Diet culture creates the perception that being smaller is the only way that healthy looks. But how healthy can that be when your happiness is at stake?
Finding happiness isn’t as easy as just wearing a smaller size. People in all walks of life in different shapes and sizes swear they will be happier at a smaller size. Except no matter what size they are or have been, they rarely find themselves truly happy.
And how can we not want to be smaller when the world around us praises weight loss?
It’s truly a terrifying thought when you reflect on what it actually means: comments of encouragement that you may be depriving yourself, nutritionally and mentally.
For many, the fear of comments they would receive from not pursuing weight loss is the driving force for disordered behavior. What will people say if my body changes? Will I still be loved? Will people still think I’m smart, pretty, and acceptable?
Here is the truth: we simply give these arbitrary sizes too much power.
The reality is, people’s problems do not just disappear when they are smaller. Why do we perceive that being a smaller size will make everything better? If a person loses weight, physical objects such as your pants or the scale begin to provide external validation. As you receive praise for losing weight, the reward system in your brain is activated and you temporarily feel a high, or a false sense of achievement and belonging. As this trend continues, external validation becomes the only way we are able to feel worthy. If this sounds familiar, you aren’t alone and it isn’t your fault.
It’s human nature to want to feel accepted, loved, and adored.
At some point, you can no longer fight biology and weight loss stops because you simply can’t: 95% of diets fail because your body wants to be at its set point weight. That’s when the external validation stops, and it is automatically assumed that we aren’t acceptable or have failed. This feeling of insecurity is uncomfortable and we will do anything to find that validation again. Restricting more seems like the answer, but engaging in dieting only exacerbates the problem.
The need to be even smaller continues and the cycle continues.
It’s in these moments that it becomes more important to realize stability or true happiness can’t be found from external validation. The sense of accomplishment felt from dropping a few pounds is only temporary. To successfully break this cycle means you must be able to derive your own internal validation.
Having a healthy relationship with your body means you are able to accept your natural weight and feel accomplished by the way you treat yourself. It means tuning in to your hunger and fullness cues, honoring cravings, moving intuitively, eating a variety of foods, and treating yourself with compassion.
When you stop obsessing over your size, things that actually matter in life become more important, such as being creative and having meaningful relationships with people. With less hate, you are able to experience more fulfillment and joy.
Your body is going to change multiple times throughout your life: it is inevitable. Cultivate pride for what your body can do, the places it will take you, and the experiences you will have.
True happiness is feeling freedom from having to manage your size.
Adapted from the original article.
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Haley Goodrich, RD, LDN is a private practice Registered Dietitian based in Pittsburgh, PA inspiring others to have a healthy relationship with food. Specializing in disordered eating, intuitive eating, and digestive health, Haley’s mission is to show that healthy doesn’t have to be restrictive or defined by how you compare to others. To stay inspired to be your healthiest you, visit Haley at INSPIRD Nutrition.