My late teens and early twenties were when I first discovered “healthy living”. I read the health section in the newspaper and sought advice from women’s fitness magazines.
I say my interest was in “healthy living” because I equated being healthy with reaching my ideal weight. I had no idea being healthy meant actually feeling happy and well. Or that being healthy meant loving and respecting your body, at any size.
The so called healthy life I lived for over a decade saw me weighing myself daily. It meant eating plates of only vegetables (with no fat or protein) for lunch and eating “perfectly portioned” plain rice crackers for lunch. It meant counting calories obsessively – both what went in and what I burnt at the gym.
And while the way I ate adhered to the diet plans always found in women’s health magazines, it was a diet lacking in enough calories, vitamins and minerals, and most importantly, any kind of enjoyment.
My whole life (what I ate, how I moved and my mindset) was weight driven. It was driven by an unhealthy obsession with losing weight.
I may have thought I was being healthy but I most certainly wasn’t. And seeing the scales drop made me momentarily happy, but I certainly didn’t feel good.
The longer I tried to restrict myself the harder it became. This then led to binge eating which is a habit that took so many, many years to break.
A number on the scales or the size of my pants doesn’t mean much when it comes to being healthy. It took me a long time to realise it, but being fixated on my weight was far from healthy.
Everything I was doing – the food I ate, the way I exercised and my self-talk – was weight driven. It was not health driven.
Being weight driven is why I counted calories. It’s why I started every day by stepping on the scales. It’s why I was so attached to knowing exactly what I weighed that I travelled around Europe with a set of scales in my suitcase. For 6 months.
Fast forward to today, where I’m inspired by feeling great in my mind and body. My birthday is fast approaching and in previous years I would always set myself the goal of losing 5 kilos in the weeks leading up to the big day.
No matter how much I weighed, it was always 5 kilos. I thought I’d be happy once I’d lost the weight. I thought I would feel good about myself then. I thought it would make me healthy.
For the last couple of years I haven’t set a pre-birthday weight loss goal. And even with all that my body has been through in the last year, I haven’t set one this year either.
I know that weighing a certain number won’t make me healthy or happy. Instead I’ve found health through self-love.
I nourish my body because I love it, not because I want to change it. I no longer base my happiness on a number, instead it’s based on feeling good in my body, mind and soul.
These days I focus on my overall health, not just a number on the scales.
Being pregnant and this postpartum period has really highlighted how far I’ve come. It makes it clear that I really have moved on from being driven by my weight.
Admittedly I didn’t gain a huge amount of weight while pregnant, but I loved watching my body soften and grow. It was exciting to watch my weight creep up – it meant my baby was growing. Throughout my pregnancy I chose to eat foods that would help my body make a baby. And I moved in ways that would help me in labour.
Now I’m breastfeeding and choosing to eat foods that will nourish both of us. I’m exercising not to lose weight but to get back to my old fitness levels. I’m doing things that make me feel good and I’m not consciously doing anything to chase a certain weight.
What’s more important to you – feeling good or reaching a certain weight?
It’s a really interesting question to ask yourself and you may be surprised by the answer.
Do you eat well to feel good or do you eat only “clean foods” to lose weight?
Do you move your body to feel energised and fit or do you exercise to burn as many calories as possible?
Do you look after yourself so that you feel happy in your own skin or do you “look after yourself” so that you can fit into your skinny jeans?
There really is a huge difference between being driven by health compared with being driven by your weight.
Being health conscious feels good on so many levels, being weight conscious rarely ever feels good.
So choose health.
Weight is just a number – a meaningless one at that. Health is a feeling – one that you can experience every day.
*(This post was inspired by an Instagram picture shared by Jessica Sepel).