While as a culture we focus endlessly on healthy eating, most of us can’t seem to maintain the picture perfect ideal. In the end these healthy intentions and goals seem to keep nudging us away from health and deeper into the shadows of shame and guilt.
Why? Because perfect is not a destination or even a possibility. Plus, those shaming thoughts around weight and body are the very thing that induce emotional eating and general out-of-control feelings around food. The well styled pictures in magazines and on the internet of “healthy” food and skinny bodies aren’t the motivation it seems they might be (and advertisers know this).
It feels like it, though. We feel our goodness increase with the idea of starting a new military style workout or deciding to eat “clean” starting on Monday morning. We get blinded yet again by the empty promise that things will be better at some future date when we’re smaller and healthier. We’ll be better mothers, wives, friends, humans if we work hard enough on how we look.
If we’re honest, we know that if any of it truly worked we’d do it, stick to it and never look back because life as we know it would be all sunshine, rainbows and bikinis.
I talk to so many women who are about to get back on track, are going to really commit to their health this time and make it a priority because they’ve “let themselves go” or failed. Each time I hear this I cringe a little and desperately want to give them a hug and remind them there is nothing wrong with them and the only thing they let go of was the belief that they deserve to take care of themselves.
Generally, when women say they are making health a priority it doesn’t mean they’ll go to bed earlier or stop doing everything for everyone or begin a meditation/mindfulness practice or take that art class just because they feel like it. It means they’re going to eat differently and try to work out more, instead of take care of their whole selves, they’re going to try to look better.
I cringe because it breaks my heart that every day incredible women can acknowledge they need more rest or a creative outlet or a career change but they don’t feel like they deserve it until their diet and exercise is “under control,” or until their bodies look a certain way.
The truth is that we’re not a bunch of broken birds who need to eat better.
But we might be confused birds who have been led to believe that our worth is dependent upon the size and shape of our body or the “clean”ness of our diets. And if we don’t have those things under control we are told we are failing and we also need to apologize for it - which is why women so often body shame themselves and other women. It’s why it is often a center of conversation among us.
As a woman, my worth is not found in the food I eat or the way I exercise, yet that is the culture we live in. I bet you’re following what I’m saying but in the back of your mind wondering, “what about health and nutrition?”
To that I say health is about much, much more than diet and exercise. And nutrition is an important piece of the puzzle when it’s not used as metric for your worthiness or your guilt.
Most of the women I work with, my 4-years-ago-self included, will talk about wanting good nutrition because we don’t want to get sick or want to prevent illness and to some degree that’s probably true, but when we dig a little deeper, the motivation is not general health, it’s weight and body size.
It’s not UNTIL we challenge this culture of perfection telling women our worth is in how our bodies look and UNTIL we practice self-compassion and acceptance in the skin we are in today that we can truly have the conversation about health that isn’t just a facade and another attempt at weight loss.
You are a strong woman who does not need to be bullied by a culture that rewards certain bodies and shames others. You do not have to earn your right to take care of yourself by focusing on diet and exercise first and hoping once your butt shrinks then you’ll be worth taking care of.
You can feel good for the sake of feeling good and you get to choose how, it’s called freedom.