If you follow me on Facebook or read my blog regularly, then you probably know that I am an advocate of body image rehabilitation and of creating a healthy, balanced lifestyle that places power in positive choices instead of a number on the scale.
For me, this is personal. I have been through the chaos of finding balance and health for my body and lifestyle. And I want to help others avoid finding themselves there, and help create awareness among those who are lost in that cycle right now.
From the time I was a young adult, I was well-aware of my scale weight. And rarely did I like the number I saw on that thing. The pursuit of that number ran my life, affected my moods, and determined my satisfaction with myself and my choices. I wanted to be “skinny” and look good and feel confident.
And the message I was getting from the world (and my doctor) was that I should be concerned about how much I weigh – even though I was not obese or markedly unhealthy. At that time of my life, I did not have any sense of the relationship between whether I was “skinny” or healthy. I truly assumed that my health was not affected adversely by trying to get “skinny” – the less I weighed, the better is what I thought. I thought that if I could “get there” then I’d be happy, confident, & satisfied.
And when I say skinny, I mean – that was not EASY for me. I had been in this battle with myself since age 15 and had already been on many diets by the time I was in my thirties and had three kids. Getting smaller took A LOT of work and determination – I had experienced that my whole life. Making that number drop on the scale was a grueling process.
Actually, it was a grueling CYCLE. Because it took so much effort and deprivation to get that number to drop, my weight would never stay there – it wasn’t at all sustainable and most of time I was living in a state that didn’t give me any enjoyment. So I yo yo-ed back and forth for years – and as I would realize later in my life, to the detriment of my physical and mental health.
There is a lot that I could go into detail about from that time.
But that is not the purpose of this post. What I want to convey today is a short story in pictures.
I want to give you a visual of the difference between a life focused on forcing a number on the scale, through very restrictive and chronic dieting (consisting mostly of carbs) plus cardio-only exercise (for me it was running and no weight training) – and contrast that with my current LIFESTYLE that involves strength training, little to no cardio, and a well-balanced diet that includes a range of foods that I enjoy and work for me. In addition to those behavioural differences, my physical and mental health improvements are also significant.
I stopped creating goals around a number on the scale, and focused on a life of GAINING health, balance, and strength.
I stopped trying to break my body down so it would cooperate on the scale, and started working on building it up.
Here is the physical result in pictures:
**Please note: these are not figure competition photos or taken on any particular day for any special purpose. These are just the real me on an average day, eating normal food, and exercising in moderation. I am not naturally lean or athletic and I have stretch marks from 3 pregnancies and loose skin on my tummy, which will never go away. Often we see photos for comparison that show a “before” and an “after”, where the “after” was taken on stage or for a photo shoot. Those circumstances are not necessarily REALITY or SUSTAINABLE. So be careful where you are looking for inspiration 🙂
The physical changes are only part of what I value from my transformation. Having suffered from depression and severe mood swings for many years, the changes to my diet greatly affected my mental health.
My biggest lesson: our brains need to fed and nourished just as our bodies do.
Health isn’t about a number. Sure, a healthy number is important – but don’t assume that your actual health is determined by the number. When I forced my body into “skinny”, I actually had an unhealthy ratio of fat to lean tissue on my body. My body was able to change in a healthier way by giving it the fuel it needed for lean tissue development and for nourishment and maintenance of all my physiological needs – and that includes mental health as well.
The other problem with forcing my body into “skinny” was that I simply couldn’t maintain it. For the benefit of my long-term health, I had to change my diet and exercise habits into something that could be a maintainable lifestyle so that I was no longer having to live in the extremes that were deteriorating my health over the long run.
That is essentially what the journey in these photos represents.
Here’s what I want you to know:
- Don’t tie yourself to a number that does not reflect a state of balanced health and nourished lifestyle.
- Remember that there is more to the shape of your body beyond staying within an “ideal” weight.
- Your body can change for the better without ever knowing or keeping track of your weight – focus on behaviours and health markers.
- Know yourself. Be kind to yourself. Respect the body and life YOU have been blessed with.
- Understand that good health and a fit body is something that should feel good and natural – if it has to be “constructed” then it may not be the best for YOU.