Body image issues. Let’s dig deeper into why weight is such a prevalent thought among women and what we can do to change that. There’s the obvious reason as to why weight, how we feel in clothes and nitpicking our entire body is something that is constantly on our minds; media. This topic has been talked to death and we all understand it. We all get WHY seeing skinny women in ads everywhere can make us feel bad about our own physique. But what else makes us feel this way? It goes deeper than that. Media has a great impact, sure, but it’s still on a superficial level. It doesn’t make us feel gross in our own skin even if we’ve remained the same weight. It doesn’t make us immediately hate ourselves because we’ve gained two pounds and for some reason now equate ourselves to a cow. It doesn’t drive us to step on the scale every day and assign that number to self-worth. As someone who struggled with body dysmorphia for 10 years of my young adult life and now sees herself in a much healthier light, I know there are many more factors than what we usually talk about.
A lot of us have an obsessive narrative need for perfection. How we define that perfection differs throughout each person, but it’s there. We know it’s impossible to attain actual perfection yet we still strive for it.
As a kid growing up, I would say my family was obsessed with diets; the newest fad diet. We were vegetarian, we were Atkins, we were pescatarian; you name it, our family tried it. My parents weren’t trying to get us to lose weight but they wanted to and we all got to come along for the ride (as it makes no monetary or logical sense to make different meals for 5 children). I can’t remember a time that my parents weren’t talking about losing weight. It was a daily conversation. I’m not in any way blaming them for what led to my unhealthy body image, but rather using them as an example of how the whole world behaves. We are always talking about weight. I rarely hear people talk about getting healthy or creating sustainable goals for themselves. It’s almost always about how to lose weight and how to lose it fast; instant gratification. We all want to look good, but we don’t want to feel like we will have to spend our lives thinking about it. But that’s exactly what we end up doing. Moving from diet to diet, our bodies never know how to just stabilize into a healthy metabolism and we end up in this never ending cycle of constantly watching or not watching what we eat, forever perpetuating the problem. We become obsessed and when we are obsessed with something, that’s what we talk about. Everyone else around us either listens and gets obsessed as well or moves on and learns to stop caring about every calorie that they eat. The latter is something that doesn’t happen soon enough or ever at all for some of us.
This does directly link to media and how women are portrayed as sexy to us but there’s also a deeper feeling inside ourselves. We’ve attributed skinny/thin/fit as being the only body type that we can feel comfortable as because it’s been ingrained in us that its the only thing that’s attractive. It’s biologically not true but most of us feel sexier when we are thinner because it makes us feel more confident in ourselves. Regardless of whether or not a heavier version of ourselves would still be attractive to our partner. I haven’t quite unpacked this and how we can actually change our way of thinking to acceptance and confidence in the many forms that our body takes over the years. However it is something I’ve personally gotten better at over time just by redirecting it as soon as it enters my brain and recognizing the thought for how silly and pointless it is. I don’t know about you, but weighing more has never taken away my sex drive and it’s never seemed to matter to my partner at the time either. Confidence is a state of mind and sexual attraction is chemistry; none of those involve a number on a scale.
Backwards Seeking Goals
This is a big one. “Remember when I was in high school and I was this size? Well I want to be that size again. I know I can, because I used to be!” Ok….let’s unravel that super unhealthy, and I’ll be honest, unattainable approach to weight. High school? You realize that in high school your body make up was completely different right? You were a growing person that was constantly moving their body in some way throughout the day and just naturally had a budding appetite and metabolism. And that’s just if you were a healthy teenager, which let’s face it, most of us were not. I know I wasn’t. I was definitely not eating enough and purposefully so. The weight we are as teenagers is not the weight we are meant to be as adults. We would constantly be starving if we tried to get to and maintain that weight.
Ok but what about, “I was this weight only a few months ago and I felt so good, why can’t I be there again?” This one is harder because yes, a few months ago is not that long ago and rightfully we should think our bodies can get to that place again. The dangerous thinking in this scenario is the EXPECTATION. The expectation that you need to be back in that place and you won’t be happy until you are. It makes it a compounding thought in your mind and creates a subconscious pressure on yourself which can then lead to stress. Stress is the last thing you want to be dealing with if you want to lose weight. Maybe for some people, it helps them drop a few pounds but that’s because they are likely eating less, not because stress is in any way conducive to it. The most important thing we can do for ourselves in this mindset is to relax. You don’t have the control over what your body is going to do, you only have control over how you treat it. Relax, eat 80% healthy and allow yourself the 20% for cravings (restriction is not the answer), drink water, relax again and let your body be what it needs to be in this moment. I know, it’s not easy but neither is being so down on yourself all the time that you are crying in the shower because your pants don’t fit in the way you want them to. Be good to yourself.
While we are on the topic of pants, if you don’t fit them anymore, buy some new ones. It will not make you feel any better to squeeze into uncomfortable, size to small pants just because you don’t want to “accept” new weight gain. It’s not acceptance, it’s literally just allowing yourself to be comfortable in the items you have to wear on an everyday basis until your circumstances change again. Please, just allow yourself to be comfortable.
I cannot reiterate enough to anyone about how pointless and dangerous a scale is. That number literally means nothing for your health. We’ve all got this number in our heads that we want to be, but where does that come from? Knowing that’s the number we were when we were happy? Because we looked at a very simplistic chart of what we should be for our height and weight? Because the number just sounds small enough that it makes you feel good inside? Whatever the reason is for your number, it’s wrong. Throw your scale out and never look back. If you are putting the time into taking care of yourself with healthy food and activity, there is nothing that scale can give to you that you need. Stop trying to convince yourself otherwise. Nope. I hear you trying to justify it. You’re wrong and you need someone to call you out on it.
The point of wanting to write this is because it’s something I have been witnessing a lot among my friends, family and myself, and it makes me really sad. I hate seeing people rip themselves apart on the inside due to outdated societal standards and targeted marketing to our insecurities. It’s been around for way to long and I want to see it go away. I want us to take charge of our line of thought and redirect it to a more positive direction. I don’t want to see young kids counting calories and passing out from starvation. I don’t want to see my friends crying because they feel bad about the way they look. I want everyone to be able to enjoy themselves swimming and not worry about looking “fat” in a bathing suit. I want us to recognize our bodies for the strong and amazing things they do rather than how they look naked. I want this to not be something that we think about on a daily basis because I know in my heart that’s not what leads to happiness and it’s not what our minds were made to be doing.