Weight loss plans, if you ask me, are a lot like bad relationships.
You’re giving more than you’re receiving, making impossible compromises, and seeing little ROI (hey, you can take the girl out of the bank, but…). Whether it’s via a strict mono food diet — cabbage soup, anyone? — or a non-diet diet promising a dazzling array of nutrient-dense foods, weight loss goals are built on the same foundation as shitty partnerships: I’ll restrict x and y so I can have z, even though z is never going to give me what I actually need.
Only love leads to love, friends. Weight loss goals present transformation by occupying the space self-love should fill.
I have a boatload of compassion and empathy for anyone who’s going through this very scenario, because it’s not your fault. We’re sold a ton of myths about weight and health, like…being thin is the most important thing to be. That being “overweight”, whatever the heck that means, means we’re unhealthy, impossible to love, and will inevitably die alone. Like we’re not allowed to love ourselves if we have fat on our bodies. So how can we possibly reconcile these learnings with a #riotsoverdiets approach?
I’ve got to tell you, I’m not keen on the fantasy living January inspires. We start the year off determined this will be the year we rock those six pack abs, eat super clean, and finally lose the weight. I’ll wear that body con dress when I lose ten pounds. I’ll drop the final fifteen so I can really rock that bikini on our trip. Being uncomfortable in our own skin is often used as a reason to live in tomorrowland in hopes of sunnier weather. Not only are your “perfect weight” and happiness mutually exclusive, but goals like these function more like crutches — preventing you from working through bigger issues — than game-changers.
Today I’m taking you through a tour of the 7 ways weight loss is motivated by nasty internal thoughts rather than life-affirming reasons.
7 Ways Weight Loss is Motivated by Nasty Internal Thoughts
While I’m not saying there aren’t good reasons for weight loss — ie. your knees ache from the extra weight — motive and intent must always be considered. So often I think we mistake symptoms of physical discomfort, physiological differences, social pressure, or waking up feeling gross as a “need” to lose weight. Let’s begin by unpacking some of these thoughts.
You feel bloated. Picture this: you wake up one morning feeling bloated and nothing feels comfortable. Immediately, you tell yourself you 1) need to start working out or working out more and/or 2) you need to hop on a diet, eat fewer carbs, or quit eating dinners out. I get it. Nobody likes being bloated. It’s uncomfortable and makes us feel super unsexy. But instead of hating on your hot self, coach yourself out of this mindset by using some of the following facts:
Bloating happens for a ton of different reasons and it’s totally normal.
I can help myself by drinking herbal tea, water, and nourishing my body with easy-to-digest foods.
I can wear something looser and leave my more tailored or form-fitting clothes for tomorrow.
2. Comparisonitis. Who hasn’t engaged in the body check game at some point? When was the last time you entered a room and resisted comparing the size of someone’s thighs to yours? This mind game rarely makes us feel good about ourselves. Is some of this kind of inevitable? Sure.
But there’s a world of difference between acknowledging it and sending it off to die a slow and painful death, and thinking you need to change yourself simply because your body is different. Try flipping these mental conversations on their heads by taking an inclusive approach. I try to acknowledge everyone’s unique attributes and how those features make them beautiful. It also helps to pay attention to behaviour as opposed to appearance. When someone’s happy, excited, and smiling boldly, it’s impossible not to get swept up in that amazing energy, too. Remove the focus from your appearance and channel the energy into helping those around you feel good about themselves (it will help you to feel good about yourself, too.)
3. Feeling inferior. Growing up, I was always placed in slow learner-type groups. I carried these insecurities for years (to be honest, I still carry them.) I learned to write in French first and had a terrible time learning to write in English. I succeeded only because my mother worked with me after school and would take me to the public library to read.
But these feelings ultimately lead me to collect several pieces of paper to “prove” I wasn’t dumb and to pick at other parts of my identity — like my weight. The reality? Each of us has different skills and talents based on our genetics and experiences. When you begin to feel a little more on the inferior side, try to pinpoint where these feelings are coming from and explore how you might explore and dismantle them one by one. Chances are, they’re rooted more in fear and frustration than reality.
4. Mediawashing and Health Washing. Overexposure to unrealistic expectations via magazine covers, newspaper articles, Instagram feeds, Facebook images, gym ads, Transformation Stories, and the general expectation that women should not only be thin, but rock six-pack abs, a sky-high booty, and toned arms — but you know, not too muscular — can make us feel like weight loss is the only appropriate response to the pressure. I mean, all around us we’re reminded thin is the only acceptable way to exist in the world. If we’re not also hard-bodied, we’re 1) not doing it right 2) not trying hard enough 3) lazy. But whether you're healthy, loved, accepted, successful, and treasured doesn’t hinge on you checking any of these boxes. Trust me.
5. Negative Self-Talk. Often weight loss motivation stems from our own negative self-talk. There’s only so much internal nastiness you can handle before it begins to erode your self-confidence. On January 1st, I pledged not to speak a single negative thing about my appearance — and I’ve kept it up so far. But I’ve also done my best not to think a single negative thing. If you don’t feel quite ready to do this yet, I encourage you to be conscious of when you’re doing it. When the only words you can say yourself are kind ones, it’s basically life-changing.
6. Holiday indulgences. Because we’re exposed to a variety of delicious food over the holidays and may not eat the way we normally do, it’s pretty common to feel anxious about our post-holiday bodies (hence the January diets.) Instead of sedating the fear with self-loathing, weight loss chats, and other related topics, remind yourself that a) any weight gain is temporary b) feeling guilty and remorseful for enjoying your holidays takes away from the magic of it c) so many people are in the same boat as you — you’re not alone.
7. Bingeing. When we restrict and deprive ourselves of our favourite foods, bingeing is a normal biological response. I like to compare it to The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. If you’re a woman surrounded by over a dozen other women vying for the same man, suddenly that man is going to look way more attractive. But if you’re a woman surrounded by over a dozen men, you might feel a bit more empowered because men aren’t scarce.
The same applies to food. Yet, when we binge, we believe bingeing is the problem. But that’s like saying you want The Bachelor because men are the problem. They’re not. The problem is that you want something you’ve decided you can’t have — and now it’s all you can think about. Bingeing doesn’t mean you’re not “trying hard enough” or that you should diet to correct the behaviour. It’s a sign something’s not working, and it begins with your relationship with food — and not food (or weight) itself.
If you want to lose weight, why do you want to? Will it fill a missing void in your life? What will it give you? What would it mean? What would it mean for you if it doesn’t happen? Let me know in the comments.