I will organise drinks with so and so once I lose 14 pounds. I need to lose a dress size before the birthday/wedding/christening otherwise I won’t enjoy it. I have to lose weight for my wedding or I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. My life will start and I will be happy once I’m smaller.
These are thoughts that have plagued me since I was around 14. Since I started to become an adult and my body made natural changes. Since I discovered booze and takeaways. Since I went to uni and put on the freshman 15. Since I met my partner and learned to enjoy food again. Since I grew my career and stress levels. Since I booked the honeymoon of a lifetime.
I have spent the majority of my life telling myself I need to change my body to be happy. I have avoided mirrors. I have cut out the size tags in clothes. I have cried in front of my wardrobe filled with clothes saying I have nothing to wear. I’ve made excuses to not see people.
In my quest to be happier and have my life start I have been on every diet you could think of; Slimming World, Atkins, Duken, Paleo, 5:2, Slimfast, sugar-free, Whole 30, juice fasting, grapefruit diet, egg diet, calorie counting, lemonade master cleanse, intermittent fasting, water fasting and the list goes on. I have also punished my body with exercise that I didn’t enjoy. I worked out to make myself smaller. My whole blog and social media accounts were initially created to document my journey to get smaller, and although I have met the most amazing people and found my passion it now seems bizarre that I would test out diets and review them for others.
Now I’m not alone in my thoughts regarding my body. I think 90% of the women I know believe they need to be smaller. That they can begin living life properly when the scale says a different number. Diet culture (a society that focuses on and values weight, shape, and size over health and well-being) is so engrained into everything its damn near impossible to not believe your life will be better when your body looks a different way.
And yet, could you imagine a world where we didn’t invest our time, money and efforts into trying to make ourselves smaller. How much more productive we could be. How much more money we’d have. How much happier we could be.
I’m not sure if it’s part of becoming thirty, but I’ve been reflecting a lot over the past few months on why I need to change my body. What would I actually achieve? I have a husband who adores me. I have friends and family who love me and think I’m amazing. I have a job that I love. I run because I genuinely enjoy it. Being smaller is not going to change any of that.
I am more than my body.
My husband knows that.
My friends know that.
My family know that.
My career knows that.
My passions know that.
I just need to know that.
The amount of time and energy I spend worrying about my body. Hating my body. It’s exhausting. And it’s not getting me anywhere. It has a more negative affect on my mental and physical health than if I took my mind off it.
I’ve been reading up a lot on intuitive eating and a lot of the books read as though I could have written them. Alot of it is about how diets don’t work 99.5% of the time. The cycle of restriction leads to binging which leads to beating yourself up, which leads back to restricting and it goes on.
“The exhaustive review of every published long-term dieting study—by one of the leading universities in the country—found that diets are ineffective for weight loss.” How to have your cake and skinny jeans too
“Once you start eating according to arbitrary rules, you can only ever be in one of two possible states at any given time: on your diet, or breaking your diet.” How to have your cake and skinny jeans too
Yet the world we live in tells us we need to be on a diet. I’ve been dieting for 16 years of my life and look where it’s got me – to a place where I hate my body.
So as I’m personally taking steps to retrain my brain away from diet culture (it’s going to take a while to retrain 16 years of thinking) to a place where I can truly enjoy my life now, not when I’m x pounds lighter – I’m so glad to see this year Mental Health Awareness week is concentrating on body image. Because if these are thoughts that plague my mind 90% of the time, I’d hate to be a child growing up in today’s diet culture with the added pressure of social media and blurred lines between what’s real and what isn’t.
I’m more than my body. I’m trying to learn that. I hope that others realise that too and don’t spend half their life hating the body they live in.