There are a lot of conflicting messages surrounding fat loss and body positivity in society.
What’s right for one person isn’t right for another though.
Losing weight won’t automatically make you happier, but it’s OK to have aesthetic goals provided you’re not coming from a position of hate towards your body.
It’s better to focus on healthy lifestyle habits you enjoy, rather than having aesthetic change as your primary motivator.
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I’m in a bit of a predicament. I’m carrying some excess weight (a stone or so) which I would like to lose, both for health reasons and also so I feel better about myself. I don’t love my body right now which has knocked my confidence and affects everything I do — the weight has gradually crept up over the past year, and I don’t feel like myself any more. I’m confused as to whether I should be trying to love and embrace my body as it is, or trying to lose weight to get back to how I felt before. Is it possible to try and change your body while still being body positive? Please help!
I relate to this so much. I found myself facing the exact same conundrum a few years ago. My weight had gradually crept up, I felt sluggish and didn’t recognize myself any more. But then, what about body positivity?
It seemed as if, for every person offering weight loss tips, someone else was telling me to love my body as it was. We have an obesity epidemic, but women are also fighting the damaging social conditioning which teaches us that being slim is the only way to have worth.
I felt like I was being bombarded by conflicting messaging and I just didn’t know what to do. So before we get into anything, please know you’re not alone.
There’s no right or wrong thing to do
If it gives you any comfort, I am in a much better position, both physically and mentally, now than I was a few years ago. Ultimately, I decided to take a step back from the mixed messaging I was seeing in the media and think about what I really wanted.
For me, losing some weight vastly improved how I felt because the weight gain had been a symptom of not looking after myself properly. I didn’t do it from a place of hate towards my body, I identified that I needed to work on my relationship with food and set about developing some sustainable, healthier habits.
I did want to lose weight though, and I felt very much like I couldn’t admit that to anyone for fear of being criticized. But I realized there was no point stressing over what was the “right” thing to do, because there’s no such thing. What’s right for one person is wrong for another, so all we can do is what we believe is right for us.
Before too long, I was back to feeling like my spritely self again, but I tried really hard never to speak or think negatively about my body along the journey (which isn’t always easy).
What’s driving you?
Losing weight might make you feel more like yourself again too, but if you’re pinning your happiness on it, you’re probably going to be left disappointed.
“It’s so important to say that healthy, happy, and strong looks and feels different on every body,” Emily Ricketts, a qualified personal trainer and online coach, told Insider.
Ricketts advises taking a step back to think about your “why.”
“What’s driving or motivating this change? If it’s because you want to do it for you, to feel good, to feel stronger, to feel fitter, then fantastic, that’s a clear concrete motivator. If it’s because you feel you need to, to fit in, to please others or because you should do, then I’d maybe re-think,” she said.
Ricketts continued: “It’s really important to say that changing your body won’t necessarily change how you feel about it. I think we often pin a lot of hopes on feeling happy when we reach a certain unattainable body goal. It just doesn’t work like that.”
There’s so much more to health and fitness than how your body looks, don’t forget that.
It’s OK to want to lose weight
The body positive and self-love movements have done a lot of wonderful work over the last few years, creating change that’s long overdue.
That said, it’s also OK to want to lose weight, build muscle, or sculpt your physique, provided those goals aren’t coming from a position of hate.
“I don’t think we should demonize aesthetic goals,” Ricketts said. “I think most of us have them in some way, shape, or form. I’d just encourage you to not let this be your only goal.”
If aesthetic change is your primary driver, any new fitness or dietary habits you take on aren’t likely to stick, because physical changes take a long time to show.
There’s only so long you can keep up a grueling workout regime if you hate it but think it’ll lead to, say, glute gains, because you likely won’t notice any major difference in your appearance for months.
Aesthetic change shouldn’t be your number one priority
Instead of focusing on changing how your body looks, shift your focus to finding healthy habits you enjoy. When you fall in love with a new lifestyle, you’ll want to keep it up regardless of whether your body changes.
“There is so much more reward to moving your body and exercising in a way that feels good, rather than purely the aesthetic changes that can come with that,” said Ricketts. “It can make you feel strong (inside and out!), it can release endorphins, it can improve your overall health and well being, it can help relieve stress — the list is pretty endless.”
She continued: “I’d encourage you to work on building a lifestyle that makes you feel good, slowly stacking up some healthy habits and changes that make you feel good inside and out. A routine that helps you thrive, rather than a crash diet that leaves you feeling deprived. If you’re doing this from a place of hate, you’re never going to fall in love with it, so, find that love and motivation and be kind to yourself along the way.”
Rather than aiming for a certain dress size or number on the scale, why not try setting goals for yourself like deadlifting your bodyweight, running 5K in under 30 minutes, or eating five portions of fruit and veg a day.
Fake self-love until you make it
Learning to love your body is hard and takes time. It won’t happen over night.
Sam Gwazdauskas, a qualified personal trainer, sports nutritionist, and body positivity advocate, advises faking it until you make it.
“To love your body, you must treat it as if you do,” she said. “That love is less tied to a specific number on the scale and more tied to the actions you choose throughout your days. That means movement, nourishment, recovery, de-stressing, sleeping, and more. The best way to build confidence in your body is to care for and respect it. That will lead to the change you’re really looking for.”
Remember, your body is yours and yours alone. Look after yourself and do what you need to do to feel happy.
Wishing you well,
As a senior lifestyle reporter at Insider and a self-described fitness fanatic with an Association for Nutrition certified nutrition course under her belt, Rachel Hosie is immersed in the wellness scene and here to answer all your burning questions. Whether you’re struggling to find the motivation to go for a run, confused about light versus heavy weights, or unsure whether you should be worried about how much sugar is in a mango, Rachel is here to give you the no-nonsense answers and advice you need, with strictly no fad diets in sight.
Rachel has a wealth of experience covering fitness, nutrition, and wellness, and she has the hottest experts at her fingertips. She regularly speaks to some of the world’s most knowledgeable and renowned personal trainers, dietitians, and coaches, ensuring she’s always up to date with the latest science-backed facts you need to know to live your happiest and healthiest life.
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