How to Love Your Body After Weight Loss
After Christina McMenamy made it her goal to lose weight, the only thing she had to gain was a more positive body image
After six long years of dieting and exercising, I reached my goal weight in 2012. I had set a modest goal for myself: to reach 158 pounds, the very top of the "normal" BMI weight range for my height. When I set that goal, I weighed roughly 220 pounds-already 25 pounds less than my highest weight of 245. I'd been overweight my entire adult life. Compared to where I had started, I thought being at 158 would result in me being perfect.
My goals for losing weight at the time were fairly shallow. Oh, I talked the big talk about wanting to be healthier, but deep down my motivation was pure vanity. I wanted to be "skinny" and be deemed beautiful by society. I wanted other men to be jealous of my husband, and other women to consider me one of the hot moms out there. Basically, I wanted to be accepted and thought that reaching a certain number on the scale would open that door to acceptance. (Watch out for these 5 People Jealous of Your Weight Loss.)
Losing the weight made me feel victorious. I bought new clothing to show off my new figure. I glowed with happiness at joining the "normal" club instead of being overweight.
But as the months went by, my victory started to feel empty. Friends and family congratulated me on my success, but society as a whole didn't seem to care about my accomplishment. I wasn't treated any differently, and I quickly realized that despite no longer being considered overweight from a medical perspective, in our thin-obsessed society I was still just a "fat" woman. No new doors opened to me-my life continued on as usual, as if nothing had changed.
This realization was… discouraging. I figured no amount of weight loss would ever give me the acceptance I so desperately wanted. I slowly lost the motivation to continue working on me, and shifted my energy into work and family instead. I gained about 5-10 pounds during 2013. It was enough to make my clothing fit a little tighter, but I still looked mostly the same, so I shrugged and thought "eh, it's good enough." I did my best to not overeat, I barely exercised, and I lost interest in myself.
But then at the start of 2014 my thinking changed entirely, all from that same idea of "good enough"-but from a powerful place, not a resigned one.
I chose the word "enough" as my word for 2014 (instead of a resolution). Originally I chose it because I was often getting myself overcommitted, trying to do too much, and needed that reminder that I didn't need to do it all: what I was already doing was enough.
But then another purpose for that word came to me: I was enough.
That simple realization smacked over the head, like a frying pan. All the years before, I had focused on the external: I lost weight because I wanted acceptance from the world, acceptance that I wasn't going to get, and more importantly didn't want to see. Now I realized: this is my body; it doesn't belong to society. The only acceptance I need is from myself. I tend to think of myself as my brain and not my body, but my body is just as much a part of me as the brain that controls it. I also realized that what I needed from my body was not for it to be thin, but for it to be strong enough and healthy enough to carry me into my forties and beyond. I need this body to not fail me for many, many years to come, and I'm the only one who is responsible for making sure it does. (Check out The Once-Heavy Girl's Guide to Being Slim.)
Early in 2014, I was invited to the Disney Social Media Moms conference, and during the conference they planned to have a 2-mile fun run through the Disney parks. I wanted to do it, but I knew I'd have to train for it. But this time my only motivation was strengthening my body to accomplish this goal. I didn't care if others would think I was too fat to be a runner, or if my belly would jiggle while running-I wanted to make myself stronger, and challenge my body to new accomplishments that I had never reached.
The fun run was just the spark I needed. I was still about 5 pounds higher than my goal weight, but I didn't care about my weight as I ran that race. I focused on the power in my legs as I pushed off on each step, the air that my lungs took in and out to power my muscles, the pounding of my heart, and the knowledge that my body was capable of carrying me longer distances and getting stronger with every challenge.
That single event convinced me that I was worth working on. Since then, I've continued running and have done a few 5K and 4-mile races. I love using the physical exertion to work out my emotions. I'll be completing my first 10K next month at Walt Disney World, and hope to then begin training for a half marathon in the future. And I'm not looking for anyone's approval: running is for me and me alone, and the only person I'm competing against is myself.
Losing the weight was an important step in my life, but losing the mental baggage I was still holding onto after losing the weight was an even bigger step in finding peace with my body and loving myself.
Read more on Christina's blog, A Mommy Story.