I’ve wanted to write this post for a while. When I was 14 and started my first diet along with dropping tons of weight, I was encouraged by the internet, amongst my many searches on “how to lose weight”, to post inspiration photos of what I wanted to look like all around my room.
My 14 year old self already had a mint green bedroom that was covered from floor to ceiling, literally, of photos. Just regular photos that I’d taken throughout my life on disposable cameras.
So this idea of hanging inspiration photos excited me – it’s something I already did. I printed photos for my bulletin board, fridge, the inside of the cupboard, my bedroom, and bathroom mirrors. I think I probably had one in my school binder too…
Every photo had one thing in common: all of the girls had a “thigh gap.” In high school, this was the “body trend.” Today, I think it’s outdated? Now everyone seems to want a rock hard body, a great bubble butt, and a flat stomach. Am I right?
Through all of my years of dieting, that “thigh gap” was my goal. Get skinny enough so that your thigh gap would be more apparent. If it began to narrow, I’d freak out and get more strict. WHO WOULD I BE without my thigh gap? I became so oddly attached to it. I’m sure some of you can relate.
Today, my thighs meet naturally in the middle. Does it bother me? No. Am I healthy? Yes. Healthier than I’ve ever been. Did I have to “mourn” the ideal of having a thigh gap? Absolutely. I still do sometimes. I have to remind myself my goal is “health, balance, and feeling happy” – enjoying my life; not just “being skinny.”
Also, this is not to say that it’s bad if you have a thigh gap! This was a personal hurdle for me that held me back from focusing on my health and kept me tied to trying to get skinny.
I had to mourn a few things actually… I had to mourn being “the skinny girl.” Now, not to say that I still wouldn’t be considered skinny/thin, that’s not the point. The point is, I had to mourn the idea of being seen as skinny by all. I had really become attached to this “label,” and for many years it kept me feeling safe. (Though, that was only an illusion).
In order to let go of diets and embrace listening to my body, I had to let go of outside images of what I though I should look like. I had to summon up the courage to say “okay, body, you get to decide for me.”
I had to mourn the “loss” of striving for an ideal body and become okay with (and even appreciate!) that my only goal was health and taking good care of my WHOLE self. Not focusing on my thighs, and instead, caring for my mental and emotional health, and the part of me that wanted to thrive, and live a great, fun, fulfilling life, and NOT focus on being skinny or losing weight 24/7.
If there’s an image that YOU have been holding onto of your ideal body, but it would take killing yourself with diets and exercise to achieve it (or even just focusing on those things MORE than you want to), then I encourage you to ask yourself if it’s worth it.
Questions to ask yourself:
- If you were to let go of that image, what would happen? What would be at risk?Anything truly worth worrying about?
- If you were to let go of that image, what would you be able to embrace (or work to embrace) instead? What’s this worth to you?
- What might it feel like to simply focus on taking good care of yourself, health, feeling-good, and letting go of anything else? What else would this open you up to give your attention to?
It’s not about not wanting to be healthy, or not enjoying your body, or not exercising. It’s not about any of these things – these are all inherently great things. It’s about letting go of an “ideal image” so that you can focus less on looks alone and more on health and balance.
With “loss” in life, it’s important, in my opinion, to allow ourselves to feel the feeling of loss AND remember what’s good. What’s okay. What isn’t wrong.
I’ve experienced this with the loss of my mom. And though this topic is nowhere near the weight of losing an actual human (and I’m not trying to say that it is – I hope that goes without saying) what I am saying is that there is a subtle (or not so subtle) mourning that’s happens when we choose to let go of something that we’ve been attached to for a long time.
Today, instead of focusing on being skinny and having a thigh gap, I aim to focus on:
- feeding myself regularly (usually 3 meals and a couple snacks, if I’m hungry)
- considering foods that feel good to me and eating those
- eating only foods that I truly enjoy and that bring me pleasure
- listening to my body
- exercise that feels good
- staying active
- how to keep my stress low
- appreciating myself – my values and what I enjoy about myself
- being self-compassionate
- using eating guidelines like the ones I posted about here
What are your thoughts? Do you have an ideal image of your body that is holding you back or keeping you stuck? Do you feel bad or compare yourself to an unrealistic body type/size? What will you work to let go of? What will you get to focus on more? I’d love to hear!