And I said to my body, softly. ‘I want to be your friend.’ It took a long breath. And replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.’ -Nayyirah Waheed
Weight and body image is something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. I think I am safe to assume that I am not alone in this.
We live in a world that basically grooms us to hate ourselves. Everything we are exposed to and everything we watch, do and read is set up to make us feel like we aren’t good enough and that there is something wrong with us. Advertisers bank on this. It’s how they sell basically everything. An even bigger part of the problem is society’s focus on weight. The majority of the population is obsessed with weight. We are either too heavy or too thin. When someone loses weight, we notice. When someone gains weight, we notice. It’s a thing. The world we live also tends to promote thin or fit bodies as being “beautiful”, “better” and “healthy” and larger or fat bodies as being “gross”, “bad” or “unhealthy”.
The more I started to notice our unhealthy obsession with weight, the more I also started to notice how people seem to feel like they have the right to comment on people’s body size; no matter how big or small. Why is this even a topic of conversation? Why do people feel the need to do this? Why is it relevant? Why is this the first thing we notice? Why does weight even have to be an issue – ever?
As I already mentioned, I have struggled with weight issues and body image issues my entire life. I have gained and lost weight more times than I can even count. I’ve spent years and years of my teenage and adult life worrying about my body, hating my body, doing diet after diet, overexercising, restricting myself.
For as long as I can remember I only felt good about myself when I was “skinny ” enough. Every thought I’d think and every choice I’d make (especially around food or exercise) was in relation to what was “good” or “bad” or “healthy” or “not healthy”. There was nothing intuitive or loving about it. I would exercise so I could “eat the cake” the next day. I’d eating minimally all day because I was saving myself for eating out that night. Or I’d skip eating something I really wanted because it was “too many points” or wasn’t “healthy” enough. Oh and if I DID eat something not “healthy” enough I’d feel guilty and beat myself up for days.
I would diet and restrict myself, lose weight, go back to living real life and then *surprise*…gain all the weight back. Over and over and over again. The society we live in promotes diet culture and we’re lead to believe this back and forth dieting routine is somehow normal or even worse, that it’s our own fault. When we gain weigh back after restricting ourselves we feel like WE failed. We just don’t have enough “will power” or “self control”. Well, that is a load of crap and couldn’t be farther from the truth.
There is nothing wrong with you. Dieting is what doesn’t work! Dieting is what fails. Not you.
Weight does not equal health. This is true for bodies of ALL sizes. Just because someone is thin or lost weight doesn’t mean they are healthy and just because some is heavier or has gained weight does not mean they are not healthy. This also means that just because some is really skinny DOES NOT mean they need to “eat a sandwich” or that there is anything wrong with them. We all have different bodies and we are all different shapes and sizes. This is normal and it’s 100% acceptable.
When we follow different diets or restrict ourselves constantly (or on and off) through out our lives we are blatantly ignoring our body’s intuition and that internal “knowing”. Will power is just basically implying that your mind knows better than you body and that just isn’t true. We stop listening to our hunger cues, how we’re feeling, what our bodies need. No one wonder our bodies get confused! Our bodies are much smarter than we give them credit for and they know exactly what we need and how to take care of us.
I always thought I needed to be healthier, skinnier, or better in one way or another. I was never good enough. I treated myself horribly. Years of dieting and body images issues also lead me to no longer TRUST my body, myself or my instincts.
I was always searching outside of myself for the answer and for someone else (or something else…like a diet) to tell me what to do or how to take care of my body. How to lose weight. How to feel better. How to be healthy. Well, no surprise here, but it didn’t work. Temporarily maybe, but never long term.
The times in my life where I weighed the least were when I was on some new diet or restricting calories and over exercising OR I was so severely stressed or unhappy that the weight just fell off without me even trying. Neither of those situations are ideal or healthy.
Side note: I challenge you to think twice before complementing someone’s weight, especially if they have lost weight. Doing this just perpetuates the lie that being thinner is better and that our weight somehow equals our self-worth. Try and find something else to complement them about.
I don’t know about you but I am DONE with diet culture, I am DONE with that way of thinking, I am DONE feeling like I am not good enough and I and DONE worrying about my weight. Period. I’m just done. Life is too freaking short.
There IS another way.
With the help and inspiration from many different avenues (including coaches, teachers, friends, blogs, books, podcasts, yoga, meditation, journaling, etc.) I am truly learning (for the first time EVER) to truly LOVE my body and take care of my body – with my flaws, extra weight and all. I am also learning to look at the world and everyone around me differently. Weight truly doesn’t matter and most of the time is NOT an accurate indicator of someone’s health.
I have finally realized that there is nothing wrong with me (or any of us) and that diets simply don’t work. They just don’t! Learning to truly love myself and to really care about myself and TRUST myself is the answer. When making choices, it’s about coming from a place of caring and love, not from a place of punishment, restriction, blame or ‘shoulds’.
I am not my weight.
Just because I am choosing to not care about the number on the scale doesn’t mean I don’t care about taking care of myself or my body (or am suggesting that you do the same). It doesn’t mean I am “giving up”.
Instead I am choosing to focus on body kindness, body positively, intuitive eating, self-love, acceptance and trust.
I am learning to make better choices because they make me FEEL good and because I want to really, truly take care of myself and my body. The answers I have been seeking about heath and weight have been inside of me all along. I know what I need. My BODY knows what I need. I know what feels good and what doesn’t. No one knows these things better than myself. This is true for you too! No one knows what you need more than YOU!
I now focus on doing things that make me FEEL good. Period. I want to feel good in my body because it is the only place I have to live. I want to be heathy. I want to move my body everyday in ways that feel good. I want to stay hydrated and drink enough water. I want to have energy. I want to feel light and radiant. I want to eat when I’m hungry. I want to be able to hike in the mountains or run around the block without feeling like I’m going to die. I want to eat food that makes me feel good. I want to rest if my body needs rest. I am making choices that support a healthy mind and body but I am DONE punishing my body for what it is (or isn’t) or for not looking the way I think (or society thinks) it should.
I am done making choices because they are ‘good’ for me or because I am too fat or because exercising makes you lose weight, or not eating ‘x, y or z’ because it’s ‘bad’ for you. I’m done with that way of thinking. I want to take care of my body, love my body and be grateful for my body because I deserve it and because I LOVE MYSELF!
If you only love yourself or feel good about yourself when you look a certain way or weigh a certain amount, I have news for you: That is not loving yourself and it is not healthy! It is actually the exact opposite.
If you don’t learn to love your body, right now, exactly as it is, with the extra weight, flaws and all, you aren’t suddenly going to love your body when you lose the weight either. When we do this we put a condition on our self-love and it effects how we treat ourselves and our bodies. It effects every single thought we think and choice we make. Those healthy habits we are trying to adopt won’t stick either, unless the choices we make are coming from a place of LOVE and a desire to take care of yourself for the right reasons.
When we learn to love ourselves and take care of ourselves our bodies naturally start to figure themselves out. It’s okay to trust yourself and your body. It’s what we are designed to do.
Learning to love and accept my body how it is RIGHT NOW definitely hasn’t been easy, but it’s worth it. Over the last two years I’ve been doing the work. My thoughts and perspective are changing. For the first time ever I am feeling peace around these issues that I’ve struggled with for my entire life and I feel better in my mind and in my body than I ever have.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t have bad days or that I have this body image stuff all figured out, but I have come a long way and it’s something I’m working on every day. It does get easier though and eventually becomes your new normal.
I challenge you to think about how you talk to yourself, how you feel about yourself and what you believe to be true, especially in regards to your weight and body image.
You are perfect, just as you are. You deserve to love yourself, just as you are, right now.
You are not your weight.
Body Kindness by Rebecca Scritchfield
Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon