Remember when Charlize Theron won the Academy Award for Monster?
She transformed herself into a female serial killer, which included drastic physical changes, and she was amazing in the role.
No disrespect to her and her acting ability, but there’s an unspoken rule that actors who radically alter their appearance for a role are more likely to win an award.
For this particular role, Charlize gained 30 pounds. And I have no doubt that she didn’t feel the slightest bit of shame because of it.
Obviously, Hollywood actors who gain weight for movie roles are the opposite of shamed – they are rewarded for it. They’re given awards and lots of money to go with them.
But underneath the surface, there are two big reasons why there’s no shame involved in weight gain for someone like Charlize Theron. And I want you to use them to reframe how you see your own weight.
But first, let’s talk about shame.
If you’re anything like me, you probably feel shame at having excess weight on your body. I used to feel tremendous shame about the ten or so extra pounds I carried at any given time. I felt like I was out of control when it came to food, and I felt weak and powerless that I didn’t have enough willpower to just stop eating.
On top of the shame at not looking perfect, you also most likely feel shame at having failed so many times to get rid of the weight. Dieting and failing over and over again is demoralizing. And it fuels your inner critic, who is with you every step of the way to remind you what a failure you are.
Ok, so now let’s talk about why Charlize didn’t have to deal with any of this.
The first reason is that she gained the weight on purpose. She deliberately set out to gain 30 pounds. She made it her job to eat In-N-Out burgers and scarf down potato chips. So she was the opposite of out of control.
This leads us to the second reason: she deliberately gained the weight because she tied it to something of value. The weight brought authenticity to the role she played, which of course led to an Oscar win, which in turn helped further her career.
(Ironically, Charlize’s weight gain didn’t just transform her into the world’s only female serial killer – it transformed her into the average woman. And the average woman is taught to feel shame for the weight she carries.)
What’s important to remember about shame is that it keeps you stuck. It paralyzes you into inaction. So if you feel shame about your seeming lack of control around food or shame about the way you look, you’re not going to feel capable of changing anything.
But what if you chose to see things differently? What if you’re not really out of control?
If you can reframe how you see the situation, you can get past what you see on the surface – the weight – and understand where it came from. And understanding and awareness bring about compassion for yourself. And compassion cancels out shame.
Excess weight is a symptom of how you eat. If you’ve tried for years on end to lose the same ten or twenty pounds, it’s highly likely that you eat emotionally.
And if you eat emotionally – if you use food to fill an inner void – there’s a reason for it.
People teach themselves to use food to fill a void, usually during childhood. Which means that you needed a coping mechanism for some kind of pain. Which means you’re the opposite of worthless or out of control.
You have to go back and investigate how and why you started using food to make yourself feel better, because it’s the vital first step in preventing the weight from showing up over and over again.
Instead of seeing yourself as out of control, you can choose to see your use of food as a deliberate action you took to protect yourself. And choosing to reframe it this way is in and of itself an act of control – of taking control of your personal narrative.
You can choose to see the weight as a result of the sum total of your life experiences, rather than as a marker of your worth as a woman.
And if you do this, you’re automatically accomplishing the second goal: tying your weight to something bigger.
So instead of feeling shame, what if you could see that you earned that weight? What if you could reframe it so that the weight represents something powerful and beautiful?
To use myself as an example, I’ve just come out of a very painful two-year trauma that resulted in the end of my marriage.
I knew that what I was doing was self-destructive, but I truly don’t think I would have survived without having something to neutralize the emotional devastation I experienced. And because I wasn’t in a place emotionally to cope with it effectively, that’s what I did. And the evidence showed up outwardly.
However, even though I don’t necessarily like the way I look, I don’t feel shame because of it. I’ve taken control of the narrative, and I can tie that weight to something much bigger. Those pounds are evidence that I successfully came out on the other side of pain – and there’s nothing more beautiful than surviving that and becoming the woman I am now because of it.
(Side note: Your outside is always a reflection of what’s going on inside. And now that my inside is infinitely stronger, those fall-back coping mechanisms are no longer needed, I’m back to my healthy habits, and my body is starting to change.)
Take the time and have the patience to go back and figure out why you started using food to cope. And choose to have compassion for yourself.
And once you’ve stepped back like this to see it differently, the weight then becomes a symbol of your evolution as a woman rather than something to feel ashamed of. You are always on an endless journey of becoming – and your weight is part of that.
Think of a more empowering word or phrase you could use to describe your weight. What could you say to reframe it and make a new association? Leave a comment and let me know what it is!
Charlize Theron didn’t feel shame not because she’s a famous actress who lives by a different set of rules (although that’s true). She didn’t feel shame because she was in control, and her weight served a purpose. Your weight serves a purpose, too – but only if you choose to see it that way.
And once you make that choice and get rid of the shame, you’ll be one step closer to losing it.
Get the companion worksheet to start your own journey
from shame to lasting change!