Like most young girls in their adolescent years, I had a fear of being fat. A study conducted by researchers at the University of College London and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that two out of three 13-year old girls have a fear of gaining weight. I have struggled with this fear for most of my life. A few years ago I began facing it head on.
I wasn’t happy with the way I was eating or my exercise habits. I wanted more, I wanted to enjoy food and take my knowledge of nutrition and incorporate it into the foods I was eating. I didn’t want to be a Registered Dietitian that ate little to no fruits or vegetables every day. I wanted to practice what I preached. I knew I had to target my fear of gaining weight in order to be happier with my career choice and my daily food and activity choices. I focused on the following five areas that were perpetuating my fear to overcome it.
Every New Year I would set a goal to lose ‘X’ amount of weight by summer so I would be able to wear my bikini. Each time June came around, I still hadn’t lost the weight. I would skip out on trips to the local quarry with friends because I couldn’t bear the thought of them seeing me in my bathing suit. Eventually I realized that each year I was setting myself up for failure. The goals had no tangible outcome for me. I had no idea if I’d actually be happier with my body after I lost the weight; I just imagined that I would.
I started changing my goals so that I was getting more out of them. Instead of losing weight, I challenged myself to complete a 30 Day Yoga Challenge, learn how to do handstands, to participate in 5 kilometer runs and to complete a “100 Happy Days” challenge. These goals were not only more meaningful but when I accomplished them, I felt proud of myself. The focus was no longer on my weight, but on my physical and mental abilities.
For a large majority of my life, my fear of gaining weight kept me from trying new foods. I knew just how much of my favorite foods I could eat without gaining weight. As you can imagine, this gets boring.
I challenged myself for an entire month to search my local supermarket for one new food to try each day. I discovered 30 new foods, some I liked and some I disliked. This challenge helped me see past the foods that I clung to for survival. I was able to see the variety of foods we are blessed with. I’m no longer scared to try new foods and food doesn’t equal weight gain to me anymore.
The foods that I clung onto for so long were easy to make, they were simple and required little to no time in the kitchen. This took a lot of the thought process out of my food choices. I simply reached my cupboard for cereal or made a quick grilled cheese. As long as the scale stayed the same, I didn’t question it much.
Once I started challenging myself to try new foods, I had to figure out how to prepare these foods. I started looking up new recipes, trying different techniques, and eventually making my own recipes. Cooking became a form of therapy for me and I was proud of my new cooking skills. I realized I could make delicious, nutritious, and beautiful meals that I was excited to eat. Again, the focus wasn’t on my weight but on this new skill I was working on.
I had spurts where I would be in and out of gyms. I never really enjoyed going to the gym but I did it because I had an overwhelming desire to lose weight. However, since I could never consistently keep going back to the gym, I never saw much improvement. I had a love/hate relationship with fitness.
It wasn’t until a friend told me about a local Zumba class in town that I decided to try. Zumba was completely different from anything I had tried, I loved it! The loud music, the feeling of community and a no judgement space. I had such a love for Zumba that it wasn’t even about losing weight anymore; I went just because it was so fun!
No Judgement Zone
I was always so obsessed with my own weight that I rarely gave much thought or mention to others’ weight. However, I would always feel a sting inside when a friend or co-worker would make fun of someone we saw. I knew what it felt like to be insecure and to be picked on.
I made a pact with myself that I wouldn’t judge others’ weight. I began speaking up when I heard someone say something about others and I removed myself from the situation. I didn’t want to surround myself with people that made my fears and insecurities worse. It’s important that if you are trying to overcome an obsession with your body that you learn not to judge others for the same thing.
My obsession with my weight and my fear of gaining weight is nothing compared to what it used to be. I would be lying if I said it was completely gone. Each day I make conscious choices to live a more mindful and meaningful life especially when it comes to judging my weight. I try to pick foods that will nourish my body more often than not. I try to get active in a fun way each day. Most importantly, I remind myself daily to appreciate the body that I have and to take care of it to the best of my abilities.