Businesses are built around it. Media campaigns are centered on it. And it is the topic of conversation at every gathering: “you’ve put on a bit of weight, haven’t you?” The only time these comments may matter is if you are indeed putting on weight and haven’t noticed it. Visible weight gain – the increase in size of the body that you can see – is indicative of something. On the other hand, the number on the weighing scale may be the result of so many factors that are not in your control. How do you deal with that?
The glorification of thinness is a recent phenomenon. While we have evolved enough to know that size zero is a rather unhealthy aspiration and one challenging to maintain, we are still obsessed with having zero fat bodies. We want to be ripped and toned and be able to wear clothes that help us show off our toned bodies. And that is a fair aspiration to have if it is coming from the right place.
If you feel the need to lose weight, it should come from a genuine concern for your body and its health, and not how it will make you look to others. For example, back problems are caused by excess weight, joints get weaker with excess weight, and the heart has to work harder when the body is riddled with excess weight. These are real reasons to worry about weight.
But because you feel that weight is an issue because someone else is thinner than you, or because someone can wear a tank top or short shorts but you find yourself uncomfortable doing so, it may be more of a perception issue.
Here’s the truth: losing weight because it is good for your health, lighter on your joints, and kinder to your heart leads you to follow healthy methods to lose weight. You slowly change your diet and start incorporating exercise into your routine. You begin to understand the value of good sleep and take it seriously when someone tells you that you should put away all your screens an hour before bed time to sleep well.
But weight loss resulting from comparisons to – most of all, people on screen (whose job it is to look like that because of the field they’re in) – almost always causes you to take drastic action: to stop eating altogether instead of cutting out sugary sweets, to start running 5 km from day 1 instead of slowly increasing your strength. And this could have many outcomes. You could develop a health issue from going drastic, or you could lose your will power on day 3 and give in to your cravings. The result: you go straight back to square one.
So here’s the lesson: the comparison should only be with a healthier version of yourself. The starting point should be where you feel you need to improve your health by developing healthy habits. It is not unknown that simply because people are skinny and because they can eat “whatever they want and not get fat” they are healthy. It is usually quite the opposite. If you take a fast metabolism for granted by feeding it unhealthy food regularly, it will catch up with you.
Remember that there is much more to you than just your weight. Your childhood experiences, the education you received in school and college, the amount of time you spent pursuing a career, or a relationship, or both, and the knowledge you gained from all these experiences – you are the culmination of your experiences, and your weight is just a physical aspect of your being.
Weight matters when consistently increases to dangerously high levels. That is an indication of a problem that needs to be addressed. A few kilos here and there, however, may be a reflection of temporary bloating because of a heavily salty or oily meal, increasing muscle mass after you have started working out, or in the case of women, the bloating before periods. The goal should not be to change that number. The goal should be to change the way you feel physically – do you feel energized, fresh, light, and flexible? Are all your tests normal? If yes, that weight on the scale is nothing to worry about.
Good health is achieved by regular exercise and eating right, no matter what the number on the weighing scale indicates, and that is what we all ought to aspire to.
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