“I really need to lose some weight. Right now I weigh 105 lbs.”
—Me, writing in my diary when I was 11 years old
You can imagine how I felt when I found this diary entry recently. I don’t remember ever worrying about my weight at such a young age! I am sad. The fact that I even wrote those words means I was already conscious — at 11 years old — of how we judge ourselves by how much we weigh.
My diary also informs me that my height at the time was 5 feet tall. A healthy height and healthy weight at 11 years old, but not in my head. More than three decades later, I am exactly 7 inches taller and about 30 pounds more. Yet in my head, my perspective on my weight has not really changed.
Even with a wealth of experience in the fitness industry and staying active my entire life, I have spent most of my adult years worrying about my weight — despite never having any real weight issues. Sure, at times I weighed more. At times I also weighed less. My clothes have gotten a bit snug a few times. They’ve also hung off me a few times. But even at my thinnest, I didn’t find peace or satisfaction. Instead, I never quit worrying I would gain that weight back. And when I did get back to a healthy weight, I would just keep on worrying.
Most men seem immune, but I have not met many women who don’t worry about their weight and their body. We stress about it, talk about and think about it a lot. Athletes, thin women, height-weight proportionate women, heavier but still healthy women, overweight women, obese women. All ages and income levels. I don’t mean to disrespect you if losing weight is a struggle for you, because it is for a lot of people, and that is truly legitimate. But stressing about and judging ourselves for what we weigh detracts from who we really are, our strengths and talents, and everything we have accomplished and have yet to accomplish in our lives. And I can hardly mention the shocking vitriolic self-criticism I have seen clients and friends direct against themselves and their bodies! We weaponize our own feelings against our own selves in terrible debilitating ways. We have to stop this!
So, whatever your health and fitness goals are, worry is counter-productive. When I think of all the years I agonized about my weight, I am so regretful. My worry didn’t motive me, energize me, or change much in the way that I conducted myself. Instead, it sapped my energy, drained me and didn’t support me in being healthy or happy. I’m wore out. And I am done!
Let’s not do this anymore, shall we? Let’s be kinder and gentler to ourselves. Let’s quit obsessing over calories and eat when we’re hungry and choose not to eat when we’re not hungry. Let’s dial in to our bodies. Let’s eat more fruits and veggies and whole grains and lean protein instead of processed empty calorie foods. Let’s drink less alcohol, or none at all. Let’s get on the scale less and take the stairs more. Let’s dish out smaller portions or use smaller plates. Let’s lift weights more for lean body mass instead of prioritizing cardiovascular work as a means to burn calories. Let’s focus on slow and steady long-term changes and less on strict and punishing diets. Let’s fuel ourselves instead of stuff ourselves. Let’s stop the negative self-talk and treat yourself as you as you would a loved one or dear friend. Let’s cut ourselves some slack, and allow a day off to recover. Let’s prioritize time with friends, supporting ourselves so that we can support the people we love. Let’s have fun working out instead of doing it for a “result.” Let’s live a balanced life, and if life brings you out of whack, plan to get back into balance instead of beating yourself up for being human. Let’s sleep in more often. Let’s give ourselves permission to tell the family that we need some “me time.” Let’s think less about how big our legs are and more about how we are healthy and lucky to be able to move. Let’s find room in our budget for a trainer and a program to support our goals. Let’s surround ourselves with supportive people. Let’s remind ourselves that we deserve to be lifted up not dragged down by our own self-talk.
You can do this. I can do this. Please stop worrying about your weight and I will too.
Let’s do this!
I was greatly inspired to write this column by an excellent book I read recently. Dr. Stacy Sims’ book Roar: How To Match Your Food And Fitness To Your Female Physiology Optimum Performance, Great Health, And A Strong Lean Body For Life is something I would recommend for every woman, active, sedentary or somewhere in between.
Coach Pritam Potts is a writer and strength coach. After 16+ years of training athletes and clients of all ages as co-owner of Edmonds-based Advanced Athlete LLC, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. She writes about health & fitness, grief & loss, love & life at www.advancedathlete.com.