There are so many motivations to losing weight. And largely, I cover the ones deep below the surface. The ones that really mean something, that stick with you longer than those jeans you’re jonesing to wiggle into. I figure, there are enough magazines and ad campaigns and billboards to tell us and tell us and then tell us one more time- how good we’d all feel if we could just drop those last five, that you don’t need me telling you about how much joy I felt when I could finally wear a standard size jean. But what about those jeans? What about the more superficial aspects of losing weight that feel like magnets toward change?
Of course your end game should always be health. It should be wellness and peace of mind, body, and spirit. Really. Truly. It’s the mind of the matter that, well, matters.
Everything in our culture embraces beauty. Clothing, makeup, style, design, food, you name it, we as humans are drawn to people, places, and things that please our eyes. We lust. As a woman, that beautiful ideal is even more bombarding, more omnipresent. I see other women, I see the ones that seem to be heaped with praise, love, and acceptance. They wear certain things, they look a certain way, they carry themselves just so. The honest to God truth is that I get that it’s all smoke and mirrors. Happiness doesn’t piggyback beauty and thinness, even if that’s the message permeating my social and cultural space.
The good news is that I get that. Good Lord do I get that. I’ve written post upon post about my reckoning with sadness, the hard realizations I had when I finally met skinny and felt so…let down.
Consider all of what I just said my disclaimer. Losing weight isn’t the best thing in the world, not even among the thousand best things, but I’d like to spend some time talking about the superficial satisfaction of all of it.
The reason I focus so intently on what’s upstairs in your mental capacity, the reason I am careful to not fawn over the flesh part, is because it’s flimsy. Yes, being and looking fit, feeling noticed, being able to buy clothing that you see in magazines and on mannequins is exciting. Thrilling, even. But thrill is only one part of it. Give the smaller sized purchases, the mirror glances at a mini-er you, the freshness of being new on the thin scene, six months or even a year, and you’ll see that it fades. When it isn’t new anymore, when getting dressed becomes the same mundane task it was ten, twenty, thirty pounds ago, you’re left with you. Yes, you made over your body, but did you make over your brain?
Having made over my brain, or at least, constantly working on it, means that I can both accept the mental work, do it, and still embrace the parts of being at a healthy weight that seem lighter (pun intended), more fun. I can know that beauty radiates outward from inside, but that feeling stylish and sleek in a perfectly fit pair of jeans is just purely a blast. You can feel gorgeous, sexy, desirable, and fierce at absolutely any size. Really and truly you can. I, in truth, have always felt fairly confident and…I’m going to cringe and die after I say this…beautiful. Not in a narcissistic or self-adoring way, but more in the way of ‘hey, I’m happy with my face. I think I’ll keep it.’
There’s also something very different about someone who is ten, twenty, or thirty pounds overweight, and me when I neared 300 lbs. Very, very different. So when I speak about my desires to lose weight and to finally look and feel good, it’s from a place of less vanity and more dire need. I wasn’t merely uncomfortable, I was dying inside and out. I wasn’t just wanting to drop a few dress sizes to get back to my high school weight, I was in high school and larger than three of my classmates sewn together. I had never been even verging on healthy sized, so for me, getting there was maybe extraordinarily special. A first.
When I lost 135 lbs, I was in a state of wild excitement. For the first time in years (21 to be precise), I was picking clothing off racks, trying tops and pants on, finding fits and styles that suited me like never before, and waltzing out of the store in the most self-assured way. I felt, for lack of a better phrase, like a million bucks. A trillion, if only I knew exactly how much that is.
Being at a normal weight, at least one that can be classified as such, even now after five years of maintaining it, brings me a sense of peace in many ways. I’d explain like this: there are so, so, so many things that occupy my mind every second of each and everyday. Millions of things buzz about my brain. But the one thing that doesn’t anymore is losing weight. Or the discomfort of being big. The worry, the dread, the sense of hopelessness, the anxiety, the looming diet, the fear of staring eyes.
Those preoccupations are gone.
There’s room for others, sure, but I’m done feeling bad about the way I look. Sometimes I flash back to just how much energy I devoted to feeling uncomfortable. How much time I spent pained and picking myself apart.
I think that my very current feeling of contentment, with just existing in a body I move and love and celebrate, is precisely what got me through thirteen months of losing 135 lbs. The vision of a less worrisome me, a more confident girl, was driving me.
Every single day, I thought about how great it would feel to dress in the latest styles and actually feel as though they looked great. I thought about how absolutely exhilarated I’d feel buttoning jeans that could be purchased in the Gap, and not online only. I’d tuck in my shirt, I promised. My face wouldn’t drain of color and I wouldn’t be awash with dread at the mention of an upcoming wedding, or any event requiring a dress or…dear God please…a bathing suit. I would never buy or wear or look in the direction of a girdle ever again. Spanx could burn in hell for all I cared, because I never wanted to be pinched or poked or encased like a sausage link in my clothing…ever again.
I thought about the confidence I’d have, the way I’d carry myself with such grace. (For the record, grace has and will always elude me. Advice is welcome.) I dreamed up imaginary scenarios of parties I’d attend, people I’d see, the ways I’d woo the world. So many adventures were waiting. I made a scrapbook of pictures of happy things I wanted to fill my future with. There were photos of places I’d like to travel, snapshots of people who possessed the outdoorsy nature I’d certainly always wanted to adopt, women dressed to kill. Smiles. Sunshine. Roses. Rainbows. I’d call it a vision book. The very sight of its colorful pages inspired me. Essentially, I cut out images, pasted them, wrote blurbs and mottoes and motivational quotes. I was moving into positivity and changing my life, and I could feel it. I could taste it.
These things, in themselves, don’t amount to much. I know that the sight of cute trends, healthy, fit figures, and quotations could only get me so far. But they really helped. Visualizations in general are what kept sparking my interest, kept revving my engine through losing half of me. I tell people all the time to just take it one day at a time, so as not to get overwhelmed and discouraged. But I also encourage people who need to do what I did to surround themselves with positivity and things that motivate them. Big ideas like long term health and optimal wellness are fantastic, greater than good. But they’re almost too big to keep focused in your daily mind. They don’t mean as much in the short term. You need the short term motivators and the long term motivators, and so I support having a solid, beautiful vision of the way you’ll feel, the way you’ll look, the way you’ll carry yourself, even the way you’ll dress (so long as that means anything to you) and then a more overarching goal floating around above you.
To feel beautiful is to look and be beautiful, in whatever your definition of beautiful is. And vice versa.
What small things motivate you?