It took me a long time to come to terms with my body. And still, I cannot say that without a doubt I have conquered my battle of negative thoughts and self-contempt. The first thing I think about when I open my eyes in the morning is my weight. It’s a constant battle of learning to be OK with my body and learning to accept my flaws. After all, our flaws are what make us unique, right?
We women are incredibly hard on ourselves. We are in a constant feud with the number on the scale and we obsess about getting that number down just a bit more.
I think my obsession with the number on the scale started when I realized I was an overweight teenager. I never knew I was ''fat'', the thought didn’t occur to me until I was a preteen, weighing over 75 kilograms at 12 years old. So, the first time I came to realize I was fat, was during my first high-school year.
I didn’t have any friends in high school. I was always on my own. I read books and kept to myself. As I walked through the corridors I could feel the staring, I could hear the whispering and sometimes the boys would blatantly call out that I was fat to my face. Kids can be incredibly cruel to one another.
All the teasing caused me to really self-examine my body and I started picking at my flaws. The more I looked at myself in the mirror the more things I found were wrong with my body. I remember a specific moment where I was standing in front of the mirror and looking at myself with extreme disgust, that I had somehow managed to get to this point. I blamed my mother but mostly myself. I had no idea how I got to that point. This was the ‘’wow’’ moment I needed. It was in this moment that I realized what an unhealthy weight I was and how different I looked to my fellow classmates. It was also the moment I decided I was going to change my life.
I wanted to lose weight and feel better about myself. Because I was 12, I couldn’t exactly stroll into a grocery store and buy the food I thought I needed to lose weight. So, I asked my Mother if she could help me go on a diet. I think she knew I needed it because she agreed without much persuading. I ended up going on the Atkins diet and I lost about 12 kilograms in the first month that I was on the diet. I felt amazing. The teasing slowly became less over a period of time and I was coming to terms with my new body. I wasn’t going to win any popularity contest at school but at least I could keep my head down and not be made fun of for a bit.
Momentarily, life felt relatively good. For the first time in years, I was able to walk into a store and find something to wear without leaving in tears. I could wear a jean instead of sweatpants, because I could finally find one that fit. I still kept to myself and had little to no friends but I was happier.
"I had stopped eating completely, I don't know how I didn't die"
One thing did however change, at the time I didn’t know it but I was obsessing. I was counting the calories of every single thing I was putting into my body. I wanted to see how far I could push myself and before I knew it I had stopped eating completely. I became convinced that if I started eating I would put on weight again. The compliments came streaming in and I often got asked how I managed to do it. I knew that saying ‘’starvation’’ wasn’t exactly the answer people were looking for so I said that I was just sticking to a strict no carb diet and they bought it.
Every day I dropped a little more weight. I started hiding food in my room and told my mom I had eaten when I hadn’t. My relationship with food changed from loving it, to not wanting to touch it. This went on for years. I would only eat when I absolutely had to, like when I had a family dinner and people were watching me. If I did eat a meal, I felt like I needed to punish myself for it so I would then starve myself for a week thereafter where I would eat nothing.
This is how I lived from the age of 12 until only very recently. I don’t know how I didn’t die.
It almost ruined my life. It took me 17 years to improve on this behavior. It took me over a decade to realize that it is OK if you have a meal and it is OK if you don’t step on the scale four times a day. That is the hardest part for me.
I have only recently ‘’won’’ the fight against the scale where I don’t weigh myself every day. It was not easy and it is something you continuously have to work on. It’s taken me years of battling my minds negative thoughts and self-hatred. It’s a process where you have to train and direct your mind and your thought process to change. You have to decide if you want to continue living in constant anxiety or if you want to actually live.
Here are some ways I face my irrational fears of stepping on the scale and weight gain:
You have to want it
My obsession about my weight was taking over every aspect of my life. It consumed my every thought and it was ruining my relationship. I remember seeing my partner's face during one of my weight meltdowns and realizing how much time he spent listening to me complain about how ''fat'' I was. I didn’t even realize when I was doing it anymore. I wanted to change. I needed to change. If not for me, for him. I wanted him to be with someone that was not always negative and self-absorbed. I was tired of being so damn miserable.
Losing weight won’t fix your problems
For so long I genuinely thought that if I could just drop a few more pounds, all my problems would disappear and I could finally be happy. I knew in the back of my mind, this was not true. My weight was like a yo-yo and I still had the very same problems I had before I lost weight staring me in the face. When I decided to redirect my energy into solving my problems and facing my issues instead of weighing myself constantly, life changed.
Get rid of your scale
This is a tough one. I have 4 scales in my home. At one point there was a scale in every room. One in my bedroom, spare bedroom, bathroom and lounge. I weighed myself constantly. Now, I refrain from doing so. I have only one scale and I choose to walk past it. I am not saying I never check my weight but it has gone from more than twice a day to perhaps once a week. Which for me, is a major improvement. Getting rid of your scale makes it difficult for you to obsess about what you see on the scale. Eventually, before you realize it, days have gone past without you weighing yourself.
Be kind to your body
Treat your body like it is the only one you will ever have – because it is! If your heart 's still beating and your lungs still work and you can move your arms and legs, you have a lot to thank your body for. It’s a dramatic act of self-sabotage to walk around sucking your stomach in dreaming of having a body that does not encompass stretch marks. The stretch marks live with us and there is nothing we can do about it. I choose to see them as battle wounds that have healed.
Focus on surrounding yourself with people that are genuinely good for you. Work on getting the job you want or a hobby that excludes thinking about your weight constantly. Find another source of happiness. See if you have any past hobbies that you forgot about or find a new one.
You have the power to silence those negative thoughts. Once you learn to rewire your brain and recognize your triggers, those blaring thoughts will simmer down to a whisper and eventually completely disappear so you can stay on track and make more important decisions about your life that you can feel good about.
It’s unrealistic to think that we can overcome the fears we have in one day. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. There’s a hundred different things that make us who we are. It is not just defined by the number on the scale. You are still the same person even if the number goes up or down a bit.
This change in perspective helps me look at the scale in a more positive manner and helps me reduce the fear of what I see on the scale. I now see the scale as a tool I can use to track my body’s growth process and not the enemy.