Health Doesn’t Come in One Size!
As a society, we are obsessed with our bodies. We are obsessed with slimming down, dropping dress sizes, getting leaner and achieving the ‘perfect body’. In order to measure up to societal standards of beauty, we push ourselves past our physical limits and go hungry. If we gain a few extra pounds we label ourselves as failures, burdens and a disgrace. In a survey of 5,000 women by REAL magazine, 91% reported being unhappy with their bodies (Crabble 2017). We are told that our value lies in our appearance and have been brainwashed by the media, fashion gurus and society as a whole, to believe that our ultimate goal in life is to be disciplined and mould ourselves to fit the ever-changing beauty standards. The extent of this is highlighted in a survey by Esquire magazine which reported that 54% of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat (Crabble 2017). And for what? From a girl who spent 5 years of her life actively trying to be smaller and leaner, trust me that it is true when I say that thinness and happiness have no correlation. Being thin might bring you some initial confidence and external validation, but in time when the weight stops falling off and the compliments stop flowing, you will be left feeling unhappy and lonely. Because weight loss can never address the real reasons of your inner. When I achieved my ‘perfect body’, I was the most miserable I had ever been because it cost me my life to get there. I thought about food and my body nearly 95% of the day, would feel guilty every time I ate ‘bad’ foods and would avoid any social occasions that involved food, so that I didn’t have to go over my calories for the day.
Weight and Health
Part of the reason that many of us start dieting in the first place is because we believe that being skinny means being healthy. Well, the great news is that you cannot tell how healthy a person is by looking at them. There are people who are fat and healthy and there are people who are thin and unhealthy (Tribole 2012). I know it’s hard to get your head round this, but there are fat marathon runners and ‘overweight’ elite athletes. Reasons why no one takes pictures of them, reports on their results or interviews them is because of our distorted image of what ‘being healthy’ looks like. In our brains, ‘being healthy’ is immediately associated with ‘being thin’. A smiling, lean, person with gleaming white teeth starring back at us! Not, a fat athlete with sweat running down their face and an exposed wobbly tummy! I wouldn’t want to estimate how many of the people who are portrayed in these so-called ‘healthy images’ are in fact very unhealthy (mentally or physically).
When I was at my leanest and had visible abs, people used to tell me how well I looked and how disciplined I was almost every day. What they didn’t know was that I didn’t have a menstrual period, I felt cold all the time, didn’t socialise, suffered with anxiety and my mind was consumed by the way I looked. Although I still have a long way to go, gaining weight has meant gaining my life back. Now that I am no longer obsessed with making myself thinner, I have the mental capacity to be more present with people, live freely and build a life that allows me to thrive! So, next time you think about going on a diet to improve your health, take the focus away from weight loss and think about what healthy behaviours you could introduce that will make you FEEL GOOD. Remember, your mental health is just as important as your physical health and a person that is in ‘love with life’ is 100% more attractive than someone who is denying themselves every single pleasure.
In today’s society, there is an overwhelming belief that exercise is all about torture, pain and punishment. Instead of using exercise as a tool for self-care, Fitspo has made it all about burning calories and getting washboard abs. When we buy into this rhetoric, we start believing that exercise is a form of punishment that we need to use to fix our ‘flaws’. This leads to the belief that ‘if working out doesn’t hurt then we’re not doing it right’ and puts people off exercising altogether! I have been guilty of making exercise all about aesthetics and burning food, and let me tell you that it is a bloody miserable place to be! No matter what you do or what you look like, you will always find faults in your body and wish for something better.
It’s time to forget militant exercise and just get moving! Shift your focus to how you feel from working out, rather than the calorie-burning effect of exercise. Research shows that physical activity is the key to physical health no matter what size you are (Crabble 2017). When you view exercise as a positive thing rather than for punishment, it can be meditating, freeing, empowering and so much fun! In saying that, it’s very important to find a form of exercise that you enjoy (no form of exercise is good or bad). Several studies (such as Sex Roles 2006) have shown that people who exercise to lose weight are significantly less active than people whose motivation has nothing to do with their body shape. I now exercise with love, respect and admiration for my body and it is truly liberating! Your body is your home and the only one you will ever have, so exercise to look after it rather than punish it. You don’t know what life is going to through at you, so make yourself as strong and resilient as possible!
Life is Too Short to Spend Every Day Hating Your Body
How many years have you spent hating yourself and trying to make yourself smaller? Well, it’s time to make peace with your body and realise that you are more than just a number on a scale! I know that diet culture wants you to believe that your weight is the most important thing about you, but it’s time to realise that you were not put on this earth to mould yourself to fit society’s beauty ideals.
Over the past year, I have started to accept who I am and what my body looks like naturally. I now see my body as a vessel to carry me through life rather than an ornament for other people to judge or admire. I am learning that my weight says absolutely nothing about my worth as a person and there is so much more to life than obsessing about what I look like. I know it’s scary to reject diet culture and give up the exhausting obsession with being as small/lean as possible, but trust me when I say it’s worth it. When you spend so much time focusing on losing weight, you shrink your ability to live. It is impossible to be spontaneous and seize every opportunity life presents you when your whole day resolves around food.
In order to make peace with your body, you have to allow yourself to be who you are. Your weight doesn’t matter. The circumference of your waist doesn’t matter. The size of your jeans doesn’t matter. The amount of cellulite on your thighs doesn’t matter. We hide ourselves from the world because we’re so ashamed of our bodies, but just take a second to think about how amazing they are! You have grown from a single cell into who you are. No matter how much you try, your body will change, age and take on a different shape throughout your lifetime. We cannot halt or alter natural processes and neither should we try. Accepting who we are and living a life that is full of excitement, health and optimism is what we should be aiming for. Not a life that is framed by denial, self-sacrifice and obsession. So next time you reduce your worth to a number on a scale, stop and remember that you are unique and health does not have a size!