Updated: Mar 4, 2021
How do we celebrate our bodies without feeling guilty?
How do we put less pressure on ourselves?
What does “being healthy” truly mean?
How do we achieve a healthy body and mind at the same time?
When do we cross the line between accountability and obsessive behaviors?
How do we stop punishing ourselves with food and exercise choices?
It’s astonishingly scary how young body shaming can start. To the young eight year old who wants to be skinny like the other little girls, I hear you. To the overweight teen about to embark on the world with zero self-esteem, I hear you. To the girl who lost weight but feels stressed and obsessed, I hear you. To the girl that has gained some weight back and feels hopeless, I hear you.
Having a healthy body image is something we all strive for. Whether we are looking to lose 20+ pounds, gain weight, or if we want that toned Instagram body. Perhaps we simply want to obtain a healthy BMI. There’s great emphasis on looking a certain way, rather than what it takes to achieve that end goal, and how it affects our mindset in the process. It seems like it’s hard in today’s world to have both at the same time.
In fact, the “end goal” doesn’t and shouldn’t exist. It’s not about the before and after, it’s about the journey. True health never ends. It’s a mind, body, soul connection, the trifecta of optimal living.
Having a healthy mind should be first and foremost be #1. We should put mental health on a pedestal, rather than our image. Healthy minds equal healthy habits, which in turn can create healthy patterns. Bodies are comparable to engines and if one faulty part breaks down, it simply cannot work.
Someone will always have an opinion, from a size 2 to 22, but only we know our true deep selves.
At my heaviest, I was just over 180 pounds and in my eyes, the weight packed on rather fast. In high school, I never ate lunch because every time I ate my face got ”puffy.” I starved myself most of the day, and binged when I got home before dinner. At almost 5’9, I hid it well which was an advantage, until it wasn’t a great gift anymore. I felt blind-sighted. My jeans were getting smaller. I had to always pull them up and constantly had new holes forming at the seams. I looked back on pictures feeling unrecognizable. The look in my eyes painted a sad, painful picture.
I knew I had to make a change after my spinal surgery. That was my transformative moment. After my healing journey, I started eating slightly better, and then I started eating less. It wasn’t the best choice in the world, as I was probably eating under my caloric needs, but over time it helped. I was definitely getting by and felt great in the beginning. My clothes were getting bigger. My face wasn’t as swollen in pictures. I was eating low-calorie everything, often felt faint, and thought I was doing the right thing.
After losing 20 pounds, I started working out for the first time in my life on a regular basis. I then lost another 20 pounds and felt endorphins I never knew existed. However, some days I barely had the energy to get through my workout. Inside I felt weak. I remember eating 100 calories for breakfast, 100 calories for lunch, and then for dinner, I could eat a “real” meal and eat anything I wanted. That was a dangerous slope, to say the least, especially while exercising.
I didn’t care about artificial sugars and chemicals. I remember eating 45 calorie turkey hotdogs for lunch, low-calorie yogurt, bars, and salad dressings that were “zero calories” and questionable. I was always hungry and was naive about real nutrition. I had to workout at night because that was the only time I had enough energy.
At my absolute smallest, I was between 138-142 pounds. All the girls in my medical class called me scrawny, but I took it as a compliment. For the first time in my life, I felt like I accepted my body and was “one of the smaller girls” at last.
After adopting healthier habits and two years later, I became an online health and fitness coach. It was a blessing at the time, and I learned a lot. I cultivated confidence within I never knew existed. I also learned a lot about my eating habits. I was in fact eating way fewer calories than I thought. I couldn’t believe people around me ate 1,500 calories with killer results.
That gave me the extra boost of confidence to incorporate more calories into my diet, along with working out hard. I saw results, the scale gradually increased to 148-150 lbs, had a ton of energy, and I felt like that was MY sweet spot. I even had a little muscle definition. I felt happy, secure, motivated, and stable with my eating habits, as well as my daily activity.
For a moment in time, I felt healthy in every way. I ate well, moved my body with cardio, lifted heavier weights, and even did yoga. I had peace of mind. I could turn off the “go, go, go” switch and relaxed when needed. I finally found balance. I solely did at home workouts for a few years on my own, but then went to the gym as well consistently for a year.
By then, I worked out twice a day for most days of the week. My mental clarity was on point, for about a year or two anyway. Personally, over time I reached a level where I couldn’t work out any harder. I couldn’t eat more without the fear of gaining weight. I counted every single calorie. A constant battle back and forth, and I never felt relaxed nor satisfied. I felt like I could always be doing more.
Were there times that I was obsessive about my workouts?
Were there times I still critiqued my body?
Were there times I still restricted myself nutritionally?
Were there times I would “punish” myself if I wasn’t below a certain calorie deficit for the day, by adding another workout in?
Yes to all of the above! Life happens and we are human. We lose weight. We gain weight. We can become obsessed with measuring every body part, the scale, and how we feel when those endorphins kick in.
Be aware of personal triggers. Accept the fact that how we look in a bikini doesn’t define us. Fluctuation is normal. True health is far greater. Appreciate what our bodies can do. We may have a health issue where we cannot exercise like we once did, so take advantage of where we are in life.
The key is to calibrate ourselves with each twist and turn in life. Let's give ourselves grace. Be gentle and delicate with words. Move our bodies when we can, without guilt and obsession.
Instead of food restriction, focus on what we can do to simply nourish.
Let’s nourish our bodies with an abundance of vitamins and minerals. Focus on sustaining our needs to not just survive, but to thrive internally. To reduce inflammation, disease, and to overall heal our gut as much as we can. Food can be medicine, and that should be our focus, especially for long-term success.
I am a huge believer in eating real whole food items for most of our food intake, organic when possible. If we eat right, we can feel fully alive without chemicals and pesticides. Processed food items should be limited, even if they are deemed “healthy” by some companies or standards. Always go with your gut.
Never deprive, stay alive, and create healthy boundaries.
When we feel unbelievable on the inside, it will naturally radiate outward. That should be the priority. When we begin to look and feel better, that will give us the gentle push to move our bodies little by little in a sustainable way.
Start simple, that’s all we can do.
Loving ourselves fully, always.
Nourish the body.
Nourish the soul.