You see it everywhere, ‘loose 5kg in the first 2 weeks’, ‘shredding for summer’, ‘summer body ready’, our society is obsessed with the equation weight loss = goals. Not only that, but we are increasingly being bombarded with ‘clean eating’, ‘cut the carbs’, ‘go sugar free’ which I don’t disagree to having great health incentives but together these types of messages are making many people obsess over how they look and what they eat. Think you don’t fall into the category? I’ll bet many of you are guilty of saying things such as ‘diet starts Monday’, ‘I have eaten so bad today’ or have had a tiny fist pump moment if you’ve unexpectedly dropped some weight. While a lot of this may be tongue and cheek…the fact still remains, weight loss is something we tend to associate with good health. In some circumstances that is absolutely true, but what fails to get mentioned is that undereating can be equally as damaging as overeating and this focus on weight loss when planted into vulnerable minds can manifest into a lifetime of body hate and abuse.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people out there trying to break the cycle. Social media have a lot of influencers focusing on the strength of the human body rather than the shape, to eat foods that agree with you and encourage followers to embrace the ‘real you’ but even still, comments seem to slide in that make me cringe. Things such as ‘I can’t believe I just ate my second biscuit for the day’ (seriously?! I have just demolished a packet whilst writing this), ‘I feel so sick but I didn’t go for a walk yesterday so I have to do one today’ (when I’m feeling sick there ain’t no way you’re pulling me out from under the blanket on the lounge binge watching Friends), ‘these are so bad for you’ as they hold up a certain brand of sauce (mate, if I like it… I’m gonna eat it).
I get it, I really do, people will throw their hands up in the air in frustration and argue ‘everything you say these days is wrong to someone’, and that is true, but the point of this is not to tell you what you should and shouldn’t say but to share an insight that may make you think differently on this topic. I feel it’s time to fill you in on why I am confident that this sort of language does have an impact. Let me take you back to what it was for me which started the ball rolling.
I was fortunate enough to have a teenage life before social media really took over, so the only negative exposure I had was TV and good old-fashioned word of mouth. Going into the boarding house environment, I hadn’t once second guessed my weight. I was quite a fussy eater and had lived up until that point not having any thoughts about how “bad” some of the food I ate was or thought too hard about how my body looked.
When I went into the boarding house that all changed very quickly as something that was joked about quite commonly amongst the girls was that you put on weight as a boarder. Comments were made about how the food wasn’t like a homecooked meal and so, after meals the vending machine or the BP across the street would get hammered by girls needing more food to fill up on or to satisfy their cravings. It was all light-hearted humour and most of the girls embraced whatever little bit of weight they did put on putting it down to ‘being a boarder’, unfortunately however, it was this that first planted the seed in my head. If I stay here, I am going to put on weight, and although the girls around me weren’t fussed about it, the way it was joked about, being the perfectionist that I was, did not seem like a desirable outcome. With homesickness playing on my mind I subconsciously began to focus on controlling this so-called inevitable weight gain as a method of distraction.
The first exeat I went home and jumped on the scales, worried at how much weight I may have put on. This was something I then proceeded to do every time I went home, and each time I stepped on, the fear began to increase. By the school holidays I think I had put on a kilo or two, and became very upset. But what I failed to remember, is that I was a growing girl in year 10 who was getting taller by the day and developing in all areas. I created an unhealthy idea in my head that weight = fat when in fact during childhood, weight = growing. This implanted fear I had of putting on weight blocked any logic that I should have had about my growing body and I instead began to fight any changes my body tired to make. I looked at the other girls and never thought of them as having put on weight, I never saw them as anything short of gorgeous and yet every time I looked in a mirror, I became more and more anxious over my reflection.
Fast forward to when I realised the way I was treating myself was incredibly unhealthy in every aspect and the solution was to start putting on weight…let’s just say that scared the flip out of me! The whole reason I got into this mess to start with was because that was the fear, that was what I had been trying not to do. So, although I knew that recovery was where I needed to head, the thought of letting go of the destructive control I had created a huge amount of panic. I feared that the tiniest bit of weight gain would cause an escalation of weight gain and the weight gain would never stop. I thought a kilo made a noticeable difference on me, let alone 20kg!!! I knew I couldn’t stay the way I was but I couldn’t see how putting on weight was going to make me any better.
And do you know what, it wouldn’t, thinking about weight gain would not make me happier in that present moment, so I ultimately decided to not think about it. I put all my energy into the ‘top 7 strategies I used to overcome an eating disorder’ and I didn’t step foot on the scales for a VERY long time. What I discovered is that the overriding factor when it comes to health goals is self-acceptance and truly listening to your heart. We aren’t all cut out to enjoy the same diet or same exercise regime, just like we aren’t cut out to work in the same profession and that is the way the world is. You need to find what works for you.
I began eating foods that I enjoyed, some of it healthy some of it not. I began doing the physical activities I was choosing to do for the happiness I felt rather than the calories it would burn or the routine it was forcing me to stick to, I began to feel more energy, I began to genuinely smile again, the daily anxiety became less and less, the endorphins began to take over, I began to feel strong, I began to be able to hold a proper conversation with someone, I began to get a life back. It definitely didn’t happen over night, but baby steps kept pushing me forward allowing for my body to restore itself to its natural state and the fear I placed on weight subside to a distant memory. Although initially I thought the loss of control would be devastating, I found that what I gained outweighed it ten times over. We do need to take care of our health with regular exercise and healthy food but above all else you need to genuinely enjoy your lifestyle.
Letting go of the reins is hard but trust that it is necessary. Disregard what society suggests about weight gain and know that weight is not always unhealthy, it is not a crime, it will not consume you and it does not define you. Do what you enjoy and eat to satisfy your taste buds as equally as your nutritional requirements. Allow your body to find its healthy natural state (and it will!!!) so that you can live a life nothing short of balanced bliss.
Have a lovely day x