To lose or not to lose; Managing weight without self-hate.
Let’s be real about this; when it comes to our views on weight, a lot of us are hypocrites.
It’s not on purpose, and it’s not out of malice, but we are. We simultaneously praise body-positive campaigns whilst panicking every time we step on the scale and see it’s bumped up a notch. We say it’s superficial to judge someone on their body type whilst knocking ourselves down every time we feel a little bloated. It’s a sense of cognitive dissonance – we know that we should all love ourselves and be happy for the healthy, beautiful bodies that we have, but in reality, it’s hard not to be your own harshest critic.
A lot of this comes from internalising every beauty standard battered into us from an early age, some of it comes from comparing ourselves to others (or even ourselves in our ‘prime’), and a little, I’m sure, is just a basic human instinct to criticise ourselves. But where does this leave us when we decide to ‘get into shape’?
I can’t deny that my reasoning behind going to the gym more (by more, I mean at all) is not ENTIRELY based on being ‘heart healthy’. I’d like to feel great in a crop top, I’d like to look strong. I KNOW there are so many benefits to exercise – it improves my mood, it helps me sleep better, I feel better overall – but would I still do it if it was guaranteed to not change my weight?
This is where I start to worry, and feel a bit hypocritical. I’m out here telling everyone they don’t need to change a thing and to love themselves whilst checking myself out in the mirror every day and getting genuinely sad when I don’t feel quite ‘right’.
There’s a chicken and egg situation on the go – attempting to manage your weight as a ‘punishment’ or because you are not happy with the body you have tends to be far less successful than losing weight ‘mindfully’. At the same time, learning to love your body and be happy in yourself should surely mean you are happy exactly the way you are, so the weight loss shouldn’t matter, right? Is it not contradictory to marry the two?
Ultimately there is no full answer – in the same sense it’s hard to have ‘patriotism’ without the underlying assumption that other nations are not as good, striving to ‘better’ your body type or size implies that the body you have is not quite right. However, there are a few things I’ve been trying – and it does take conscious trying – to implement, to ensure I go about any kind of diet/exercise regime in a self-loving way:
Focus on how you feel, not how you look.
This takes practise. Ultimately, you are not going to suddenly look ripped after a workout – however, you are going to have a rush of endorphins, and you’ll feel happier for it. Prioritise this consciously, try and set your mind to the understanding that this is the key benefit.
Set goals based on actions, not scales. Just, bloody, don’t worry about the scales right now, ok.
I don’t think mine even actually work, they change depending where I put them in the bathroom. And muscle weighs more than fat either way!
Whether it’s the gym, or food, set your goals based on your actions – lifting an extra 10kg, cycling for another 20 minutes, having a home-made meal every night. You’re getting into healthy habits, they’ll stick around a lot longer than a fluctuating weight.
Try to understand your ‘natural’ body, and love it.
I’m never going to be super lean with a six pack. I’m just not, without going to massive extremes in my diet and exercise that are essentially unsustainable. If I think back to my ‘healthiest’ times, I think I can get a bit of an arm muscle, and that slight line that happens on the outside of your abs. If I lost 10lbs, the only change would be that my butt disappears. Sure, I could go mega on the diet and possibly get to that body type, but would it be healthy? Would it make me happy? More importantly, would I be able to sustain it?
Chances are, no. Find a way to fully love exactly what you have when you FEEL at your best, and focus on putting in the time that helps you maintain what you already love.
Keep on top of your motivations – Instagram needs to kind of shut up.
We all feel pretty shit when we see those workout models on the ‘explore’ part of Instagram. Social media, advertising, it all hits us every day. It’s hard not to have that pang of ‘ugh god I’m so soft’, or to get a little bitter at the Insta-influencers, but it’s important to address these feelings, and not get consumed. Essentially, there’s a difference between positive motivation for a healthy mind, where the body reflects this, and a negative motivation of ‘I look shit compared to them’. Revenge can be a powerful tool, but good god don’t use it on your own body.
Remember that it’s OK to not be able to always practise this.
Ultimately, these things take a lot of practise, and it’s OK to take a while to adapt. I still find myself leaning around in the mirror to try and find a saucy angle where I can find that little ab line, I still get a bit excited when I feel like a skinny legend, it’s natural. Moreover, it’s almost impossible to have reached adulthood without a hell of a lot of beauty and body standards being thrown your way, so give yourself a break.
My favourite summary of this came from the This Body is Not an Apology blog, so I’m going to leave it with that.
Losing weight should never be my focus or obsession and, at most, it should be a passive by-product of other choices I make in my life; and if I decide to not lose weight, actively or passively, it is possible for me to still love my body now and in the future, and I can find peace with my body if I focus more on what it wants rather than what I want from it.
Find what your body wants,
Lots of love,