I wanted to do a 10-part series on the things that we stress over but really shouldn’t. Over the next five weeks, I’ll cover Ten Things You Should Stop Stressing About Right Now and Why. I’ll post one every Monday and one every Thursday. (Yes, I’m getting started a little late, but why put my first post off until Thursday?)
I didn’t actively start caring about my weight until the summer before I was going to start college in 2004. By actively, I mean dieting, working out, and criticizing every lump, bulge, or pudgy roll. I knew I was a little chunky, and I noticed that a week of volleyball tryouts and church retreats (where I ate nothing but salad because there weren’t other choices for vegetarians) made me lose weight; I liked the weight loss. But like I said, I didn’t do anything on purpose to lose weight. Furthermore, In high school, teachers made a point to convince us that that Twiggy-esque models in magazines were a minority and far from reality. At five foot one, I never wanted to look like those tall, skinny models anyway. Like I, said, I didn’t think about weight, or my body size all that much.
Nonetheless, the summer of 2004 I decided that I wanted to look good in a bikini when I went to Miami for college. I started working out and going to the gym. I did a little dieting, but nothing too extreme. Fast forward 9 years later, I’ve become weight and appearance obsessed. I don’t know whether I ought to blame it on the media, the culture that surrounds me, or the fact that I have to wear shorts, skirts, dresses and tank tops 9 months out of the year in order not to sweat to death. I cant say exactly when the obsession started. All I know is where I ended up.
I was looking for a specific number under 120 pounds. In all this time, there were about 3 occasions in 9 years when I saw that number. During those occasions I was extremely active because I didn’t have a car and walked/biked everywhere. But outside of those times, I was focused non-stop on my weight.
Meal times are the three (or more) times a day I would stress about what I’m eating and whether or not it would make me fat. You all know how frustrating and stressful it is to worry about weight. The thinking, planning, organizing, counting, calculating, shopping, and the exercise routines from magazines… The rules, the internal debates of what I should and should not eat. It is agonizing to see the scale go up two pounds after working out hard all week.
The only time I ever lost weight, was when I stopped worrying about it. Nowadays, I make sure I eat as healthy as possible (no wheat, few processed foods, no refined sugars etc.) and my body adapts accordingly by shedding extra pounds (on its own time). It’s really that simple. You can do it too.
It’s time for you to stop worrying about a number on the scale, your BMI or body fat percentage. Chances are, you already know the number of one of the three. But how does knowing that number help you right this second? It doesn’t change what clothes fit you, right now; it doesn’t bolster your self-esteem. It may momentarily motivate you to get in shape, but when that number doesn’t get lower after you diet and work-out hard for a few weeks, then what? You need to forget that crap and simply focus on getting healthy.
The reality is, you know if you are doing the right things. And if you are doing the right things your body will find a healthy weight. I’m not a doctor, and I’m sure there are exceptions, but eating right and staying active will eliminate weight problems. The number on the scale may not be a number that you like, and the “weight loss” may not happen on your schedule, but it will happen, and you will be healthy.
Nevertheless, you are going to trip-up. Lately, I’ve veered off my diet a little bit, and I’m suffering the consequences. Still, there is no need to beat myself up about it. Maintaining a healthy body is a life practice. Just as I try to get enough sleep every night, but don’t, I also try to give my body enough nutrients by eating good foods. If I want to live a long time so I do my best, and that’s all I can do. I don’t want to stress time and energy about a number on the scale.
Furthermore, you have to stop worrying about how fat you think you look. As you probably know, poor self-esteem about weight and physical appearance is largely manufactured by the images we see in the media. Every day I’m reminded that if I look a certain way, I’ll be sexy. But the media’s definition of “sexy” is wrong, and neither you nor I will ever look that way. Nothing you can do, besides having a photograph of yourself airbrushed, will remove all of the real or imagined weight-related imperfections that you have. Even if you are 400 pounds, nothing can change that in this moment. What you look right what now, is what you look like, and you have to be confident regardless of your size.
I say, take care of your body, and your body will take care of the rest. All it takes is healthy food and physical activity to get everything in order. What the numbers say doesn’t matter. Your body will shed any excess fat without you trying to will it away.
On a related note, I’ve realized that how I dress myself influences how I feel about my weight and/or size. Now I’m not talking about being fashionable or frumpy. I’m talking about how tight or revealing my clothes are. Tight jeans and t-shirts offer very little flexibility in terms of weight gain or loss. Three to five additional pounds can make a pair of pants too tight on me. And too-tight clothes make me feel fat and worry about my weight, food choices, and exercise frequency. Furthermore, I feel that all my “fat” is exposed when I wear revealing clothes. I’ve started wearing maxi skirts a lot now, which “hide” day to day changes in my body weight, size or shape. Quite frankly, I don’t want to go back to jeans…And over the last week, I feel that my self-esteem about my body weight/size has improved just by wearing modest skirts. Obviously, that’s not for everyone, but it works for me.
I do want to talk more about clothing, but that will have to wait until next time.