The truth is, we are not born hating our bodies. We are not born with the impulse to diet, to lose weight, to change the way we look. Yet somewhere along the way, we learn to distrust ourselves.
When I was around 15 years old I lost all sense of trust with my body. I saw girls around me go on water diets, talk about their fat like it was poison and ultimately I grew up with the perception that fat is one of the worst things a woman can be. I saw how my own body was changing – growing hips and a bum, acquiring stretch marks on my legs, filling out in all the places that, as a woman, we naturally do, yet being disgusted about it due to the culture I grew up in, that spreads the same message over and over:
Thin = Health. Thin = Success. Thin = Happiness.
See, some of us are born with a genetic predisposition to traits of perfectionism and even body dissatisfaction, but it is society that teaches us to distrust our bodies. It tells us we can’t possibly know what’s best for us and we shouldn’t rely our own bodies hunger and satiety signals to tell us what and when to eat. Instead, it teaches us from a young age to follow diet plans, count calories or macros and as women we should always strive to “watch what we eat” and “watch our figure”. It is our duty as females to do this, and in this day and age it is SO unusual to talk to a woman who eats normally, who isn’t watching her weight and who has never dieted in her life. Can you think of anyone?
When I started counting calories, I couldn’t stop. The above photo was at my year 11 prom. That year was the year I vowed to lose weight, and I lost around 4kg in a couple of months before this photo. It may not seem like much but for a young girl the damage I was doing to myself was horrific. I did this for the best part of 5 years and eventually my body gave up. I stopped listening to her so she stopped talking. She stopped telling me when she was hungry, or signal when I should stop eating. The only things I could detect were extreme hunger or extreme fullness – both very uncomfortable situations. I lost the subtlety of my internal hunger and satiety signals, and after 2 years of solidly working on this, I still can’t call myself a completely “normal” eater (because really, what IS normal eating?) I’m terrified of being hungry due to years of restriction, and similarly I fear being too full, as it reminds me of past binges and the hatred and guilt I always felt after it. But I’m learning and I’m trusting myself again, and I listen really bloody hard to my body every single day.
So why do we trust external influences such as apps (R.I.P MyFitnessPal) and diet plans more than we trust our own bodies? And the simple answer is WEIGHT. We as a culture are TERRIFIED of becoming fat, yet ironically it is when we started obsessing and restricting and dieting that the prevalence of obesity started to steadily increase. Think about it – you don’t trust yourself to have cake or cookies or chocolate in the house. You don’t allow yourself to eat it because you fear you’ll binge on it. And what ultimately happens? You obsess about the forbidden food. And the first chance you get you eat it all as you won’t be “allowed” it tomorrow. Binging is ALWAYS a result of restriction, whether that be physical or emotional. Instead, when you tell yourself you can eat it whenever you want, it loses its power over you. We are so afraid of putting on weight and letting go of control and being “unhealthy” that we are willing to lose all of our self-trust in the process.
Health is not a size. Your body is an AMAZING vehicle and it deserves to be listened to – honour your hunger, trust your intuition and let go of the rules and regulations around food and exercise. You are the expert of your body, and the sooner we start owning this, the sooner we allow our relationships with food to thrive. Eat the pizza, the easter egg, the green smoothie, and just trust that your body will lead you to exactly where it needs to be.
p.s. I HIGHLY recommend the book Intuitive Eating. It changed my life and my whole relationship with food and myself!
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