*This post may be triggering, as I talk about eating disorders and reference an article that, for me at the time, was triggering. Please read with caution if you believe these topics may affect you and if you’re struggling, please seek help and remember – you are beautiful.*
I remember, years ago, during the throes of my eating disorder days reading an article in Prevention magazine entitled “Fit but Fat” (or something to that effect). I read that article over and over again, and years later, the phrase “fit but fat” would creep into my mind from time to time.
I found that old article, thanks to Google. And you can read it here. But here’s a synopsis:
An active woman – runner, biker – realized after being called a “fatso” that she needed to lose weight. She called herself, “fit but fat.” Meaning, she could run and was active, but she liked her ice cream (and who doesn’t). But it was after coming to that realization that she decided she needed to get her butt in shape and she needed to lose weight. She called on the help from a personal trainer and dramatically changed her eating habits and began seeing the weight drop.
All great and wonderful things, right?
Then why did this article, this short and seemingly normal “weight loss” story stick with me for years? To this day, even?
Here’s why. This woman’s journey to and through weight loss started when she was surrounded by “cute, thin people.” And she wanted to look like that too. She recalls being in the gym and seeing other thin people and thinking, “If they can do it, so can I.” Seeing the other thin clients her trainer was working with was what kept her going. Thin was the motivation. Thin was the goal. Thin would bring happiness.
Thin means absolutely nothing and is not a determination of being healthy or happy.
It’s also a terrible end goal and motivator. One that will undoubtedly leave one wanting more. Not to mention it’s a goal based on someone else’s looks.
You are you. You are beautiful. Being thin should not be your motivator.
But, that’s just one short article. Maybe thin wasn’t actually her motivator. Maybe the author who composed this woman’s story had a poor choice of words, thinking that thin and weight loss go hand in hand.
I’m not sure. And this post isn’t a critique of an article.
I, for years, considered myself “fit but fat” after reading that article. (Remember, I wasn’t in the right state of mind.) And, honestly, I resent that article, because it further fueled my fire to make “thin” the end goal. “If she could do it, so could I.” And after I read it, I had a title for how I viewed myself – “fit but fat.” And, needless to say, not much happiness came from that state of mind.
Thankfully, those days are over. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve grown.
But I wonder, who else feels this way? Who else is striving for “thin” while forsaking their happiness?
Probably a lot of us.
And I think the desire to achieve that goal is welcomed within our culture. One that seems to value six pack abs over what’s in your heart and reps in the gym over meaningful relationships. A bold statement, and maybe a bit of a generalization, but there’s a difference between being healthy and letting “healthiness” consume you.
And I think that starts with redefining what healthy is. Being thin doesn’t always equal being healthy. And being thin doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be happy.
I, at this point in time, weigh the most I’ve ever weighed in my life.
And I’ve never been happier. I run half marathons and work out on a daily basis and that is all important and good stuff. But my life is also filled with meaningful and loving relationships, my faith, a great job, this blog, my amazing family, ARC run club. I could go on.
And that’s why I’m happy. That’s why I’m healthy.
I don’t have a six pack. I love Mexican food. And sometimes I choose going to a brewery over going for a long run. But it’s the balance that makes me happy and healthy.
So this is my plea. Can we stop associating being thin with being happy and healthy? Can we lead full and healthy lives without counting calories, living by the number on the scale, and comparing ourselves to others? Beauty comes in all shapes and forms. Let’s embrace that and not hurt ourselves along the way.
I understand the need and desire to lose weight to be healthy. I’m not undermining that need or desire in one’s life and I think setting out on that journey is a very admirable thing to do. But let’s take a different approach. Let’s not make the end goal “thin” or “skinny” or “ripped.”
Let’s make the end goal being at peace with who we are. Loving ourselves and others for who they are. Being thin, fit, ripped, overweight, curvy, fat, athletic doesn’t define who we are as living, breathing, wonderful human beings.
Will you join me?