The desire to lose weight is deeply personal.
There are systemic issues with diet culture and the weight loss industry, yes, but we should never shame the individual for wanting to lose weight—just as we should never shame someone for gaining it either.
Like many, I gained the “COVID-19,” which I hate to even say because there’s so much that lies beneath that statement. We were (are) in a global pandemic—our bodies did what they had to in order to survive.
But, for me, it was a little more than that. I was drinking more than usual, I wasn’t moving my body, and then I went through a sudden breakup; I had gained nearly 17 pounds, and I felt like I’d lost myself a little. Deciding to lose weight wasn’t so much about losing weight as it was getting back to feeling like the person I was pre-pandemic, pre-relationship, and about getting back to healthy habits that enabled me to do the other things I wanted to in life.
To say that it wasn’t a little bit about weight loss, though, would be a lie. I had an arbitrary number in my head that I believed I had to get back to in order to “get back to” this version of myself. If I just reached X weight, I would be happy again, confident, attractive, loved.
And I did it.
I hit that arbitrary number. I told friends it felt like a montage scene: I got into running and did Peloton strength workouts, and the first few times were brutal—I felt like I’d lost this level of fitness I used to be at and didn’t know if I’d get there again. But then, slowly, I got faster. I was sprinting through the park. I started lifting heavier. I looked forward to my workouts, and I had more energy in the day. It felt good to focus on something during this second phase of lockdown, too. Something that made me feel good in my body and that I was doing just for myself.
For a little while, those things I thought I’d get did happen. I felt more confident. I was a little bit happier. It was good to feel like I’d accomplished something.
But then, something else happened.
The weather got warm, and I wore shorts for the first time, and the first thing I did was scrutinize the way my legs looked because I thought at this weight, they were supposed to look smaller.
I still compared.
I wondered why she could look like that, and even though I worked out five to six times a week, ate mostly plant-based, and knew I was strong, I still looked like this.
No matter how many men (or friends and family) told me they thought I was beautiful, I still didn’t believe it.
And I was still plagued with thoughts of, you will never be good enough.
I gained a lot of things when I lost the weight, but none of them had to do with how I felt internally about myself.
I gained energy, more mindful eating habits, awareness of my alcohol intake, and a healthier way to release pent-up emotion. I got stronger and began wanting to do more outdoorsy things, but those are all things you can achieve without focusing on weight loss specifically.
What I didn’t gain was self-esteem. I didn’t undo years of distorted thinking that told me the way I look is the most important thing about me.
As I sit here, now, realizing that if I just lose the weight is bullsh*t, I am able to peel back what’s really going on underneath and work to heal that.
I realized that this pursuit is never-ending. There would always be more weight to lose. There would always be another beauty hack. And when none of those things “worked”—what then?
I do not have a solution because I am not there yet. But I am slowly learning to interrupt the negative self-talk by asking myself, “why” each time. Why do I feel this way? Where is this thought coming from?
Doing things like writing, connecting with people I care about, getting outside, enjoying life now that things are beginning to open again—these are what take my focus off of the body and onto the things that truly make life worth living.
Here is a great post I recommend reading:
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