Self Help Skills

Exercising the Mind to Manage Weight: Why Your Low Self Esteem Could Be Making You Gain Weight

Updated: Jan 23

By Vanessa Rizk (Provisional Psychologist) and Dean Harrison (Counselling Psychologist)

We all want to be happy, active and love ourselves, but we often have self-doubting thoughts about who we are. ‘Am I pretty?’, ‘Am I smart enough?’, ‘Am I worthy?’. We might ask ourselves such questions daily, multiple times a day. In doing so, we create a lens through which we see ourselves and the way we live our life. These questions can lead us to answer in a way that damages our self-worth.

So how does this affect my body or weight? When we perceive ourselves as ‘pretty’ or ‘ugly’, ‘smart’ or ‘stupid’, ‘fat’ or ‘skinny’, we start to act this way! It becomes our narrative, our self-image.

So? Can negative thoughts about our bodies, sabotage our efforts to make a positive transformation and be healthy? The answer is ‘Yes!’. Researchers such as Swann & Colleagues (2007) demonstrated our self-perceptions influence what we do and the decisions we make. They recommended improving thoughts about ourselves to increase healthy behaviours.

So how do we identify and fix these problematic, self-defeating, ideas about ourselves that contribute to weight gain, or loss, and unhealthy habits? Gordon Cochrane (2008), a Psychology researcher, investigated if people’s self-views matter and affect weight goals.


Cochrane stated: '...professional and commercial programs are often ineffective. We need treatments that include strategies to repair ego damage, enhance the sense of self-worth, and develop self-efficacy so that ... patients can become the agents of change in their pursuit of well-being.'


People who are emotionally and physically fit do not rely on other people to control what they do. They care for themselves and manage what, when and how they eat and the activities they engage in.

5 Easy Tips to Help Increase Your Self-Esteem Today!

Below are five top tips to help you increase your self-esteem and achieve a healthy weight and lifestyle!

Step 1. Accept yourself as you are RIGHT NOW!

That’s right, look at yourself right now and accept THIS IS YOU. Don’t look at yourself and think, ‘I need my legs to be thinner, my chest to be bigger and my stomach to be flat and then I will be happy being ME’. Look at yourself and say, this is me, I am happy with me right now. Live fully with your body the way it is. Do not restrict what you wear or what you do because you do not think you deserve it. This is the first step to truly transforming yourself. Be the beautiful person you are!

Step 2. Practice self-care

It is time right now, to take care of your own health and body! When you start treating your body like it is worthy, you will start to believe it and the positive cycle begins! Do some exercise, not for weight loss but for self-care! People who have a healthy idea of what they are worth, will be more diligent in taking care of their own health.

Step 3. Monitor your relationship with food

Are you emotionally eating? Do you binge eat? When and why? Sometimes it is easy to identify when your relationship with food is sabotaging you. Establish methods to enhance your self-awareness and learn strategies to create a healthier relationship with food. Consulting a psychologist will allow you to understand your eating habits better and the underlying emotional and cognitive drivers. This will allow you to understand, target and change emotional responses related to your eating habits.

Step 4. Confront negative ideas about your self-worth

View yourself as the therapist. Be kind to yourself and talk to yourself with empathy and wisdom. Acknowledge when an idea about yourself is negative and damaging. Do not try to ignore those thoughts have a laugh at them! Remind yourself of your positive self-beliefs. Never judge yourself. When you start to feel down, or when you find yourself eating at an unusual time, be aware of your thoughts and engage in a healthy activity that keeps your mind focused on things other than food.

Step 5. Monitor the changes in your thoughts and behaviour and praise yourself!

Reading this article means you have taken the first step. You are ready for change, growth, and to be the healthiest person you can be both inside and out. Congratulations! Get motivated and keep engaging in a healthier lifestyle, you are worth it! Always be kind to yourself.

Repairing your thoughts about yourself, restoring your self-worth and self-esteem, dealing with your emotions, and practicing healthy behaviours may seem challenging. You could spend thousands of dollars on gym memberships, personal trainers, and fad diets, but those efforts might not produce sustainable results if you do not also address the underlying emotional, cognitive and behavioural aspects of your wellbeing.

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing difficulty with weight management or need to establish healthy eating behaviours, support is available. If you need further assistance please contact iflow psychology or book an appointment. You can book an appointments online, or by calling my friendly admin staff on 02 6061 1144.

iflow psychology offers in-person (face-to-face), telehealth and telephone counselling. We are registered psychologists. We also offer Medicare Rebates when you have a doctors referral and Mental Health Plan. We would love to be part of your journey to a healthier lifestyle.

Location Details: iflow psychology is located in Leichhardt Inner West Sydney NSW Australia

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article are suggestions only. It is always advisable to speak with your treating doctor and health professionals before making changes. This is particularly important if you have health concerns or have existing medical conditions.

(c) 2021 Dean Harrison


Swann WB, Jr, Chang-Schneider C, Larson McClarty K. (2007). Do people’s self-views matter? Self-concept and self-esteem in everyday life. Am Psychol. 62(2): 84–94. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Cochrane G. (2008). Role for a sense of self-worth in weight-loss treatments: helping patients develop self-efficacy. Can Fam Physician. 54(4): 543-547.

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