Can any random person declare an epidemic? Because I think we’ve got one.
I spent more than a decade believing that real life was on the other side of my goal weight. I had a whole list of things I would be able to do once I “lost the weight.” Or got the job. Or got engaged. Or got married. Or made more money. Or owned a home. Or did any number of things that actually aren’t requirements for having fun.
I thought it was only me.
But now, when I look around, I see it wasn’t. Everywhere I look, I see women hating their bodies. I hear them putting off living their lives until they lose weight. They believe they need to lose 10, 20, or 30 pounds just to have permission to enjoy their lives! To wear shorts! To go on vacation! To eat a carb!
We are led to believe that we have to live up to impossible standards to be loved or to be “enough.” We download it as truth, and then teach it to each other.
We are told to be nice, sweet, popular, and likable.
Be smart, but not in an intimidating way.
Be fit, but not masculine.
Be pretty, but naturally. (And it’s totally OK to spend thousands of dollars in cosmetics and procedures to look “natural.”)
Be sexy, but not slutty.
Work really hard at whatever you do, but make sure not to step on anybody’s toes while climbing to the top in those super high, super uncomfortable heels.
Get beach-ready, bikini-ready, wedding-ready, reunion-ready. And definitely get that “pre-baby body” back ASAP.
Be sensitive but not emotional. Definitely don’t be too emotional.
Be the caregiver and the “yes” (wo)man.
Even strangers on the street tell us to “smile!”
Please, strangers, stop doing this.
When we “fall short,” we’re told that we’re the problem, not the impossible and often contradictory standards. We’re encouraged to buy something else to help us get a little closer next time.
We’re not taught how to practice self-compassion through difficult situations, feel our feelings, value our inherent worth, trust ourselves, feed our bodies, and connect with who we are. Instead, we’re taught to fear ourselves, please everyone else, and look for validation externally in all areas of our lives. We’re told every single day — by teachers, “gurus,” and the media — that we need to practice more willpower, have more control, and follow more rules. We’re told that our bodies can’t be trusted and must be fixed.
Honestly, I bought into all of it, monetarily and emotionally. I purchased every magazine, book, and program that claimed to hold the secret to my salvation. I spent hours of my life Googling how to be more like Jessica — Simpson, Biel, or Alba would have been fine with me! I crafted intricate meal plans, created epic schedule spreadsheets, counted calories, measured food, and got up early. I cleansed and volunteered and ran marathons and got A’s in school.
I did it all! I even smiled while I was doing it. My life was full of what I “should” do, and guilt around anything I “shouldn’t” do.
I was wound so tightly that if the smallest thing didn’t go according to plan, I’d be set off into a tailspin. You know the crusty end slices on a loaf of bread? Yeah, you better pray that I didn’t go to make my morning toast only to find those slices. It was like the apocalypse in my kitchen.
WHY ME?! WHY ARE THERE NO REGULAR SLICES OF BREAD? I AM SO DESTINED FOR FAILURE THAT EVEN TOAST KNOWS!
Glennon Melton Doyle says that people who need help sometimes look a lot like people who don’t. I think she was talking about me when she wrote that. Only I had no idea what “help” actually looked like. So, when I got home from my honeymoon, I Googled it.
After Googling some things about “no more diets” and “how to not hate myself anymore,” I came across the website for a health coach. At the time, I had no idea what a health coach was. But she looked like an angel radiating joy and light (all the things I was definitely not radiating). Clearly she knew something I didn’t. She also talked about how she could help women feel great in their bodies, create confidence, and live a high-vibe life. Perfect, I thought. I want to have confidence! I want to feel great in my body! I want to vibe high!
I felt equal parts hopeful and terrified as I requested a consultation.
In my 30-minute call with her, I proceeded to cry hysterically while explaining the desperation, frustration, and general state of freaking out that afflicted me (see: above epidemic). I have no clue if she could hear a single thing I was saying, but she promised she could help me. So I signed up.
At the time, I thought I was about to receive a step-by-step prescription for success. But, not like a diet … different. More high-vibe. Yes! A high-vibe anti-diet that would tell me exactly what to do, eat, think, and say. I imagined her sharing some special recipe for a green smoothie that would change my world. It would probably have some soaked seed I had never heard of or an exotic flower powder only the wellness insiders knew about. Or maybe she would give me a mantra I could recite in the mirror to suddenly see an underwear model staring back at me. Sort of like when you play “Bloody Mary” in the bathroom as kids, only more fun and less terrifying since I would see Gisele, not a dead person. Basically, I wanted my health coach to tell me exactly what she did in her life so I could mimic her behavior and become her.
I’m a mere six months from becoming a tall, long-legged blonde, I encouraged myself. This will be great!