I went to my first Weight Watchers meeting at ten years old. I remember fantasizing about how different my life would be once I lost fifteen pounds. I dreamt of the cute boy giving me a Valentine, getting the lead in the school play and making the A-team in soccer.
Unfortunately, I was never the girl who could stick to a diet. For the next fifteen years I’d set reasonable goals and choose a diet, only to find myself in a threesome with Ben and Jerry just six hours into it.
My perfect life always felt thirty pounds away.
The pain I felt living in a body I hated was all consuming. Even the most wonderful days were clouded by that morning’s discovery of gaining three pounds since yesterday or that the dress I bought last month now wouldn’t zip. When a guy showed interest in me I was convinced he was crazy or that he must not be looking at my thighs carefully enough. I could never let loose on the dance floor because I was worried about how much my underarms would jiggle. It was like I was living in body jail.
After finding myself in the trash can fishing out the last three pieces of Dove Chocolate Promises from the bag I had just polished off whilst hiding in the supply closet of my ad agency three days into my seven day juice cleanse, I realized that if this diet thing was going to work, it would have worked by now. It was very clear that my issue wasn’t willpower (I’m still not sure that’s even a real thing) but that I was a full blown emotional eater and needed to get help on a deeper level.
Over the next year I made sweeping changes in my life and in my attitude about food and my body. I was so overcome by what I learned and discovered along the way that I quit my job in advertising and now work as an emotional eating coach and am actively working with major media and publications to change the way women relate to their bodies and food.
Now that I’ve busted out of body jail (if you want to learn more about how I did that you can join me for a free workshop) I’m so aware of all the damaging lies I told myself about my body and can see how insidious these lies are in our culture; I see the same lies coming up over and over again with women.
Here are the three most damaging lies women believe about their bodies and the truth I’m hoping you’ll see more clearly:
1. My life will be better when I lose weight.
We spend so much time believing we have to weigh less in order to live more. We believe we have to be a certain size to hit on a guy, buy new clothes or go after our dream job. The list of things we think will magically happen (including all of our stress and misery evaporating) when we lose weight is endless.
But the reality is that as long as we are waiting on the weight and thinking that being thin is the answer to all of our problems, our current life is a total drag and food becomes our only source of happiness, connection and relaxation. The truth is that it’s not our bodies that are making us miserable, it’s our sub-par lives that are making us miserable. It won’t be until we learn that we have to stop waiting on the weight and go after our ideal life now, not twenty pounds from now, that we can break out of body jail.
We spend so much time believing we have to weigh less in order to live more.
2. If I accept my body as it is, I will never lose weight.
Here’s the deal: I am not concerned with women losing weight, but I do think it’s important to take care of our bodies and if our bodies are holding onto extra weight, taking care of our bodies will allow them to move to our natural set point based our own unique lifestyle, constitution and phase of life. So, think of someone you hate… would you ever take care of them, do something nice or carve out time for them? No.
But think of someone you love… don’t you love to cook them great meals, cancel meetings to spend time with them and want the best for them? I’m sure you do. So what if you treated your body like your daughter or lover? What if you told her you loved her and thanked her for everything she does for you on a daily basis, like get you around, keep you alive and gracefully digest all that extra food you may be eating? All of that love and gratitude leads to self care instead of self-neglect.
3. I’m not sexy at this size.
After having my first child, I fell back into the old trap of believing that my relationship and sex life would get back on track once I lost the baby weight. I didn’t recognize my body and couldn’t imagine how I was ever going to feel sexy with a bulging tummy covered in purple stripes. As the months rolled on and the weight didn’t budge and I watched my relationship get flatter and flatter, I knew something had to change.
Because of my background, I knew that going on a juice cleanse to lose a quick ten pounds so I felt more comfortable naked wasn’t an option, so the only thing to do was to work on my sensuality at my current weight. The reality was that my libido was low because I was going through a crazy hard transition, was breastfeeding and wasn’t sleeping, not because of my weight (but my are we quick to blame everything on our bodies!). I addressed my stress, sleeplessness (hello sleep training), went to dance classes, lit more candles, went deeper in my spiritual practice and prioritized date nights. After a few weeks I was feeling sexier than I had in years and I hadn’t lost a pound.
What I want to leave you with is that often our bodies are a reflection of our internal state, not the cause of feeling frustrated, down and flat. It’s so important that you go below the surface and address what’s really going on and stop blaming your body for everything. Doing so will only distract you from creating the life you are meant to live.
Do you believe your life would be better if you reached a certain weight? How can you choose to live in spite of a number?
Images via Bess Friday
Thank you for this. I struggle too with body image. Sometimes it is that I belong in the prison and sometimes it’s a fear of how I will be treated when I’m thinner.
This. Is. Beautiful. After struggling myself with disordered eating for over ten years, I am all too familiar with the pressure we put on our weight & appearance & relationship with food to determine our happiness. Let’s work together to break free from these “body prisons” and love ourselves as we do our dear friends. Great piece, Sarah!
I’ve been following Sarah and a subscriber to Darling for a while now. I love her message of not waiting on the weight and creating a life that you love outside of your body obsession. This is such a great reminder and I imagine that most women can relate to these thoughts. It’s so great to know we are not alone and that we can choose a better way right now!
I think this is SO important! I also think its important to note that this can apply to any insecurity a woman might have, not just weight. Whether it’s weight, acne, the way our hair sits on our head, or even our height, we could all benefit from listening to the messages our body is telling us rather than blaming our bodies for our unhappiness, and appreciating our bodies for the masterpieces they are.
Absolutely! So very true:)
This is such a beautiful and honest piece. Thank you so much for posting this. I completely agree that our bodies are a reflection of something happening – or not happening – just below the surface. If we all cultivated our internal state and became more in-tune with its needs, we would find a lot more peace with our physical selves. I also battle the “It will all be better or I’ll love myself more, IF I weight X amount.” I am striving more and more to simply care for myself better and LOVE the fact that my body is carrying me through life. And you’re beautiful!!
“So what if you treated your body like your daughter or lover? What if you told her you loved her and thanked her for everything she does for you on a daily basis, like get you around, keep you alive and gracefully digest all that extra food you may be eating?” I loved this.