What Do You Get Out Of Staying Fat? The Price of Secondary Gain.

What Do You Get Out Of Staying Fat? The Price of Secondary Gain.


Did my title make you squirm a little?

Go on, have a think about it. Do you get anything out of staying fat?

Most people I’ve come across immediately say “No, I don’t get anything out of it”, but the truth is, if you’re still struggling with your weight, you probably do.

This is what’s known in psychological fields as secondary gain, it is defined as social, physical or financial benefits that arise from illness, mishap or injury. A simple example might be that if you are ill you get more attention, sympathy and love from your family, or workers compensation from an injury.

So with that in mind, do you get ANYTHING at all out of being overweight?

Do you ‘get to’ skip your exercise sessions? Or have that piece of cake? Or do you ‘get’ sympathy and attention from friends and partners, or your personal trainer?

Sometimes really thinking about the secondary gains that you ‘get’ out of being overweight is enough to make them dissolve, as it really hits home that you don’t get anything worthwhile out of staying that way, and it’s not worth the pain! Often these gains are unconscious, so you have to dust them off, out of the back cupboards in your brain and bring them into the light to make them disappear.

However, some secondary gains are deeply unconscious and these are what really cause people to struggle with their weight. The easiest way to explain this is through case studies, (obviously these are individual cases and are to illustrate the secondary gain. Everybody is different so read these case studies as examples only.)

One woman who had struggled with her weight since her teenage years, was perplexed as to why she kept sabotaging her weight loss efforts, with late night binges. She mentioned that she had been raped in her early teenage years and had never really felt safe since then. When we dug a little deeper, she realised that she had been a very pretty, slim young woman and after the trauma, she had a deep fear of being attacked again, and a belief that how she looked were factors in her being attacked, so she had unconsciously kept herself plain looking and overweight to prevent this. Every time she began to lose weight, which she consciously wanted very much, her unconscious belief would kick in and she would sabotage herself. Obviously there were also other emotions and beliefs at play, supporting this pattern, but this was the root of it. Once she cleared the trauma of the attack and the beliefs that she was not safe as a slim person, she found that she no longer sabotaged herself and has been steadily dropping the kilos since then by just living a healthy lifestyle.

Another woman was very focused on her career. She wanted to get slim, but was struggling with her motivation. When we explored secondary gain, she confessed that she was in an unhappy marriage with a man who she respected very much but did not love anymore, she realised that her weight was a barrier, protecting her from facing that underlying issue. She said that if she lost the weight she might get attention from other men and would then have to face the fact that she was in an unhappy marriage and would have to hurt the husband she cared about very much. It was easier for her to dance around the problem of losing weight, rather than deal with the relationship problem. After becoming conscious of this she realised that it was not helping her at all by avoiding facing either problem. After clearing the unconscious barriers and negative beliefs she has since easily lost the weight, worked out an amicable divorce with her husband, started a new business and recently told me she is now is happier than ever.

As I said, these are individual case studies cannot be generalised at all. They simply describe the unconscious process where your mind protects you from a perceived bigger or worse threat by maintaining some problem or challenge.


[adrotate banner=”4″]



Discover if there is secondary gain sabotaging your efforts & begin to let it go

If you want to discover if there is unconscious secondary gain at play for you reflect on these questions.

  • What is the best thing that could happen to you if you easily reached your ideal weight & body shape?
  • Is there anything negative that you think could happen if you reached your ideal weight and shape?
  • How would being slim & healthy affect the other areas of your life?
  • How would it affect your relationships & friendships?
  • What would it mean to you to not be the overweight/ fat person in a group?
  • Do you have any negative beliefs about people who are slim and healthy?
  • What would you have to not tolerate anymore in order to get to your ideal body?
  • What or who would you need to face or let go of?
  • Is there anything you fear about the consequences of becoming slim?
  • Are those fears realistic?
  • Is it worth staying overweight to avoid facing those fears?
  • What would you gain from the experience of overcoming this?
  • What kind of person would it begin to make you?
  • What gifts, strengths and learnings would you receive or develop on this journey?
  • Do you like that?
  • What new possibilities open up for your life once you have achieved this?

Take the time to reflect on these questions, or even better write out the answers, and allow them to begin to shift your thinking. The first set are to bring up the fears out of the recesses of your unconscious mind and the second set are to help you begin to overcome them.

If you need any help with letting go of secondary gain or self sabotage, that’s my specialty!

Remember that you do have the inner resources and strength to overcome even the most challenging obstacles, so remember your big reason why you are making this change, be kind to yourself on the journey, and keep at it.

Comments (23)

  1. I am so happy I have opened this article. I have been struggling with weight issues all my life but by going through the questions and really journalling about them, which was the first time I have ever tried that, really brought up the issues why this has been the issue in my life. Now I am curious if by just journalling and know why will actually bring about the much needed change and shift?

    • Hey Rita, it depends on what the secondary gain is and how attached you are to it. Notice the answers to the second half of the questions? Is this something that by now realising what it was about, you can simply choose to let it go, or does it feel like there is a lot of emotion and blocks around it?

      Simply realising for the first time what is REALLY behind your struggle can sometimes be enough for it to dissolve, or sometimes, like the case studies, there are more intense emotions and limiting beliefs under the surface, then I could really help you best in some private sessions to clear the underlying emotions and shift the beliefs. Thanks for posting, I’m so glad you have got great value from this article!

    • Hey Julie, How did you go with the questions. What new insights did you have?

  2. Wow! I had thought about this before but after reading this article and the questions, I didn’t realise how much I was affected by my circumstances. I don’t feel so alone; thank you for putting it out there for others to absorb!

    • Hey Bec, You are not alone. I’m glad it helped you. If there’s anything more I can help you with, please let me know.

  3. oh my god! soo good. such a top article.

    The questions seem kind of obvious but the answers were really illuminating, I actually laughed out loud and what I wrote down for questions like:
    Do you have any negative beliefs about people who are slim and healthy?
    – that they’re boring and annoying(!!)

    Is there anything you fear about the consequences of becoming slim?
    – being alone and being judged by my personality alone
    (what?! like being fat is some sort of protection or something?)

    I actually almost teared up at the answers that came through on the last 5 questions. Have hit a plateau with my weight loss and started gaining it again I really think this was the right article at the right time. Just have to really face my underlying issues now! eep!
    thanks for the article. xx

    • Hey Nys, thanks for sharing some of your answers! I know that lots of people put there probably have similar answers to you. I’m glad it has helped at a time you need it. Funny how that happens!

      The thing about beliefs is that they are just thoughts that you CHOSE to believe. You can choose to change them too. Now all those sneaky beliefs about skinny people are out of your head you can deal with them. Let me know how you go!

  4. Your questions have made me really think.

    I have put on a fair bit of weight over the last 3 years – but particularly the last 2. My husband passed away in 2007 and he was my first and only boyfriend.
    You have made me think that maybe I am subconsciously letting myself “go” so that I do not have to encounter any attention from the opposite sex. The thought of a romantic relationship with another man really freaks me out. And I do think that is why I am putting on weight and letting it sit there.

    Thanks Kylie!

    • Hey Jay, I am glad that the post has made you think. I am very sorry to hear about your husband. The first step in overcoming self-sabotage is to realise what’s really going on for you. Then you can begin to deal with the underlying problem. You might like to take some time to write out all your fears about a new relationship on a piece of paper, get them out of your head, when they’re on paper then go through and assess how realistic they are, and what you want to choose to do about them. Let me know how you go.

  5. These questions are very intense, I read the first question and processed with myself, It really made me think, I answered with internal dialog, I didn’t realize what was coming next because I allowed myself to only see one question at a time. The third question really got me, I began to cry, I had not cried in so long, but there I was, I was in my office crying by myself and didn’t understand why, but then realized that I had not touched on this issue before, I also realized how much pain I was in. Thanks!

    • Hey Norma, Thanks so much for letting me know. I am so glad that the questions made you think. They ARE intense. They are meant to be. (Maybe I should add a warning at the start.) I am so glad that it helped you to uncover a secret pain inside, the best way to deal with it and overcome it is to realise the truth of the issue or problem and then process it. If you need any help sorting through what comes up for you, feel free to email me privately. kylie@mymindcoach.com.au

  6. I don’t know how I found this page but that first story of the lady being raped just took me back to a dark place and I could have been reading my own story. I also was thin then but now am obese. I start diets do really well and then go back to my bad habits.
    I think it is time for me to deal with my demons and get me back.

    • Hey Dianne, I am very sorry to hear that you experienced a similar trauma. You absolutely CAN deal with those old demons and face the underlying emotions and hidden beliefs that have been causing you to sabotage yourself. If you need any assistance on the journey, feel free to contact me. In the mean time, be kind, compassionate and patient with yourself. This will be a challenging, enlightening and freeing experience of growth for you! You WILL come out the other side showing the incredibly strong, powerful and inspiring woman that you are!

  7. Thank you so much kylie for a fantastic article and finally one that really helps you to get to the underlying gains. I have only in the last 2 years shared with people that I was raped 11 years ago and so I am still dealing with it.
    I also see my weight challenges as a way for me to have a reason to hate myself. I also find that I use food (more junk food) as a form of self harm which of course makes everything go round and round.
    But now it is time to STOP and start loving myself for the person who I am. Im not going to be a victim any more.

    • Thanks for sharing it here too Rebecca. So many women have experiences similar sexual trauma, the statistics are simply staggering. What you’re describing is a pretty classic response to a trauma like this and funnily enough, your weight is a way of protecting you in the short term, while alerting you to the deeper issue. I’m SO HAPPY you have made the decision to make the change and not allow yourself to be the victim of the past anymore. YOU ABSOLUTELY CAN DO THIS!! You can make the change and you will be so much stronger and more compassionate for having come through it.

  8. I had bookmarked your article and finally had a chance to sit and really go through the questions – I thought the examples you used were spot-on and are probably reflected in a lot of women’s lives, including my own. So here is my question for you: I often feel stuck in terms of attacking old experiences that I know dictate a lot of my behaviors, including overeating or using low energy or minor aches and pains to get out of exercising or using stress as an excuse to indulge in food and wine. I’m not sure I have the skills to address my “stuff”, and I’m wondering how to actually face myself without having that one-step-forward-two-steps-backwards feeling. Any advice?

    • Hey Melissa, thanks for letting me know that my article hit home with you. I’m so glad. Yes I can definitely help you escape that stuckness and stop the excuses and really deal with your “stuff”. I do have some advice that will help… My Kickstart Program is specifically designed to help you begin to shift your mindset and is a great tool to get started with, it’s just $97 but is worth a LOAD more, so it’s a very affordable way to begin. Once you’ve gone through that 4 week program, you might consider a breakthrough session or my 10 week transformation program, to totally release the past. I have found that it can be challenging to release those old events on your own, because they are in your “blind spots”. I can help you to get over those challenges and use some amazing techniques to release old emotions, beliefs and trauma easily and painlessly, without reliving the past.

  9. Article was so interesting and I understood the concept and the examples, but they are not related to me. I cant think of anything that is holding me back without ‘blaming’ someone very close to me and I dont believe its his fault, I am the one whose overweight, not him. I am struggling to delve into the reasons why and Its frustrating. Have I closed my inner self off that much?

    • Hey Bronwen, Yes probably. It’s not that you’re closed of from your inner self. It’s just that your unconscious mind, is just that UNCONSCIOUS. It’s designed to be that way. Usually you need the assistance of a trained therapist or coach to access those parts of your unconscious. You can also improve your awareness through daily meditation also. I can help you to discover and release your unconscious saboteurs in my Strong, Slim, Sexy Transformation program. If you’re interested let me know, and I’ll get you the details.

  10. Thank you Kylie.

    I know there are payoffs to me staying fat. I know it has something to do with avoiding attention from men, though nothing terrible like being raped has ever hapenned to me. Reading this article has shown me that I am actually very attached to avoiding that which is why I don’t let it go. I’m not sure how to detach from it.

    • Yep. Weight is intrinsically linked with sexuality and safety for women. I can help you to detach from that secondary gain through my events and transformation programs. If you’re interested to know more let me know. Best, Kylie

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

Feeling a little overwhelmed?

Get your free audio hypnosis to feel clear, calm and focussed in just 10 minutes