Weight is such a sensitive topic for so many people. There has become, especially on social media, a pressure to express and feel love for ones body at every stage. While that is something to strive for, sometimes this pressure makes it difficult to share the moments when you might not be feeling comfortable in your skin. It makes it even harder to share that you want to get healthier. This is especially true when becoming healthier, for you, is connected to weight loss.
Weight wasn’t always a loaded topic for me. I don’t remember thinking much about my weight as a child. I was on the skinny side of average during my childhood and early-adolescence. It was not until my body began to develop that I remember having that first nagging realization that my body was “bigger”. I was developing faster than the majority of my peers and, at 5’10”, was also taller than the majority of them. This did not yet translate to me feeling that I was overweight, but I do feel that this was the beginning of worrying about the amount of space my body occupied in the world.
Weight became more of a concern when I was a sophomore in high school. My best friend and I were the same height and while I was still at a healthy weight she was absolutely tiny. I would often stay at her house and borrow her clothes and I began to notice that her things didn’t fit me well or were not as flattering on my figure as they were on hers. Around this time I also became more aware and more interested in the world of modeling. Keep in mind that we are talking about modeling as it was in 2012. I also had a fascination with the Victoria’s Secret Angels. They became the ideal of beauty for me and something to strive for.
College was when my relationship with my body reached its lowest point. Gaining weight during college is absolutely normal and it is not uncommon to be warned against the “freshman 15” from well-meaning, but let’s be honest, unhelpful relatives and friends. I was no exception to this trend and a year after starting college I had gained around 15 pounds. The sedentary lifestyle, binge drinking, and unhealthy eating habits that are common from many college students were taking their toll. Additionally, I had a fairly acute case of depression and anxiety at the time. After a hard breakup, I completely lost my will to do anything other than party, watch Netflix in bed, and eat as much food as possible to fill the void in my life.
Over the course of my college career, I made many unhealthy choices and did not take care of myself at all. I gained around 50 pounds total in those 4 years. I share these numbers to give you a reference point of where things stood physically. This does not, however, give you the full picture. It is one thing to carry around 20 extra pounds and live a healthy lifestyle. That is my current reality and I no longer have the self-hatred toward my body and myself that I did at that time. The main issue for me was not the weight. The weight was simply the physical manifestation of the mental and emotional place in which I was existing. I was treating myself like an afterthought because at the time I did not care about myself. I was not a priority.
I did not feel good. I was tired often, got out of breath easily, and felt uncoordinated and unmotivated. I tried on several occasions to lose weight as a result of self-loathing . I hoped that if I looked closer to a beauty ideal and became more accepted by society, that I might finally be able to accept and love myself. I was deeply insecure. I am here to tell you that the worst possible motivation you can have when it comes to altering your body, in any way, is hatred. When the number on the scale and/or a certain aesthetic is the goal, it is easy to lose sight of yourself along the way. It is the perfect way to increase self-hatred and even to increase the potential to harm your body.
The shifting factor for me, from hatred to love and care, was an injury. I was drinking and stepped off a curb and tore ligaments in my ankle. In all likelihood, I had injured myself so severely in the first place, because I was sedentary and the muscles around my ankles weren’t strong enough to protect and stabilize me. I realized that my choices were actively hurting me. I knew I wanted to love myself, and often rationalized the lifestyle I was living as “self-care”. My injury made me question: how could choices that ultimately hurt me be self care? This prompted the desire to make a change. As I began to heal, I began to focus on more active movement. I also discovered a love for spin classes and hiking. As I found joy in movement and my growing strength and coordination, I also found a love and gratitude for my body and all that it was capable of. The thing is, it had been capable of this all along. I had simply not given it a chance to thrive up until then. I had not loved myself or my body enough to care for it.
Yes, I lost weight and I am still losing weight. This time however, my motivations were different. My actions have been very different too. I am showering my body with love. I move my body daily, in ways I enjoy and that are good for me. This includes weight training for my muscles, spin class, dancing, and hiking for my cardiovascular health, and yoga and stretching for my flexibility and injury prevention. I eat a healthy balanced diet. I track my calories and am maintaining a small calorie deficit. Some days, my body tells me I need more food, I listen to that. I try to approach my relationship with my body from a place of gratitude and care. I want to do kind things for my body. Things that makes it healthier and, in return, my body cares for me better too. My anxiety and depression are much better and I feel healthier and happier and so much more confident.
Anyone who has lost weight and shared this change with others, can probably tell you that many people have a hard time understanding how weight loss can come from a place of self love. If you truly love something why would you change it? My answer is this, if you truly love something, you care for it. You do things that benefit it. This goes both ways. There are plenty of times gaining weight is an act of self-love and losing weight is an act of self-hatred. It is good and possible to love your body when you are overweight. It is also good and possible to love your body when you are losing weight. Losing weight is not inherently self-hated, nor is gaining weight inherently self-love. It is all about attitude, the reasons behind the way you live your life, and the way in which changes are made.