When I was swimming in squad when I was younger, I had a great trainer. I was about twelve, and she would tell me to throw away my scales; “Your weight doesn’t have a huge amount to do with how healthy you are.” Not only is this about the inaccuracy of BMI (ie. muscle being heavier than fat), but assuming that health and wellbeing is only dependent on a number on a scale.
We need to take attention away from physical indicators of health being our sole barometer for wellbeing. Health encompasses physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing. Health dependent on weight ignores important psychological aspects of self: I’ve watched people transform their body, without their mind catching up and continuing self-deprecating thoughts of not being good/pretty/ enough, even though their ‘goals’ had been met.
- Give yourself permission to love your body just as it is right now. No matter what your body goals are, you are ok. Whatever your weight, it is ok. However you are now, that is ok. I don’t care if you’re on an epic weight-loss journey, or changing your entire lifestyle. Self-acceptance doesn’t start when you reach a future goal; it starts in your present and in your now, wherever that may be.
- Appreciating differences. What is viewed as attracted evolved and changes over time – just look at history! In the 1950s, it was all about the curves, in the grunge 90s, it was the waif look. The ideal body shape and ideal changes and shifts over time, and though there have been positive directions in embracing differences, idealising one and shaming another is not the answer. The world is always going to be a smorgasbord of body shapes and types, and celebrating yours not only is a healthier outlet for your own self-perception, but is permission giving for others to step into their own uniqueness.
- Be gentle with triggers that come up about your body. I have watched others and myself be the recipient of stupid comments about body type and shape. Triggers can happen, and we can’t control others, but the power is in how we manage these. If it’s coming from your inner self, say hello to it, challenge the thoughts, and if possible pivot away from it. If receiving them from others, we can calmly assert ourselves. Either way, breeding self-compassion towards oneself and to the variety of body shapes is necessary to create a healthy relationship with our bodies.
- Treat your body well. Do things that make your body feel good. For me personally, I feel the best in my skin when I’m in and around the water or when I’m dancing. If you think of your body as a friend, you will do better things to it and be kinder to yourself in the process. Your body is one of the only things that you are stuck with forever, and the time you take to be good to yourself is worth it, not necessarily because of results in may yield, but because it feels good.
- Celebrating when you look good. I remember being told that if someone outwardly expresses them looking good, it is arrogant. We should able to celebrate looking and feeling good without it being particularly controversial!
Health comes in different shapes and sizes, and we need to realize that scales and weight is not an indicator of health, that we have biologically dispositional shapes and sizes, and that irrespective of where we are/are not on our health journey we are actually ok as we are right now. Maybe shifting weight means you’re going to fit into clothes differently now and/or be stronger, but remembering that everybody is different and keeping in mind fluctuating societal standards can give us perspective and help us to remember the many other aspects of self that construct health and wellbeing.
We need to embrace our bodies, recognise societal influences and ideals for what they are, and consider our bodies as a relevant part of wellbeing, without defining our self-worth by them.