“Wow, Lindsay. You look so beautiful! Have you lost weight?”
For most of my teens and adulthood, this was the typical first statement made by so many of my friends and family. People would instantly praise my skinny bod and enviously take me in as they tried to figure out how I was successfully shedding weight. I had the kind of body others seemed to want and had miraculously found the magical secret to keeping it that way. The thinner I became, the more comments I received. And with each of them, I got a temporary high from believing that my weight loss efforts upped my value and lovability in this world.
If only those closest to me had known the heartbreaking truth lurking beneath the surface. There was not a single ounce of magic behind how I was achieving eternal weight loss.
While others were treating me like the holy grail of thinness, I was silently neck-deep in an eating disorder, struggling daily with body dysmorphia, and battling a dangerous addiction to diet pills. Not once during this time was I ever happy, or at home, in my body. Sure, I experienced deep satisfaction in seeing my collarbone and sternum jut out of my skin, and I loved being able to exponentially increase my thigh gap. Each positive response about my ability to easily shed pounds certainly fueled a fire in me to “keep up the good work.”
But make no mistake. My insatiable desire to be thin was totally holding me hostage. And I didn’t even know it at the time.
Every single day, I’d look in the mirror and see a grotesquely larger version of myself than what was there. When people enthusiastically commented on my weight loss, it just made me want to get skinnier. No matter how much of a drop the scale showed, it was never – ever – good enough for me. I was obsessed with figuring out how to be the thinnest person in the room, even when it cost me my mental and physical health.
It’s been four years since I’ve been complimented for losing weight, and it’s obvious to me why. I’ve had two kids, and in the process, gained 75 pounds. My stomach has expanded, I’ve got a much bigger ass now, and I’m generally taking up way more space than I ever have before. I’ve also completely recovered from my eating disorder, am healing a body image that’s been broken for years, and legitimately love the woman I see in the mirror. I am the same Lindsay I’ve always been – except now, I’ve learned to embrace myself with so much compassion and courage.
And yet, despite my incredible inner growth and the improvements to my overall health, none of the people who used to marvel at my thinness have decided it’s appropriate, or necessary, to praise me for my current body size. I don’t know about you, but I think there’s something seriously wrong with that.
When we sum up a person’s health, worth, and admirability by how little they weigh, we are creating a breeding ground for disordered eating, self-hate, and a culture rife with shame. What’s more, we’re perpetuating a toxic societal pressure to achieve and maintain a body size that is completely unsustainable for many of us. Because let’s face it, the very thing we go to in order to lose weight in the first place is a diet. And diets don’t work.
A 2007 study conducted by the folks at UCLA revealed that dieting does not result in long-term weight loss, or weight maintenance, for most of us. “We found that the majority of people regained all the weight, plus more,” said Traci Mann, UCLA associate professor of psychology and lead researcher of the study. “Sustained weight loss was found only in a small minority of participants, while complete weight regain was found in the majority. Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits for the majority of people.”
And yet, despite the crystal clear evidence pointing to the inevitable failure of dieting, a ton of us out there still believe that hustling to lose weight and staying thin is something we should all be aiming for.
As a young child, I was inundated with the sight of weight loss ads on the TV, images of extreme thinness in the media, and a slew of skinny celebrities I was taught to look up to. As a preteen, I started my first diet because I thought I weighed too much. As a teenager, I was already hooked on weight loss pills, binging and purging, and severely restricting my eating. And at no point during my childhood did anyone ever stop to ask if the thin girl they saw before them was perhaps hurting herself to get there. Because of our ridiculous societal status quo, no one felt compelled to investigate how I was managing to stay impossibly skinny.
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I remember in the first few days after my daughter was born, I would lay down on my bed and try to suck my stomach in as much as I could to see how flat it appeared. I was completely disillusioned by the physical evidence of having grown & birthed my child. With all the knowledge I had accumulated from the celebrity-laden media & the sheer lack of information I had on actual postpartum bodies, I honestly thought the stretch marks would disappear & my tummy would go right back to the way it was before. When it didn’t – and instead started to hang soft & low – I realized that I had a very important choice to make. I could either hustle big time to create some semblance of a “before” moment for my body OR I could somehow learn to accept what was actually there. It took about a year of resisting the surrender of acceptance, and then I finally looked in the mirror one day and it happened. I unexpectedly began to challenge the deeper reasons for WHY I so desperately felt the need to change my body. And as I did, I started seeing beauty I had never known before in my added curves & grooves. It was at this very moment when I began to realize something profound – softness can be equally as strong as firmness. And a person can be healthy and happy and whole while also not appearing to be the picture perfect image we usually see in society. And most of all, fighting against the inevitable changes my body may experience as I age has only ever resulted in deep inner shame & self-hate. And so I stopped battling against myself – and I started questioning the industries that led to my body image struggles in the first place. After decades of dangerously reckless behavior that was fiercely loyal to diet culture, I stepped away from it all – and really started seeing myself in the mirror for the very first time. The woman I witnessed in front of me took my breath away. That woman has produced miracles. She can do tough things. She is lovable and wise beyond her years and so wonderful to be around. She is the me who existed before I was taught to hate myself. And she is amazing. 🦋 . . . #motherhood #selflove #bodyacceptance #allbodiesaregoodbodies #effyourbeautystandards
I think this part bears repeating. As a youth, I managed to completely avoid critical speculation about my health and wellbeing entirely because everyone around me saw how thin I was. It doesn’t surprise me why. Profit-driven industries exist in our society that are strategically designed to project the idea that losing weight is synonymous with everything good about being human. And a painfully outdated and unnecessary BMI system is continually breaking us all down into digestible, and damaging, stereotypes.
Much like respecting a woman’s right to tell us she’s pregnant before we just assume she is, I believe we need to start talking about the potential and lasting harm that unsolicited weight loss compliments can have on the people who receive them. We also need to begin making the connection between this kind of superficial praise and a seriously fucked up system that’s rife with judgment, divisiveness, and even oppression.
None of us ever know all the reasons why a person’s body has changed. I think it’s incredibly harmful and so unhelpful to just blindly assume that someone’s weight loss is something they wanted or needed. Even worse, when someone is publicly given praise for becoming thinner, it sets a shame-inducing tone for anyone around that person who, for whatever reason, isn’t actively losing weight.
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Good morning! Your cellulite is adorable! Your boobs are awesome at whatever length they hang! Your back rolls give you streeeeeength! You are as snuggly & cute & magical and awe-inspiring as this lil baby I’m holding! Keep shining, ya’all! You deserve to take up spaaaace! Give diet culture a big, juicy middle finger! Have a great weekend! Eat more tacos! Listen to more Lizzo! And keep werrrkin’ it! You da BEST! 💖🌈🔥🦄🦋 . . . #youareworthy #selflove #bodyacceptance #allbodiesaregoodbodies #effyourbeautystandards #innerworth #plussize #EDrecovery #motherhood #fatisnotaviolation #reparentingyourself #mentalhealthawareness #stretchmarks #postpartumbody #youareenough #healthateverysize #shameresilience #traumarecovery #mombod
This message is especially debilitating for our children to witness and receive. As parents, it is our responsibility to help our kids feel accepted, whole, and unconditionally worthy, no matter how much they weigh. The best route to helping them feel confident and safe to be themselves is to model it with how we act, talk, and behave in front of them. As a youth, I could have undoubtedly benefited from someone showing me that there are many different ways for my body to lovingly exist in this world.
Just because diet culture has us conditioned to believe that a number on a scale says anything legitimate about our character, we do not have to buy into it anymore.
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This, my friends, just might be the happiest I've ever felt in a bathing suit as a grown up. The hubby snapped a quick shot of me while I was bringing my daughter back from the water. And here I am – in the middle of that moment, blissed out & carefree. Over two decades of self-loathing taught me to feel ashamed about any part of my body that didn't measure up to a system built around society's (and consequently, my own) limiting beliefs. Despite being skinny for much of my teenage years and adulthood (a result achieved from unhealthy yo-yo diets, binges, diet pills, & constant inner criticism), I never felt at home in my body. It took birthing a baby to realize I only need to believe one opinion – my own. And since that moment, I have learned that all it takes is a simple (yet powerful!) perspective shift – a choice to live with daily self-love and acceptance. The hardest part of this is breaking down my own conditioning, which I am reminded of any time I go to comparison, negative thinking, and judgment. The coolest part of this has been noticing that my new belief system is beginning to resonate louder in my mind with each new day. Whether you are a mom or not, I wish for anyone reading this to choose love today – love for yourself and love for others. Don't let another day go by wishing you were someone else. Embrace every inch of yourself – you are INCREDIBLE, just as you are. No matter how society may define you, remember that all it takes is the realization that YOU can make your own definition. And it starts from self-love. 💕 . . . . . . . . . . #bodypositive #postpartumbody #mombod #plussize #motherhood #effyourbeautystandards #selflove #everybodyisagoodbody #bodylove #bodypositivity #beachbody #plusisequal #embracethesquish #loveyourbody #dieting #edrecovery #chooselove #motivation #encouragement
If you’re someone who thrives on this type of praise, I want you to know something very important. I empathize with you more than you’ll ever know. I have vulnerably been where you are right now. And I am here to help show you that you don’t have to choose that path if it is doing more harm than good in your life.
It’s not your fault you live in a society that’s been determining your inherent value by the number on the tag of your jeans. It’s not your fault that our medical system has not shifted to embrace health at different sizes. It’s not your fault that we’ve been tricked into thinking that our insides can be grossly summed up by how we appear on the outside.
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Could you do me a favor today? Could you take a moment, just a single moment, to look in the mirror, breathe deep, and say something kind to yourself? Even just one phrase of kindness can make all the difference. Even if you don’t feel the love, that’s okay. Just pick a kind thought & consciously think it or say it to yourself. Because here’s the thing. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been conditioned to believe a very untrue, very chronic thought for most of your life. It’s a dangerous lie that, when perpetuated, has the potential to keep you from ever fully feeling good about yourself. It’s the false notion that you are & will always remain a problem that needs fixing. And trust me, the longer you think about this, the more you will convince yourself it’s true. SO. Start small. Just one kind word. One kind word in the mirror today. 🦋 WHY small? 🦋 Because that negative belief – that you are a problem – is a sticky, sticky lie that only grows stickier when it feels threatened. So starting with one kind phrase, one small step in the direction towards love (no matter how weird it feels at first to say to yourself), is the sneaky little secret key to un-sticking yourself. You deserve to feel loved, worthy, and whole. You never were, never are, and NEVER will be a problem. You are so much more than that lie. Start with a little teensy bit of self-kindness today to begin changing any belief that has you doubting how very much “more” you are truly are. 💓 . . . #youareworthy #postpartum #postpartumbodies #selflove #bodyacceptance #effyourbeautystandards #innerworth #plussize #EDrecovery #traumarecovery #fatisnotaviolation #love #stretchmarks #transformation
In case any of you reading this need the permission, it is 100% okay to finally stop investing parts of your self-esteem into whether you are losing weight or not. You deserve to feel good, experience love, and be respected as a human being, no matter how much you weigh. Diets were not built to last, and feeling like you constantly need to be on one to matter will ultimately erode your mental health. Please believe me when I tell you that there so many other amazing qualities about you that have absolutely nothing to do with your physical frame. You deserve to be seen and embraced for all of them.
I am living proof that there is so much fucking freedom on the other side of forcing yourself into a thin body. Trust me. You are just as worthy of that freedom as I am.