I call this the chicken egg problem of weight loss. What comes first, happiness or healthiness? That is the question.
Many people believe once they hit an ideal body weight, size or shape they will find happiness. I disagree. Using myself as an example (which I will do in all of my writings) I was unhappy for years with my body, my habits and myself. I thought that what I wanted, what I needed, to be happy was to be thin or at least thinner. You would think this would be motivation enough to reach weigh loss goals but what actually happens is the need to be thinner causes an unhealthy relationship with food or exercise and the decisions you start to make become about losing weight, not about making healthy choices and being the best person you can be.
You may think, “well, losing the weight is the point isn’t it?" Well, sort of. Losing weight is a by-product of being healthier. If you are making decisions purely based on the desire to be thin, you may be making unhealthy decisions like limiting certain healthy foods, starving yourself or even going down the route of purging. These things may make you thinner in the short term, but they aren’t healthy and in essence you are setting yourself up to fail.
How do I know? I went through that cycle for 15 years. Starting in my pre-teens, all I wanted to be was "skinny". That desire led me down dangerous paths of dieting that, in essence, made me fatter. The damage I did to my metabolism, body and mental state snowballed into gaining more and more weight after each weight loss attempt. I was in the classic yo-yo cycle of hell.
What broke me out of it? Well, as cheesy as it sounds, an 8lb 6oz little boy. After my son was born I was no longer obsessed with getting thinner. My focus shifted. I set my sights on getting healthier. I knew that I had to accept myself and move on from this ridiculous notion that I had to be thin to enjoy life, to be happy. If I didn’t I would start missing out on things with him and that was not acceptable. I also had the responsibility of teaching him how to live a healthy balanced life. How could I do that if I was doing unhealthy things just to reach some absurd “thin” body concept. Life was, is, happening no matter what my size and I had to, wanted to, live it!
So the first step on my path to a healthier me was self-acceptance.
I’m not kidding when I say, I literally looked in the mirror and said…
“Ok, Roni, that’s it. Look at you. This is YOU. And that’s OK. You are making changes to be a healthier, more active person. Your body will change in the process but you need to accept yourself now. It’s the only way.”
Having a good talk with myself was just the beginning, I also decided to start wearing things outside of my comfort zone. As uncomfortable as it was, I wore my maternity bathing suit on the beach with NO T-SHIRT. Instead of wearing clothes 3 sizes too big, I tried to wear the few items I had that would fit. I even wore a sleeveless shirt on a hike with my new baby boy. You’re thinking, "no big deal," right? Well, it was for this 29 year old who hid her arms, literally, for 15 years. I even feared being in a wedding as bridesmaid dresses always seem to be strapless. That one little action of wearing a tank top on a hot day was a simple way for me to practice self-acceptance.
That was over 3 years ago and it is still a daily battle to accept myself. Confidence can be learned but it must be practiced, especially by those of us that have body issues. I believe facing fears about my body was an important step towards self-acceptance and self-acceptance is an important step on your weight loss (healthy) journey. I spent too many years hiding my body in shame when I didn’t have anything to be shameful about. This body is mine, no one else’s, and I wanted, needed to start respecting it. So I did.