What I Learned From Gaining 45lbs (And Losing Them Again)
[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ody positivity has never been my thing. Far from it in fact. I always struggled with body image, and a few years ago, gaining any amount of weight would have been daunting, frustrating and put bluntly - my worst nightmare. Low and behold, a pregnancy, a newborn, two years and 45lbs later, last year I was resenting my body and every single pound I had gained. The last two years have been years of ups and downs, both on the scale and in my mind, but I am now in the best place with my body image I have ever been. I always thought that losing the weight would be the most rewarding part, but as I get close to the body I had before falling pregnant, I've now realised there is one thing I can thank my 45lbs for - the trusty life lessons that came with them. There is nothing ground breaking here, but there were three key lessons that stood out to me' as game changers when it came to my own body image, and the way I feel about myself...
1. Numbers Mean Nothing
I don't have a scale, and I don't want one.
I've gone from being the person who would weigh herself daily, to someone who no longer can understand the gratification I once got from the number. I cannot think of one single benefit that comes from knowing what I weigh. It's taken me gaining 45lbs - and the process of watching almost every one of them appear on the scale - for me to realise knowing doesn't help. I could be feeling great about myself, I might have had a great week in terms of healthy food choices and exercise, but if I was to step on that scale and it said otherwise, then that week would have been written off. I could be a dress size smaller, but if the number on the scale didn't move there would always be a little voice in my head telling me my 'diet' wasn't working.
But what do these numbers even mean? We can place so much influence on weight, on how much we weigh, we let it change how we feel about ourselves. But really it means nothing. Our mass means nothing. When we are strolling on the beach, or walking through Tesco, we don't have a number floating above our head that tells everyone what we weigh In real life , how much you weigh means absolutely nothing to anyone else besides the voice in your own head. The day I stopped bothering about what the scale told me was the day I started to really notice the changes in my body. I don’t need to know how much I weigh anymore. I can still aim to look better, to lose fat and to be healthier – but I don’t have to measure those by what I see on the scale. After all, if I was to lose 40lbs, but not be able to see the changes in the mirror or feel them in my body, do I really gain anything?
2. I Am Not A Before It took me gaining the weight to realise that my body is not a transformation project waiting to happen, nor does it have to be.
I used to have this habit of telling had this habit of telling myself that where I was at any given moment was my starting point. I would take pictures of myself to use as my 'before' picture and would commit to a transformation. I would fall off the bandwagon after a few weeks and then retake my new 'before' pictures. I was always looking for the transformation, very rarely (never) happy to accept that my body had been 'in progress' for twenty three years, not just two weeks.
By constantly referring to myself as being in the 'before' category, I was never giving myself the reward of having already done some of the work. I was always waiting or my transformation, for this after picture and I was always disappointed when it didn't happen.
Here's a crazy thought though. What if I just stopped waiting for the 'after'?
Imagine a world where we don’t have to start again on Monday. A world where we could just live, have unhealthy food day when we wanted it, and not punish ourselves for doing so. A world where I can lose weight and gain it as I please, but I don't have to be a before, or an after. What are we even dieting for? It's all very well saying I want to lose ten pounds to feel confident on the beach, or in that dress, but what if I could feel that confident all of the time. I've had my years of focusing on the bad points in my body. I struggled massively with my body image, my body confidence, my body in general. I felt big, I felt unattractive and I was never going to be comparable to women I saw on Instagram. After gaining weight and really evaluating the life and body that I wanted, I've left the negativity behind me. I do not want to preach body positivity, but accepting my body for what it is has transformed the way I feel about myself. I still don't look like the women on Instagram. Do I want to, hell yes. Will I, probably not. I've accepted that my body may not be the way I want it to look in a perfect world, but I'm taking positive steps to make myself feel and look better, and that alone was enough to improve my mindset tenfold. Be Nice To Yourself
3. Positive Goals = Positive Results
For the first time in my life I’m not trying to lose weight, or looking for the scale to go down. Would I like to be leaner, thinner, more Kendall Jenner-esq, of course. But my goals reflect the lifestyle I need to achieve that, rather than the end result. I’m enjoying going to the gym a few times per week without the pressure of needing to lose weight. I’m enjoying eating better meals and being flexible in my approach to healthy eating. I don’t want to diet – the very word makes me agitated, I don't want to restrict and I sure as hell don't want to spend anymore time worrying about how much I weigh. I'm not suggesting I won't try and slim down, or that I am content with the way I look right now. What I am doing is accepting that although I am not where I'd like to be, I'm taking steps to get there.
I used to hate reading about body positivity. I can remember reading Laurens' post about her pre-pregnancy jeans - I was so jealous that she was so in tune with her own body that she was able to accept the changes in her body after having her son for what they were. Just changes - not the end of the world. I used to feel completely out of my depth when people spoke about loving their body after having kids, as I just could not relate. I felt like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place: I could not lose my baby weight, instead I just seemed to be gaining even more, but I was also in no position to love my body for what it was. Yes, I could appreciate that it gave me a beautiful child, but I certainly didn't appreciate the extra rolls or the breathlessness when I took on a flight of stairs. It took me a fair bit of time to come around to the idea, but the three revelations above changed my perspective completely, and I can now firmly say I want to be (and I think I am) part of the body positivity movement.
My body is not perfect and never will be by my own self determined standards, but it can (and will) be healthy and I can still be happy with it while I am on that journey.