The content of this article may be sensitive to some readers.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: you do not need to lose weight to love yourself. The barrage across all of the social media platforms about New Year’s Resolutions may be winding down, but the next onslaught of turning your winter body into a summer one is rearing its ugly head.
You do not need to lose weight to love yourself, or wear a swimsuit on your next vacation, or to take the leap to do that thing you’ve always wanted to. This logic of conflating weight loss that magically translates into making one love themselves is a farce. It’s used to sell everything from “nutritional” plans that provide anything but nutrition, along with all kinds of creams and fixes that you simply do not need. You aren’t broken. They way society tends to look at bodies that differ from the narrow definition of attractive or beautiful or handsome is.
The thing that really boils my blood about this whole scheme is the way it’s worded. Today I came across a Facebook post written by a lifestyle coach who stated the two most common questions everyone asks themselves are “Why can’t I lose weight?” and “Why can’t I love myself?” I want to tell you that these two questions should not regularly go hand in hand, and that you can love yourself no matter what your weight may be. Loving yourself does not have to be contingent on whether the number on the scale drops below whatever your current affect on gravity is. I also want to point out that these two questions do not have to be the defining queries of your life. You are made up of a million other things that have nothing to do with your appearance and your ability to see just how wonderful you truly are, even if you don’t quite believe it yet.
The idea that happiness is achievable only through altering your body is a joke. While that may be something that brings you joy and makes you feel great (which is fine, it’s your body, please do what you want with it), it is not the singular way it can be reached. Happiness doesn’t come from a shake or a diet or from anyone else but yourself. You make yourself happy by doing things you enjoy, spending time with people who empower and support you, or even time alone, and a bundle of other activities and items that extend to your very soul. These things are not the same for everyone, just as bodies aren’t. These blanket statements the companies offer you of lifelong happiness and finally feeling good are a joke, mostly because they’re trying to get you to buy into an idea that you already have the means to use, and to purchase their product.
There are tons of ways to increase your well-being other than altering your body and diet, but if this is something that works for you, by all means do so. Just don’t do it because you feel pressured or because you feel that you have to do appease other people’s views. You are the one who decides on the significant aspects of your life, mind and body included.
Learning to accept yourself, body and soul, even if that acceptance can’t quite make it to the love setting, does not include weight loss as the only option. While you definitely have the right to exercise bodily autonomy and lose weight for yourself, you do not have to do so if it would cause you distress or if it is not what you truly want.
The way that these issues are touted as being normal and are accepted by everyday scrollers of social media is a problem. Seeing the logic I used in the worst of my eating disorder days being splashed across slogans and as a marketing tool is sickening. It infuriates me that the phrases I used to justify my disordered behaviors in the past are blasted across social media in supposedly empowering snippets. These words and phrases should not be manipulated into making you think you’re “less than” anything at all. I’m grateful I have a filter for these kinds of things, after believing them myself for years and struggling with an eating disorder. Losing weight as a symptom of my ED didn’t make me happier. It did, however, make me withdraw, isolate, and not find anything enjoyable. I realized this after good chunk of therapy, talking with people who didn’t believe weight was intrinsic to worth (which is true), and the body positivity movement. Weight loss is not an automatic key to having an easier or better life. The person you are now will be the same, even if you were to lose weight. You’ll still be you.
So the next time you read about a miracle product that shouts about happiness as the end goal, ask yourself if it is just a marketing tool for yet another item to tell you you’re not good enough. You most certainly are. Give the criticism of yourself and your body that is conveniently disguised as a health goal the death stare. Shoot down the idea that you need a magic wand to wish all of the parts of yourself that make you who you are away. You can do it. I can, too. Let’s make 2016 the year that we all said no to self-hatred.
Please visit the National Eating Disorders Association or call the NEDA Helpline at 1-(800)-931-2237 to find resources and get help.