Life in Balance

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Diets: You lose more than just weight

A friend of mine teaches Sunday school and a few weeks ago he texted me from class saying, “These [girls] are in grade six and seven and they are talking about their weight.”

After reading the text message, my jaw dropped! These girls weren’t even in high school and yet they were fussing about their weight. I also thought back to when I was nine or 10-years-old. I was told numerous times that I was fat, ugly, worthless and a goody-goody. Once, before performing a dance in the talent show, a boy in my class said to me, “No fat chicks allowed dancing.” After my short blast from the past, I asked my friend to elaborate on what he had overheard at Sunday school.

“Talking about how they had a slumber party and all weighed themselves at the beginning and end to see if they lost weight,” my friend said. “One lost one pound and [the others] were jealous.”

According to the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC), 40 per cent of nine-year-old girls have dieted, despite being within a healthy weight range. NEDIC also says that human bodies come naturally in a range of sizes.

“We inherit a genetic set-point around which, with healthy lifestyles, our weight will fluctuate a few pounds,” reads the centre’s brochure called, “Dieting & Weight Loss: Facts and Fiction.” 

Being asked, “Did you lose some weight?” is often followed by, “Wow. Great job. You look fantastic,” or something of that nature, when really, an individual who lost a certain number of pounds may not have needed to, at all, should they have been at a healthy body weight.

NEDIC also says the following in their “Dieting & Weight Loss: Facts and Fiction” brochure, “Some people will naturally be thinner, a larger number will be naturally average and another group will be naturally fatter. It is healthiest to remain at your natural set-point weight.”

Although my natural body-weight may not be my ideal, it is the weight at which I am going to be the healthiest.

“And when we are healthy, we have the energy and vitality to live our lives to the fullest, and to look our best,” the NEDIC brochure says, as well.

A person receiving the positive reinforcement may be suffering terribly and addicting comments encouraging negative behaviours like restricting food and excessive exercise can lead to self-doubt and acts of self-harm.

Photo by: Leviana Coccia

There was a time in my life where I was extremely concerned with my weight and I spent months obsessing over the number on the scale, like the girls my friend texted me about. It was as if losing weight was the only thing that was supposed to be on my to-do list.  These behaviours of mine could have turned into an obsession that could have eventually taken my life, literally speaking if they were to result in an eating disorder but also because these actions slowly started to take away my joy, resilience and openness that are all vital to a healthy life.

It was as if a number on the scale defined me, in place of my self-worth, self-love, self-awareness and ability to stay centered on goals of my choice. Everything about me on the inside seemed not to matter when I was given addicting compliments about how great I looked at my new weight. And, it was extremely hard when others around me were dieting and exercising excessively, essentially doing the same thing as me, and losing more weight than I was. I felt jealous, like those girls my friend talked about in the text message. This competitive edge can be dangerous because self-worth can be replaced by external measures, like negating oneself that could spark the beginning of isolation.

That’s when I realized I would never be able to look the best, be the best or feel the best based on other people’s standards because I couldn’t define myself based on what others perceived of me. And, no two people are comparable, because every person is so unique. Instead, my self-awareness and self-definition needed to come from who I was entirely: How I defined myself, without outside prejudices and judgements.

When on a diet, you can lose more than just weight. NEDIC says you can also lose your sense of humour, muscle and lean tissue, water (which means you could end up dehydrated), money (after spending tons on diet products – and for the record, the diet industry has a 98 per cent failure rate) and time and energy (that could have been spent on something that could ensure lasting self-esteem instead of dieting, which could lead to lowered self-esteem and poor health).  A preoccupation with food can also lead to loss of friends, goals and life.

For more information about dieting facts and fiction, visit our website.

— Leviana Coccia