How to Lose Weight Fast: Stop letting fear of other people’s opinions weigh you down.

A while back, I stumbled across a Tedx about body positivity on YouTube. While I wasn’t specifically looking for a Ted Talk or videos on body positivity (I was actually looking for haircare videos in an attempt to freshen up my self-care routine), the title caught my eye: Body Positivity or Body Obsession: Learning to See More & Be More.

The video resonated with me in a big way as the presenter, Lindsay Kite, talked about overcoming body shame. But it left me wondering a few things: why do we take on the weight of other people’s opinions in the first place, why do some opinions weigh more, and how can we shed that weight?

Why Do We Take on the Weight of Other People’s Opinions?

Vector illustration of sad or depressed woman sitting cornered surrounded by pointing hands. Concept of public censure and social judgement

Not a lot of people know this about me (it’s not something you really lead with in conversation), but I struggled with body dysmorphia in my teens and early twenties. Like Kite, the speaker in the Tedx video, I was an active kid and an avid swimmer. Growing up in Florida, 10 minutes from some of the best beaches in the country, I spent much of my childhood swimming. Until one day, when I was around 11, I decided I was too fat to wear a swimsuit. Some of it was from what I was seeing in magazines and on TV. I was, after all, a product of the heroin-chic beauty culture of the 90s. Some of it was due to pressure from family to be thin because they had come up in the era of Twiggy and the like, and to them, beautiful was just a synonym for skinny. But none of it was okay.

I didn’t recognize that then. I just knew I wasn’t pretty enough. Even when people called me pretty, it was backhanded: “You have such a pretty face,” or “You’d be so pretty if you lost weight.”

When I was 11, a family member put me on the Slim Fast diet. When I was 12, that same family member encouraged me to stop hanging out with two of my friends because they were overweight, and she thought I would “catch” the obesity.

Fredric Neuman, M.D. writes in this article on Psychology today that “The way people feel about themselves is formed in large part during the time of growing up by the way their parents—or other close family members—felt about them and treated them during that time.” (Neuman, 2013)

And the simple fact of the matter is that our survival as individuals depends on our being accepted into the social group. We feel pressure to conform even before we can pronounce those very words.

Why Do Some Opinions Weigh More When We Put Them On?

3D Characters standing on the scales of justice. One of them is weighed down by sins, and the other is lifted up by virtue. 3D Rendering isolated on white.

By the time I was a freshman in high school, I felt so fat and so disgusting (at 5’4” and 140lbs), that I truly believed no one could possibly find me attractive.

When a boy in my class stopped our conversation to tell me I had a pretty smile, I thought he was messing with me and immediately stopped both smiling and talking to him.

When a senior football player from my Spanish class stopped me in the hall one day to introduce me to his friends, I was certain he’d done so because they were all going to have a good laugh at the awkward freshman girl after I walked away, and I nearly crawled out of my skin to get away from them as fast as I could.

Every day, the boy who sat next to me in Drama would stop me on my way to my seat and ask me out. I was so sure he was yanking my chain, I would shake my head and continue to my seat without making eye contact. Until one day, we went through the standard routine: he asked me out and I declined. Only, this day, he followed up with, “That’s what I like about you, your confidence.” This poor boy thought I was turning him down because I was out of his league, and I was over here doing everything I could to be invisible.

So why didn’t these situations change the way I felt about myself and my body? I have some theories.

First, as anthropologist Krystal D’Costa writes in this article on the Scientific American blog, “…negative opinions held by those outside of our social networks may have less weight than others because they are less likely have an impact on future relations.” (D’Costa, 2012). In this article, D’Costa focuses on behavior in relation to reputation, but the idea is the same. These brief encounters with people who, in retrospect, clearly did not find me abhorrent weren’t enough to change my outlook because they weren’t as close to me, weren’t as large a part of my life as the people who had put those warped ideas about body image into my head in the first place. I didn’t rely on those classmates for acceptance into the family social group or even my friend group (as they were only acquaintances).

How Do We Shed the Weight?

Measuring tape wrapped around bathroom scales. Concept of weight loss, diet, healthy lifestyle.

Several more years would pass before I would feel comfortable wearing form-fitting clothing, and even in my 30s now, I still experience a significant amount of discomfort in a bathing suit at the beach.

Going back to something Kite said in her talk, “It is incredibly difficult to feel good about your body if you are judging it solely based on appearance.”

In her Tedx Talk, Kite tells us that women she surveyed who reported feeling good about their bodies all reported a past painful experience or “body image disruption.” The disruption changes the way you feel about your own body. These disruptions can have either a very negative (shame/hatred/disgust) or very positive (self-love/confidence) impact on how you feel about your body.

The key is to develop body image resilience. Lindsay Kite and her sister, Lexie, are the founders of Beauty Redefined, a nonprofit whose mission is to teach body image resilience. And there are many other amazing people doing work in this area. I’m personally acquainted with one such woman, Christina Maldonado, founder and principal photographer at Boudoir Tampa. Her mission is to help people shed the weight of unhealthy beauty standards. She’s a master at helping individuals (and couples) recognize that each and every body is beautiful through her photography.

The key takeaway I’ve gleaned from my research is that you have to make a simultaneous public and personal shift.

Putting yourself out there is the external/public piece. It can be anything that pushes your boundaries, from wearing a tank top if you’re insecure about your arms or shorts if you are uncomfortable showing your legs, to wearing a bikini in public. Anything that opens you up and makes you vulnerable to perceived criticism can be an opportunity for body image resilience.

Changing your mindset is the internal side. We have to work to love our bodies for what they can do, not how they look. We can do this through meditation, journaling, etc. and learning to filter out the unhealthy beauty messages we receive every day from the media, from friends and family, and most especially from ourselves. Because we are our own worst critics.

Something else that I don’t see many people talking about is that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Not every person prefers model-thin, perfectly airbrushed bodies. There is an admirer for every body type. I could be built like a caterpillar, and there would still be some human out there who goes crazy for the larval butterfly look.

Attitude self esteem icon. Cartoon of attitude self esteem vector icon for web design isolated on white background

I just need to change my mindset and put myself out there. And that’s what my wellness journey is all about. I’m learning to love myself just as I am. Every time I put myself out there, it’s that much easier the next time, easier to put myself out there and easier to love myself just as I am. I’m taking baby steps, short skirts and bathing suits and posting pictures/videos of myself for all the internet to see now. One larger goal is to have a photography session with the phenomenal Christina Maldonado. And the more I do these things, the closer I get to the finish line of loving myself wholly and completely as I am and not striving for a perceived perfection. Because we’re all already perfect enough.

Connect with me on social media to be a part of my journey.

Sources

TedxTalks. (2017). YouTube. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDowwh0EU4w.

D’Costa, K. (2012, June 4). What other people think about us matters here’s why. Scientific American Blog Network. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/anthropology-in-practice/what-other-people-think-about-us-mattersheres-why/ 

Sussex Publishers. (n.d.). Caring what other people think. Psychology Today. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fighting-fear/201306/caring-what-other-people-think 

Perfect Enough

Perfection is a Roadblock to Progress words on a road construction barrier or barricade to illustrate that a drive toward perfect results can paralyze you from taking action or moving forward

I should have written this post days ago, but I haven’t known where to begin. Being vulnerable is hard, I think for everyone. But I’m on a journey to be the best me I can be. So here I am, opening up to friends and a world of strangers on the internet.

Red balloons with ribbon - Number 38

I turned 38 this weekend, and while it isn’t exactly a milestone birthday, it felt pretty momentous to me. I’ve officially been an adult for 20 years. Most days, I don’t feel very adulty, but that’s a topic for a different day, I suppose. Today, I want to talk about health. Mental, physical, and spiritual. I want to talk about illness and shame and societal expectations. Because at some point or another, I’ve been a slave to all of these things, to the idea that perfection determines worth. And even though I long ago realized that I have value, regardless of whether or not I’m perfect, those old insecurities still crop up when we least expect them, don’t they?

So, I decided that this year is going to be the Year of Me. A year of health and happiness that will hopefully lead to a lifetime of it.

My areas of focus are

  • My mental health
  • My physical health
  • My spiritual health

I’ll start with the easy stuff first: mental health. I have OCD. Not like when people say “Oh, I’m a little OCD about that,” or when people joke about liking their books alphabetized so they must have OCD. I have the kind of OCD that leaves a three-year-old unable to color because the crayons are broken and out of order and they HAVE TO BE ORGANIZED BEFORE ANY COLORING CAN TAKE PLACE! The kind of OCD that keeps a fourteen-year-old up all night worrying in circles about whether any of her friends actually like her or if they’re all just being nice. The kind of OCD that sends a new mother around the house checking and rechecking and re-rechecking to make sure that the appliances are all unplugged before she can go to bed because if she doesn’t it will start a house fire and EVERYONE WILL DIE AND IT WILL BE ALL HER FAULT! It’s genetic and pervasive, and I will have it for my entire life.

But I don’t have to let it run my life. I’ve been working with a wonderful therapist for a few years now, and we’ve made great strides in improving my mental health together, but I’m resolving to push myself, to get outside of my comfort zone more, to do the things that scare me and trigger my OCD-based flight or fight response. This year, I will expand my bubble of safety until it bursts and I am able to feel the fear, greet it with love and acceptance, and then send it packing so that I can live my best life with joy.

I’m claiming my headspace.

Pair of dumbbells, green apple, measuring tape and bottle of water. Exercise and healthy diet concept.

Onward to physical health!
I have Celiac Disease. For those who don’t know, Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten that causes the body to attack itself. I was sick for many, many years before I found out, and as a result, was malnourished for much of my childhood and the first ten or so years of my adult life.

Due to the malabsorption and malnutrition, my body protected itself by going into what’s informally referred to as “Starvation Mode,” meaning, my metabolism slowed down—way down—and I packed on the weight—a lot of it. Despite averaging 1500–1700 calories eaten most days. While the extra weight isn’t ideal, my body adapted to keep me alive during a very lengthy period of malnutrition. And, it nourished two pregnancies and gave birth to two healthy babies, during the height of my illness.

I am proud of my body (see pictures as proof).

What I’m not proud of is the way society treats people who don’t meet stereotypical beauty standards. I’m too big to be considered “beautiful.” Another woman might be too skinny, too tall, too short, too human. If I had a dollar for every time throughout my life I’ve heard, “You have such a pretty face,” or “You’d be so pretty if you lost weight,” or my personal favorite, “You could stand to skip a meal or two.” (because that’s exactly what my starving body needed, right?) I would be a rich woman.

It’s no secret that I am “built for winter,” as one of my favorite coworkers once said about himself—because even men feel the weight of beauty standards. But that doesn’t mean I have to hate myself or hide in shame. Or skip meals.

So, this year, I’m resolving to reward my body for all of its hard work keeping me alive. I’m going to feed it healthy, nourishing foods and give it lots of physical activity. My goal is to make my body the strongest and healthiest it’s ever been. I started working with a fantastic trainer about a month ago, and I wish I had started sooner. But after bad experiences trying to work with personal trainers in the past, I was hesitant. I first heard about my new trainer about a year or so ago (what is time anymore?) and he came highly recommended by a close family member, but my fear kept me from taking the leap.

Y’all… this man is 25 and in great shape and kicks my butt every time we work out, but he has never once made me feel like I’m not measuring up. He doesn’t judge me; he just meets me where I’m at and encourages me to do what I can, never pushing me to go too far but always pushing me to my limits. And bonus: working out improves your mood/mental health.

In the interest of really getting my health in order, I gave myself a birthday gift: converting the garage into a home gym. Because OCD and pandemics don’t mix well, and joining an actual gym just isn’t where my mental health is at right now. Plus, if the gym is only a step outside my kitchen door, I can’t make excuses not to get there. I want to work out daily.

I’m claiming my health space.

We’ll close with Spiritual Health. I believe in a higher power. What I call God, you might call Spirit, or the Universe, or something entirely different, but I, myself, believe specifically in God (and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit). I don’t commune with my higher power nearly as much as I should. Once upon a time, I journaled daily, read my bible, studied devotions, and started every day with a prayer of gratitude. While I still do this from time to time, I miss it more often than I manage it. Just like exercise is important to both physical and mental health, practicing faith is important for both spiritual and mental health. So, the final goal for my Year of Me is to practice my faith, commune with God, and write in my gratitude journal daily.

I’m claiming my heart space.

I’m on a mission to be the best me I can be, this year and each year after. But whatever I am, I will continuously remind myself that I don’t need to be perfect. I’m Perfect Enough just the way I am.

Are you interested in joining me on my journey? Connect with me on social media so we can cheer each other on!