American society wants you to lose weight. The cultural standards of beauty and self-worth praise extremely thin bodies that are not a reality for most Americans. At the same time, the social prejudice against fat people increases every day. We’ve been taught that we have to be thin to be healthy, socially accepted and loved. But what America’s weight obsession really taught us is to hate our bodies.
Did you know that, at any given time, 33% to 40% of adult American women are trying to lose weight? A recent survey conducted by Mc Neil Nutritionals, LLC, and “SHAPE Magazine” showed that 81% of the women polled don’t think they are at their ideal weight. But what is ideal weight, anyway? The official numbers we have today are based on weight-height tables that are just too simplistic to accommodate human diversity. Is it healthy to obsess about a number? I don’t think so.
Magazines, advertisements, movies, and TV shows glamorize skinny bodies, and many of us believe that appearance and thinness are so important that they need to be chased no matter what. As Carrie Myers, wellness coach and author of “Squeezing Your Size 14 Self into a Size 6 World,” points out in her book that those women try desperately to fit into molds showcased by the media. When we can’t fulfill these expectations, we end up feeling like a failure and blame ourselves for not trying hard enough. Oh, but if we don’t obsess about our weight, people will say that we don’t have self-respect. You know what the pursuit of the perfect body has brought us? Social discrimination, self-hatred, eating disorders, compulsive exercising, body abuses and yo-yo weight loss. Why keep going that way, if we already know that it won’t do us any good?
Now, ask yourself why you think you need to lose weight. Is it because you feel that people will love you more, or you will feel better accepted by society? Is it because people (family and friends) keep telling you that you need to lose weight? Do you think you would be happier if you were thinner?
If you are solely worried about your health, I have good news for you. There is no scientific evidence that heavier people are at increased risk of mortality (except in extreme cases, but extreme thinness is also risky). Also, being thin is not indicative of being healthy (being skinny and sedentary is worse than being heavy and active). Fitness level is a far better health indicator than weight alone.
If you are trying to fit into pre-formed molds, you should reconsider your options. I understand that it is really hard to let go of these feelings, especially when we are often reminded by society that we are only worthy if we are thin. It will take some time for you to get used to the idea that fighting nature’s will is a lost battle. Consider this – don’t you think that accepting your body is a much better way to take care of yourself than going through crazy diets, unsafe drugs or body mutilations (also known as surgeries)?
Let’s face it. Body weight is determined by a combination of several factors (such as genes, metabolism, behavior, environment, culture, and socioeconomic status), many of which we can’t control. We are born in different body types and shapes, and there is not much we can do about it. There is a quote from Fernando Sabino, a Brazilian journalist and writer, that fits perfectly here: “If there is no solution, then it is already solved.” Why are we investing so much energy in something that is out of our control?
It is time to stop worrying about things you can’t change, and learn to love what you have. After all, you are stuck in this body for life, and it is your responsibility to honor and respect it. I think it is human nature to desire what we don’t/can’t have, maybe because complaining is easier than dealing with our true issues. We never seem to be happy with what we have. Women are especially inclined to have negative perceptions about body image. We waste a lot of time and energy worrying about silly “imperfections” and don’t even notice our true assets, things that make us special and unique. These kinds of thoughts can undermine your confidence, especially when you tend to compare yourself to others. To recover our self-respect, we need to learn to appreciate what the mirror shows us, because beauty comes in different shapes and sizes.
That’s exactly what the movement “Health at Every Size (HAES)” is trying to accomplish. It encourages people to accept and respect their bodies the way they are. However, it does support the adoption of lifestyle changes (eating better and exercising regularly) for the sake of health. For HAES, a healthy weight is the weight a person maintains while living a healthy life. There is no ideal body size, shape or weight; so you can finally relax and enjoy your life. By getting your weight out of the spotlight, you are free to focus on more important aspects of your life such as enjoying deliciously nutritious food and finding physical activities you love. When you assume healthier behaviors, you are more likely to see improvements in your health status. Your body will set your healthy weight (the one it is comfortable to work with).
So, don’t make weight-loss your one and only goal. Focus your efforts on achieving better life quality, instead. After all, we should strive to live a long, happy life, not the life someone we don’t even know thinks we should be living.
 From “Mathematical Modeling in Experimental Nutrition,” by Andrew J. Clifford, Hans-Georg Müller.
 If you are interested in knowing more about why these tables are inaccurate and irrelevant, I suggest you read the book, “Big Fat Lies: The Truth about Your Weight and Health,” by Glenn A. Gasser.
 Fitness is defined as good health or physical condition that results from exercise and proper nutrition.