I used to post a zillion pictures of my body with the caption beginning as “I’m not quite there yet, but…” Always acknowledging the fact that I knew there was still work to be done. Almost as if I felt I wasn’t allowed to accept my body unless it had reached a state of “perfection”. I’m not sure what that would have looked like, because I never quite got “there”.
This is such a common pattern for many of us. We hold tight to the idea that we should never settle. That our bodies are never enough. That if we did accept our bodies, we would just “let ourselves go…”...and that this body hatred is what keeps us motivated.
Here's how the story goes...
Susie goes to the doctor, and is told that according to the BMI chart, she is considered “obese” and should really lose X number of pounds ASAP. She puts herself on a diet, gets a gym membership and loses the weight. She celebrates the weight loss for about a day, and then decides that she’s still fat, and wants to lose X number of pounds. Again, she puts in the work and loses that amount.
But that’s still not good enough. Next, she decides that she’s “chubby” and wants to lose X amount of pounds...I bet you can guess what happens next. She reaches her goal. But then, she’s “flabby” and wants to tone up. So she hires a personal trainer, learns all about supplements and weight training, and what it takes to “tone-up”, and she makes it happen.
All the while, her obsession with dieting and exercising to mold and shape her body is increasing-all due to the amazing results she’s seen thus far. She tells everyone who will listen “if you just put in the work, you’ll get results. No excuses!”
But it’s still not good enough. Sure, she’s put on some muscle mass and leaned out. But now she wants a 6-pack. So she kicks everything into an even higher gear. At this point she’s telling everyone “I still have long way to go, but I’m putting in the work every day to get there!” They’re thinking she’s crazy, because she already looks like she’s “there” to them (wherever “there” is).
She starts counting her macros religiously, making a big deal about every morsel of food that goes into her mouth, skipping out on all social activities because she couldn’t possibly miss a workout, or risk being tempted by her ever growing list of “off-limits” foods.
She sees more results, her body fat is the lowest it’s ever been. She decides she wants to compete in bikini competitions to take things even further. She loses her period, chunks of hair start falling out, she’s more stressed than ever before. But she keeps up the charade of being “happier and more confident than ever!” Because she hasn’t yet realized the cost of committing to fight against her body for the rest of her life.
She obsesses over her body and its daily fluctuations. Pinching, poking, prodding. Always thinking about food.
“When is my next meal? My macros were off yesterday so I have to make up for it today. Why did I eat that extra spoonful of peanut butter? Damn, I have no self-control. Why can’t I just get it together? This is why I can’t keep my 6-pack.”
Then she wonders when this will all be over. When she’ll ever get to be “normal”. She decides that’s just not an option for her. She’ll gladly fight this battle with her body for the rest of her life. She’ll keep searching for that “magic bullet” so she'll never have to worry about slipping up again, or craving a “bad” food.
But then unexpectedly her boyfriend breaks up with her. She loses her best friend. She’s fired from her job. All at once. And the only way she knows how to handle stress is through by controlling her food. She copes with difficult feelings through exercise.
But she feels overwhelmed and drained. She can’t fathom getting herself into the gym. She doesn’t know what to do with the emotions, so she releases the grip she’s held so tight.
And she completely loses control. She can’t seem to get herself to stop eating. And she can’t get herself into the gym. Her body begins changing rapidly because of the tight restrictions, and the damage she'd done to her metabolism through all the years of food restriction and overexercising.
Her body rebels. And since she has learned to tie her worth into her body, knowing her identity as the “fit, toned girl”, her self-esteem plummets. She falls into a deep hole of depression. After a few months of completely disregarding her health, or listening to her body...she feels that she's “let herself go”.
Then, the cycle begins all over again...
It’s so interesting how we look at people with “perfect” bodies and think they have it all together.
Where did that idea come from? We never know what someone is going through. So we can never just look from the outside and make assumptions.
The comparison we do only leads to dangerous thoughts & beliefs that we aren't worthy. And that won't get us anywhere except feeling stuck and hopeless. Do you really want to live a life (or not live) waiting for a body? Or do you just want to start living said life now, since you really never know when it's over (as cliche as that sounds).
Thankfully for Susie, she eventually recognized the cycle and was able to break out of it. She learned that her unhappiness wasn’t actually coming from her weight, or what her body looked like. She was unhappy with her life and with herself, and the only way she felt she could change that was by changing her body.
But when she realized that didn’t work, she knew she had to find another way. So she learned that her value wasn’t tied into her body.
She quit trying to change her body, and just learned to accept it. She began eating nutritious, delicious foods because she loved the way it made her feel. She moved her body in ways that she enjoyed because it helped her handle the daily stresses of life.
She relaxed often, spent lots of time with friends and family, and discovered a new zest for life she never had before. The same zest she was searching for through her attempts to change her body.
She decided that she would never punish her body again, and that she could never bring herself to obsess over food and exercise in the name of body perfection ever again.
If you’re wrapped up in body perfection, and maybe you haven’t gotten as extreme as Susie yet, or maybe you have...remember that you can always choose again.
Here are 2 simple steps for letting of body perfection and learning to live a more present life:
Step 1: Uncover what it is you really want:
We all have our reasons for wanting to lose weight. We don’t just decide one day that we want to lose weight just for the heck of it. Often times we disguise it with “I just want to be healthy”. But what we don’t realize is that we’re actually wanting to be more acceptable, more confident, more worthy, and happier. Ask yourself what it is you really want? Take 5-10 minutes to really dig deep. Journal or talk to a friend about it.
Step 2: Go after what it is you really want:
We often hold ourselves back because we’re afraid. Afraid of how powerful and irresistible we really are. Not a certain amount of pounds from now...but right now. But we tell ourselves “when I’m thinner, then I’ll go after that job. Or that guy I really like. Or that goal I really want to reach”. But when thinner never comes, we’re just stuck spinning our wheels and making excuses. Then before we know it, life is over and we’ve wasted it just waiting for our “there”. Start now! If you want to be more confident, practice that. Learn to be comfortable in your body now. If you want to be happier, work on that. Don’t know how to cope with emotions? Learn how. Work on becoming a better you...that will get you a lot closer to who you want to be than weight loss will ever.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the “shoulds” of our society...that you should eat a certain way, live a certain way, eat a certain way...but it’s time to take back your power. Explore what works for you. Decide how you want to feel. Take these first 2 steps to becoming a better version of yourself.