We’re now on part three of this series devoted to letting go of the diet cycle and finding the weight that is right for your unique self. A brief run-down if you missed the first two posts:
STEP ONE: Get the Facts.
There’s a fact pivotal to weight management that I find few people know about: the concept of “set point.”
Every person's body is pre-programmed to stay within a certain weight range (known as that person's set point). Your body is constantly working to defend your set point, in large part to protect you from starvation. This was great news for our hunter-gatherer ancestors who were unable to plan where their next meal would come from. No food for a day? No problem: the body would just slow down its processes and use as little energy as possible. Dieting mimics starvation, triggering the same reaction (slowed metabolism, increased fat storage,etc.). So if you’re on a diet and trying to drag your weight below your set point range, your body is going fight against the weight loss you’re going through misery to achieve. This is likely why more than 95% of dieters gain back any weight lost within five years. Not to mention that dieting can wreak complete havoc on your mental state.
Not. Worth. It.
So what is your unique “set point”? If you can, think back to a time before you put your body through various diets; a time you were physically active and ate a balanced diet. Your weight naturally hovered around a certain number, right? Voila, that’s probably your set point!
But maybe you can’t remember a time you were diet-free. Or maybe you’ve spent a long time living a sedentary lifestyle or subsisting on fast food and Coke (no judgies, I’ve been there), so it’s impossible to discern what your natural set point might be. Sustained unhealthy lifestyle choices, as well as a pattern of yo-yo dieting, can certainly cause a person’s body weight to get out of whack. But you can get your weight back to where is supposed to be through Step Two!
STEP TWO: Tune into Yourself.
Respect your hunger signals, move your body, identify and seek out the foods that are nourishing and make you feel good, and let go of trying to control everything. Discovering how to eat and move intuitively and with your highest self in mind will lead you to your natural, ideal weight (and if you need help with this discovery process, I would love to support you!).
Now let’s address the elephant in the room:
What if your set point is troublesome to you? What if you can’t seem to come to terms with the size your body wants to be: you think you should be smaller? Even if you have an intellectual understanding that diets don’t work, it can be difficult to give up attachment to a goal weight that your body just isn’t meant to sustain. How do you get past this point?
STEP THREE: Challenge Societal Standards & Create Your Own Values
First, don’t beat up on yourself if you’ve internalized the thin ideal: it is completely understandable in our size-obsessed culture where we are constantly fed the myth that our worthiness is dependent on the lightness of our being.
The link between thin and all other good things is ubiquitous. We rarely see anything else. Think about the body sizes you have been exposed through in media depictions that are supposed to mimic real life (movies, TV shows, etc.): There is a glaring absence of body diversity in the stories we see. And the less conventionally attractive characters we do see are usually there playing a side role or for comedic effect, not in the leading role. [Edit: I tried to find a stock photo depicting diverse body types to accompany this blog post and was hard-pressed to do so, reinforcing my own point!].
In real life not everyone has a body that is meant to be super lean, and that is more than okay.
Why do we accept society’s skewed standards and try to change ourselves with diets and “detox cleanses” and exercises we hate instead of challenging the unrealistic ideal? Rather than seeing diets for what they are (deprivation and misery with a failure rate over 95%), we construe the failure of our diets as evidence of a personal failure, reinforcing the belief that we are unworthy.
It’s time to say enough.
You can be a champion for body acceptance by taking on a new outlook where you refuse to measure your worth by your waistline.
It starts with accepting yourself entirely—your body included—where you are right now.
If this seems too hard, know that I’m not asking you to be head over heels in love with your body all of a sudden. Perhaps there is an aspect of yourself you absolutely despise right now. That’s ok! You just need to be open to making peace with those feelings and not letting your body image demons control your life.
It's a process. I certainly still have days where I catch my own reflection, take note of a wrinkle, or tummy roll, or a varicose vein and think: “man, that isn’t ideal.” But the difference is that these thoughts no longer ruin my day like they used to. I now know how to snap myself out of the negativity and get on with life.
Life doesn’t begin five pounds from now. It’s already happening. While you’re obsessing over wishing you were thinner or wanting to change your [insert body part], the world is still spinning.
Only by accepting where you are now, can you make the most of the time you have on this earth.
The world needs more of you. You have something special and unique to offer (something no one else has), and you’re depriving everyone of that magic if you’re obsessing over your weight instead!
You are so much more than your body. Your unique perspective, kindness, integrity, courage, authenticity: these things mean so much more than whether you wear a size 2.
Societal standards be damned: you can define your own worth.
And baby, you are worthy.
Want to continue on this journey? My Three Steps to Spark Body Confidence mini-course will give you the first foundational steps to rocking a body you love. You’ll learn what to do when body-conscious thoughts arise, how to how to stop those self-sabotaging thoughts in their tracks, and a new way to view your body in a positive light: through a lens of gratitude and appreciation. Click here to find out more.