Weight Loss and Body Image

Earlier this year I lost around 35 pounds and I’ve kept it off.

(Side note: I am pregnant and now gaining pregnancy-related weight)

But this isn’t a post about weight loss and how great it is. It’s a post about how I never had any body image issues until I lost the weight.

If you’re wondering how I did it, my response is always, “we’ve been trying to eat healthier.” Which is true. We cut a lot of carbs and drank a lot of protein shakes. But there’s more to it than that.

I stopped taking my anti-depressants, a side-effect of which can be weight gain. But feeling mentally well is worth a few extra pounds.

I ate a lot less. Arguably an unhealthy amount less. I felt terrible all the time and when people commented on it, I felt even worse. But once I started losing the weight I felt guilty about everything I did eat.

I took appetite suppressants. Again, not really healthy.

I DID NOT work out more. In fact, I probably worked out less. Prior to dieting, I was playing a lot of soccer and trying to run regularly. But shortly after we started dieting, I sustained an injury and stopped playing. That alone caused me to lose a lot of weight, mostly muscle mass.

But let me tell you some more not-so-great things that happened when I started to lose weight:

I didn’t like my body anymore. I felt like I looked saggy. I had no butt. And my clothes started hanging off of me, which caused me to lose a lot of confidence.

Why not buy new clothes? Because I kept losing weight and wasn’t sure what size I’d end up at...or if I’d gain the weight back.

I started to feel really bad about how I looked before...because of other people. I NEVER had any body issues. I couldn’t really tell you why I started dieting in the first place. I think I was hoping to maybe lose a couple pounds, not 35. But people started making comments. They were trying to be nice, but often ended up just making me feel bad. Close family members would say, “wow, you just look so fantastic.” And then inevitably follow it up with a comment about how I looked before. Well, it’s hard to hear you look fantastic when you feel terrible because you’re starving yourself. And all I could think was..."what was wrong with how I looked before?” I even asked a few people that very question and they’d generally respond with something that made me feel even worse, like..."you just looked...”

To this day, it’s very rare that I receive a compliment on my weight that doesn’t come with some sort of back-handed comment on my weight before. Which again, I didn’t have an issue with. And either did my doctor. Sure, sometimes I wished my pants weren’t so tight, but doesn’t everybody?

And now I feel this enormous pressure to either keep losing weight or to weigh myself every day to make sure I haven’t gained an ounce. Even if it means having terrible stomach issues or feeling guilty every time I eat. Because I now see the judgement that people had towards me when I was heavier. Judgement I hadn’t realized was there.

So I’m going to leave you with this...

If you feel the need to comment on someone’s weight loss, just say “you look great.” That’s it. Don’t comment on how much weight they’ve lost or on how they looked before.

Weight is not necessarily an indicator of how in shape someone is. I was a much better athlete when I was 35lbs heavier. And to be honest with you, I hate how skinny my legs have gotten. I don’t have the same soccer player muscles that I prided myself on when I was playing.

Don’t ever make someone feel bad about their weight. You have no idea if they have a health condition, or take a medication that causes weight gain, or how they feel about their own body.

I want parents, boyfriends, girlfriends and spouses to hear this one particularly loud: weight is not what makes up the character of a human being and shouldn’t define how much you love them. I have always viewed myself as a smart, sporty, funny woman. And that’s whether I’m 100 lbs or 200 lbs. And I HOPE that every woman and girl out there feels that same way about themselves, too. It’s what inside that defines you. And you are BEAUTIFUL.

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