressing our immune system? (If our culture imposes such misery on us, is it crazy to suggest that our culture is pervaded with dislike, disgust for the feminine, for the feminine body?)

You will be hoping, (as, of course, I am also hoping, caught in this mess as I am) that something I will find to say will unlock the key – not to self-respect no matter what I weigh – but the key to losing weight. I would like to think at least, that freeing ourselves as much as possible from responding to these contradictory, fundamentally hostile messages could be a first step toward a more direct and natural connection to our physiological need for food; an easier, more relaxed and forgiving attitude towards our body, towards ourselves.

In the meantime, as we are fat – let us take control of the things we can control. Face your fat body, don't turn away. Keep it clean, in the loving way that you would care for the body of a chubby baby. Dry out the creases (a hair dryer works well!), if they are sore, use that foamy, soapless stuff they sell for keeping your hands bacteria-free. Use the loveliest-smelling body lotion you can find.

Remember we have five senses – you may not be fully in control of your body shape (no one is), but you can feel nice to the touch (an advantage of not being bony!), smell nice, taste nice if that comes into it!, sound nice – use your voice softly!. And we can look good as well.

You hate trying on clothes? Wait a minute – if that garment doesn't suit you, it is something wrong with the garment, not something wrong with you. Designers and manufacturers save money with smaller clothes, pre-teens and young teen-agers are mostly petite, but that is no excuse for designers' failure to figure out how to flatter the big sizes. Don't settle for apologetic clothes, tents with cheap and nasty workmanship and detailing. Some shops and designers have figured out that older, bigger women also tend to have bigger incomes – seek them out. We want to be interesting and trendy too, so they'd better get with the programme! Spend time seeking out that one special style, that one special garment, that will make you feel glamorous. Figure out your best features and how to show them off. Find a dressmaker who can alter smaller sizes to make them fit. Try second-hand boutiques and charity shops in wealthy neighbourhoods. Look through the cheaper shops for teens and find the one larger size that's left in a style you love. Look in the clothes sections of the larger supermarkets – there will be one thing that will look great. Good rule, too – make sure you've had enough to eat before you go shopping, and are rested and in a good mood – that will help you make good choices.

This may seem a strange column for a journal devoted to good health – but our society's phobia of fat is one of the most serious threats to our health that women (and increasingly, men) in our society face – it contributes to low self-esteem, depression, anorexia, obesity, osteoporosis – all the illnesses that being too fat or being too thin can lead to. The one thing it very evidently does not lead to is people easily achieving a natural, healthy weight. What it does contribute to is the income of people selling the articles, books, pills and potions which purport to help lose weight. In Victorian times, society controlled women through guilt about sex. Contemporary society controls women's lives through guilt about eating. We need to find ways to disconnect from society's pathology, pay attention to our body's innate wisdom about what to eat, and take loving care of our bodies, whatever size!


  1. No Article Comments available

Post Your Comments:

About Nancy Blake

Nancy Blake BA CQSW, has worked in mental health settings since 1971. She served as the Chair of the ANLP PCS (now the NLPtCA), as well as on a National Working Party developing postgraduate standards for Psychotherapy (NVQ Level 5), and contributed to the document which led to NLP being accepted as a therapeutic modality by the European Association for Psychotherapy.  She has presented workshops at UKCP Professional Conferences on an NLP approach to working with victims of abuse, and in psychoneuroimmunology.  Recovering from ME since 1986, she is the co-author, with Dr Leslie O Simpson, of the book Ramsay’s Disease (ME) about ME, as well as A Beginner's Guide to ME / CFS (ME/CFS Beginner's Guides). Both titles are available both in paperback and Kindle formats on Amazon. Nancy was previously enrolled at Lancaster University in a PhD doctoral program; her thesis topic was Conflicting Paradigms of ME/CFS and how the Psychiatric Paradigm creates its Influence in contrast to the Medical Model. She may be contacted via Her books are available to purchase at

  • College of Ayurveda UK

    Diploma in Āyurvedic Medicine, 4-year self-paced distant learning program in Āyurvedic medicine.

  • Beginner's Guide to ME

    Essential reading for people/carers with ME/CFS serious debilitating illness. Counteracts bad advice

  • Flower essences online

    Fine quality flower essences international ranges to help promote vitality and emotional well-being.

  • Super Patch Wellbeing

    Super Patches – a most revolutionary advance in wellbeing strategies in the history of medicine

  • nutrition and cancer

    by Sandra Goodman PhD The latest scientific research regarding Nutrition and Cancer. Full details at

  • Seaweed as Superfood

    Comprehensive nutrient balance found in no other natural food but seaweed: colon health, weight loss

  • radical spirituality

    UK publisher of rejected knowledge in areas of esoteric thought and radical streams of spirituality.

  • Supercoherence-System

    Supercoherence master code can restore each human to their pristine pure state at the speed of light


    The FLEXXICORE exercise revolution: transform your fitness regime with 2 exhilarating exercisers

  • Water for Health

    Specialist online health store focused on hydration, body pH balance and quality nutrition.


    Aromatherapy creams & candles. Heal naturally No side effects. Holistic treatments, powerful courses

top of the page