Look at the front of any magazine. You’ll see messages encouraging you to “Lose those last 5 pounds”, “Get glowing skin”, “Slim it Down”, etc. So that begs the question: What’s your inspiration to eat well and workout? Are you listening to the lies that the media presents? Are you down on yourself for having a little extra cushion?
I wonder how our experience of a healthy lifestyle would change if instead of focusing on this idea of beauty presented by the media, we worked on eating healthy because it made us feel great throughout the day and because working out helps us feel stronger and more capable of performing our daily tasks with confidence.
When I was 19, I worked as a counselor at a sleep-away christian camp for a summer. While I had a great summer working with the kids and other staff, I left to go back to college feeling much heavier from the unhealthy food. I was not sure how to lose the weight. Around this same time, a guy came into my life that did not treat me how I should have been treated. I let him get away with insulting me and how I looked because I believed him. I believed the lies of the media and thought that because I gained 10 pounds that I was less beautiful and less worthy.
This belief led me to cut down how much I ate, to the point where it was unhealthy. I restricted calories and worked out twice a day for a few months so that I dropped about 20 pounds. I was always hungry, but I “fed” myself with internal disparaging comments about how fat I was and how I would never be desirable if I didn’t continue to lose weight. It got to the point to how I looked and what I weighed was the primary focus in my life. By the end of the year, I weighed the lowest that I ever had, and I was miserable!
Partially due to getting out of the destructive relationship and partially from recognizing that looking a certain way wasn’t worth making myself miserable, I changed around how I approached being healthy.
First and foremost, I focused on friends and having fun. Laughter and happiness will add more to your life than looking a certain way ever will!
Secondly, I discarded the idea of “bad” foods. Rather than restricting calories and intentionally never eating certain foods, I focused on moderation. To this day, I try to make vegetables the center of every meal, but I eat plenty of other foods as well.
Third, I stopped counting calories. There are so many other indicators of health. Learning to listen to your body’s cravings and hunger will allow you to eat based on your particular needs for that day. Now, that doesn’t always mean I eat icecream when I’m craving it (because that would mean eating it everyday). However, it does mean that if I’ve been craving icecream for a while and a friend wants to go on a fun excursion to a neighborhood icecream shop, I’m all in!
Focusing on the beautiful things in life: laughter with friends, incredible scenery while running, and the beauty of fresh fruit at the farmers market allowed me to shift my priorities from how I looked to enjoying the wonderful parts of life and our world.
Have I gained weight since changing my perspective?
Am I happier with who I am and how I impact the world?
Yes times infinity.
For those of you struggling with the lies of the world, self-doubt, and eating disorders, you’re not alone. There is hope. As a side note, I am in no way trying to underestimate the difficult of overcoming a serious eating disorder. If this is what you are struggling with, please consult the help of a medical professional.
Life is so beautiful if we take the step back to appreciate what is around us. We may never look like the cover of a magazine, but I think that’s a good thing. Be you, because you’re the only you we’ve got!