In the past eight months, I have gone from living an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle to maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle. With this change, I have lost 40 pounds from my heaviest weight and progressed from barely jogging or walking one mile to registering for my first half-marathon, finding a love for strength training, and learning how to have a healthy relationship with wholesome, nutritious foods.
People ask me whether or not I participated in any sort of highly restrictive diet or if I spent my days counting calories or planning meals and they are usually taken aback when I tell them that I haven’t counted a single calorie throughout this journey.
Instead, I focused on why I had such an unhealthy relationship with food in the first place.
I asked myself why I would turn to sweets when I felt emotionally distressed, and I began to research how having a diet high in wholesome foods helped patients who suffered from anxiety and depression.
I decided to make several changes. I cut out the people in my life who I felt were too negative and hurtful to my personal progress, I quit a job that had been causing me stress, I found a new apartment to live in, and I started buying and preparing whole foods.
Another question many people tend to ask is, “what does your boyfriend think of the change?”.
I did not do this for him. As a couple, we have a deeper connection than physical attraction and, to be frank, I find the question to be a little insensitive as it implies that he had a problem with my figure or that my weight was a determining factor in whether or not our relationship would remain strong.
Questions like this enforce the unhealthy standards society sets us to regarding our physical health.
We are constantly bombarded with advertisements sending highly mixed messages. We are taught to have an emotional and unhealthy relationship with food, yet our self-worth is determined by the number we see when we step onto a scale; we are unlovable if we don’t maintain a certain weight.
Men are told that their self-worth is quantified by their masculinity and how strong they can prove themselves to be, whether by their performance in the weight room or by how stoic their actions are in the face of tragedy. Women are quite a different story, however. From an early age, we are encouraged to look pretty by maintaining a thin frame. When we choose to go on a “fitness journey,” we are told “get thin, but not too thin,” “have curves, but not too many curves,” “lift weights to get toned, but don’t lift too heavy or get too muscular.” It is not hard to understand why it is so difficult for women to live a healthy, active lifestyle.
As a woman speaking to other women who want to go on such a journey, the most important bit of advice that I can give you is to do this for yourself. Do not do it because you think you need validation from a partner. Do not do it because you hate your body. Do not do it because of the arbitrary standards society places on a woman’s body. Do it because you owe it to yourself to discover how empowering it feels to be healthy and strong. Do it because you deserve to have a healthy relationship with food and to love the food you can prepare for yourself or have prepared for you.
Not everyone enjoys waking up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday to bust out seven miles; Zumba, swimming, strength training, biking, climbing trees, yoga, you name it. Find an activity that makes you happy. Finding a healthy activity that you enjoy will help you stick to a fitness routine better than forcing yourself through an activity you dread facing every day. Adopt a lifestyle that complements your strengths and encourages you to express them.