I remember back to a night in first year when it was my best friend’s birthday. Unfortunately, what I remember most from that night wasn’t how amazing my best friend looked or what a great time we all had. I remember the anxiety, the stress, the worry over my weight and how I looked, and I probably spent more time in the bathroom stressing about my figure than actually spending quality time with my friends.
My first year of university was made up of many nights like this one, and I feel robbed of all the amazing memories I should have been making, instead of constantly beating myself up for my size and shape. Safe to say, I was miserable.
However, I’ve since realised that weight and thinness aren’t the key to happiness, or health for that matter. You can take care of your health in so many better ways than just dieting or trying to lose weight, and a number on a scale doesn’t indicate how healthy you are. I also realised that your physical health isn’t a measure of how much self-respect you deserve, and our value as people isn’t dependent on us fitting into some arbitrary definition of wellbeing.
Little by little, I worked on accepting my body just the way it was and I tried to embrace my set point weight – this is the weight which your body naturally returns to when you are eating a balanced diet and living an active lifestyle. In other words, it’s the weight that your body is designed to have when you’re not restricting yourself or overindulging. And for a long time I hated my set point weight, because I didn’t want to accept that my body was naturally bigger than other girls my age, who all seemed so much slimmer and more beautiful than I. But after putting myself through hell with over-exercise, dieting, restriction and eventually disordered eating, I decided to try and love myself and my body instead. I practised intuitive eating (I’ll hopefully dedicate an entire article to this concept as it is a wonderful piece of advice for those struggling with their eating), and I repeatedly told myself that we as humans have so much more to offer the world than how many pounds we can lose and how many calories we burned that day. Because our weight isn’t, and will never be, the extent of our identity and greatness.
Physical health has always been important to me, but now I realise that I had been placing my distorted view of physical health (aka, desperately trying to lose weight) before my mental health. I also now see that society, Instagram trolls and hecklers on the street have an annoying habit of equating looks to health, and in reality, having a slim or fat body isn’t representative of how healthy you are. And even if it did, it shouldn’t matter. The size and shape of your body should never hold you back from having fun, living your life and doing the things you want to do (within reason!). You are still loved and appreciated by those around you no matter what you look like, and living in a vicious diet cycle of trying to achieve a ‘good’ body isn’t helping anyone, much less yourself.
There is unbelievable power in being able to see your body for what it is naturally and learn to accept it, love it and celebrate it. And the real glow up is when you stop waiting to turn into some perfect hypothetical version of yourself and consciously enjoy being who you are in the present moment.
And besides, how many businesses would go bust if we all loved ourselves? How many lives would be changed for the better if we were taught that we are worthy of self-love? Probably a lot, since our diet-culture-fuelled society profits off our feelings of inadequacy – they tell us we are broken and then sell us bogus solutions so that we can ‘fix’ ourselves. I say f*** that, because despite what they say, weight isn’t an indicator of your worth, your body isn’t meant to look perfect and posed 24/7, thinness isn’t an indicator of health, and cellulite isn’t going to kill you or make you hideously un-loveable.
I think this quote by Virgie Tovar sums up my point quite well- “When people say they want to lose weight they often mean ‘I want to be respected. I want to be loved. I want to be seen. I want liberation from fear and self-loathing”. In reality, however, the things we believe will come with weight loss are often empty promises, because if we cannot learn to love ourselves as we are, we will forever be chasing fruitless fantasies.