18
Jun 2015

I need your help on this one…

I need your help with something.  Every time I get on the phone with some of my Live More Weigh Less women I have some version of this conversation…

“Sarah, I just can’t shake the feeling that I want to lose weight more.than.anything.”

I tell them I get it, I’ve been there.  And then I ask..

“Tell me what your life will look like when you lose weight?”

“Well, I’ll be more social and have an easier time making friends. I’ll be more relaxed, less uptight and fight with my husband less.  I’ll feel more sexual and be more adventurous.  Just you know, be more UP!”

So essentially these women want to feel confident, at ease, connected, sexual and energized more than anything.  All great things to want.  But here’s where my issue is…

Where did we learn we have to be a certain size to have those things?  And who told us that losing twenty pounds would magically change our entire personality?

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We are so hardwired to believe that life will be better and easier when we are thin.

WHERE DOES THIS COME FROM???

I honestly have no idea, which is where you come in. Can you remember when you first learned that your personality would change if you could lose some weight?  Did someone tell you this?  Was it because women in magazines or in movies seemed so carefree?  Is this built in our DNA from birth?

What I do know is that this can be unlearned, and it isn’t until we can clearly see that our actions and desires are in control of our lives, not our body size, that we can finally create everything we want for our life and body.

So I want you to ask yourself, WHY do you want to lose weight?  What are all the changes you believe will happen when a new number on the scale shows up?  Write them down…

Now, this is super important, listen closely. Eating less cake and more broccoli is not going to make you more social or feel more in control of your life.  BUT being more social and creating more calm in your life from your heart and soul will result in eating less cake and more broccoli because we no longer need to rely on cake to be our friend, we have real friends now.

Maybe that’s it…. we see women in our lives who seems at home in the world and in their bodies and naturally eat healthy.  We assume that it’s her body that is causing her personality to be so open, calm and inspiring, but it’s actually the other way around – the way she is in the world is causing her body to be her ideal weight.  Live More, Weigh Less in the flesh.

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.  I’d love to talk bout why we hold this belief and where you think you learned it.  I am determined to get to the bottom of this.

Love,

Sarah

We would love to hear from you, leave a comment.

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  • Alice

    I wonder if it’s because so often our weight gain is because of things that have depleted our joy and confidence? We think that by losing the weight we’ve gained, we’ll lose our sadness and regain our joy. I know my weight is almost completely to do with emotional trauma – it’s hard to separate the physical and mental/emotional and it’s hard to just ‘live as if’ when our hearts are sad.
    xxx

    • Sarah

      Alice, this makes so much sense. I think that often when there is a major block, it needs to be resolved in order to free up space in other areas of life. Though, there are also small steps we can take in the meantime that will begin to align us with the things we want, like joy and confidence. How does that feel for you?

  • Kristy

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the last paragraph. Growing up I saw the thin women dating and flirting and having lots of friends, and people falling for them left and right. I assumed that confidence and attitude and ease came with thinness, or at least that it was only respected in thin women. Every time I saw someone without a thin body acting this way they were either shunned for wearing the “wrong clothes” or relegated to a non-sexual friend.

    I think a piece of this has to do with what we teach boys growing up — that the only type of woman that can be desirable is a thin one. Society doesn’t give boys the freedom when they are younger to admit they may be attracted to something other than that, they are only allowed to voice attraction for the media ideal and are made fun of / shunned for liking something different.

    It took me several years in my young adulthood to learn that if people are true to themselves and their real desires, they find so many different types of women attractive, and to learn that my particular body and personality was super attractive to many people. And I’m sure it takes many years for guys in particular to train themselves out of what they are “supposed,” to like vs what they actually do like — some never do and it leads to a lot of shame for them which they turn back into shaming of others. It’s one of the ways that Patriarchy also makes mens’ experiences harder.

    I think that if we as a culture stopped body policing and encouraged girls to collaborate instead of compete/”win” sexually and socially, it would open more space for all sorts of diverse bodies to feel more ease and confidence in their life, and nip a bad emotional eating cycle in the bud. As someone with a large frame, there was never going to be a time where I was more petite than my peers growing up, so I was never given that “jumpstart,” of being privileged in social spaces — if we can help cultivate a generation of girls who allow more space and acceptance through their pubescent years, I think we’ll have a much healthier world of women!

    • Sarah

      This is amazing insight, Kristy. All of the above. Thank you for sharing, and my hope, too, is that we can begin to raise and teach young girls and boys acceptance, diversity, and freedom to be and like whomever they want!

  • I think it’s a lot of the things that you mention. It’s all of the fat-shaming that goes on – but at least I feel that that is somewhat getting better. You see thin women on TV, movies, magazines that seem to have it all – and then you see the “fat, jolly” women rolling around in the mud or not getting the guy. Another big issue is clothing – having to go to the back of the store, or the tip-top floor, in the dark, to find plus-sized clothes. Or going to Lane Bryant where they jack up the price on everything so that you’re paying double of what a small person would pay.

    It’s getting better, but I feel that all of that is a big part of the issue. But, you’re right – so many women have these same thoughts – whether plus-sized or not – that grabbing that gold ring of thinness will solve all of the world’s problems. I’d be very interested to see what your research finds.

    • Sarah

      The way in which people are portrayed on television is definitely a huge piece! There are so many factors that can promote or inhibit diversity. Thank you so much for contributing to the conversation.

  • Hi Sarah! I love this post. I think I learned this untruth somewhere between middle school and high school. I was technically part of the “in” crowd, but my skinny, beautiful, perky-boobed friends always had top-notch boyfriends. I was always the 3rd wheel. I never felt like I was skinny enough or pretty enough to have a boyfriend that loved me. I hid in over-sized sweatshirts for 2 years, was picked on a lot for being chubby and never felt like my friends “got it.” In college, it turned into destructive habits – eating a shit ton because I felt alone and chasing relationships with not-so-good-for-me men. Luckily, I married an extraordinary man last Fall, who is incredibly good looking and tells me I’m beautiful every single day. Although sometimes I have a really hard time accepting his words, I know that I can have all I want if I just quit obsessing over the number on the scale.

    Thank you so much for being who you are. I’ve recently just found you and I’ve been reading a ton of your stuff. I can’t wait to work with you one-on-one if I get the chance.

    Laura

    • Sarah

      Hi Laura, yes! I’m so glad we could connect. It can be so tough to unlearn all that’s been ingrained from a young age, but it sounds like you’re journeying in a healthy direction. I hope you’ll join the free workshop that’s coming up next week, so we can get a chance to work together.

  • For my it’s something my family has said for years. I’m half Indian and that side of the family has ashtrays said that if I lost some weight that I would have no problem finding a husband. While I don’t really believe then, hearing it repeated over and over does deep into your brain somewhat

    • Sarah

      Right, it makes so much sense Liz. I would love to help you begin to change that dialogue… xo

  • Netanya

    This was super interesting to go way back and think about.
    For me, in my head, my early memories of middle school (and later high school) revolved around struggles with finding my identity and who my real friends actually were. In thinking back, all of the “popular” girls were usually skinny and pretty, and just generally “seemed” to be having more fun than I was. Everyone liked them, they were always laughing and talking, they had cute clothes on, etc., which put me in a grass-is-greener point of view. In looking at myself, I tended to self-criticize, particularly in asking “What makes them different/better than me?” And although I was not actually overweight myself, that’s the first reason I came up with in my head as to why their lives are more fun and exciting than mine.Because I wanted to be popular, essentially to be liked and approved of socially, the only reason I could find as to why I wasn’t, was that they were skinnier than me.In my head, I think I’m nice and fun and kind, etc., so why wouldn’t that make me popular? Oh because I had to be skinnier too. This completely was all in my head, because a) my life was good, I just never looked at it from an outsider’s view, and b)it’s very possible that when they weren’t “on” in terms of being center stage at school, they may very well (and actually most likely) have had their own difficult growing up experiences. Hope that makes sense..xo

    • Sarah

      Netanya, Sadly, the comparison trap can start so early on. What you said last does make sense, and it’s a great point. Thank you for sharing with us.

  • SHAME. It comes from SHAME. Have you read Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly or watched her TED Talks? Everything in life boils down to shame and our ability to overcome it an be vulnerable. I can’t explain it better than she does, so, everyone, read her books. The reasons we don’t take risks, we feel badly about ourselves, we think we need to do or have “X” before we can be happy… It all boils down to shame. She can explain it. And explain how to overcome it. Gah! Just order the book (it’s on Kindle so you can have it immediately)!

    • Sarah

      I am a fan of Brene Brown, and I think you’re right. This is definitely a crucial component – thank you for sharing this resource with this community!

  • Holly

    For me, it’s because my weight and how I look consumes so much of my thinking that it’s a struggle to be present and enjoy people and the environment around me. It’s a heavy load that I carry (figuratively). Also, if I have an event coming up, I daydream of what I could wear if I were thinner. It seems there’s so much more freedom in finding the right outfit when you are thinner. For example, I had my mom’s 50th birthday party to shop for, and it was so hard for me to find a dress that was A) in my size B) looked good on me. I kept telling myself that the dress doesn’t have to be sexy, I just need to feel good in it so I can enjoy the party and not worry about if my rolls or cellulite were showing. Fortunately 10 dresses later I found one I loved. But I can’t help but think thinner girls have an easier time shopping and feeling good in how they look. Lastly, I’ve gained a lot of weight over the past ten years, so I stay away from people I haven’t seen in a long time because I’m ashamed of how I look now vs 5 or 10 years ago.

    • Sarah

      Holly, I completely understand this frustration. I want you to know that every woman I’ve ever met has struggled with finding the right article of clothing for a certain event…or even just daily wear. In some areas of society, thinner women are privileged in that many stores only carry certain sizes, but I want to reiterate that negative thoughts about ourselves and our body do not discriminate, and it really does have so much to do with how we are in the world, how we feel about our life, how much fun we’re having… In response to your last comment, I’d love for you to check out this post: https://sarahjenks.com/uncategorized/my-before-and-after/ People miss you, and the world needs you. Taking steps toward not hiding from those who haven’t seen you recently will be so freeing. Let us know how it goes. xo

  • Stephanie

    I’m not sure exactly why or when. But thinking back, the popular girls were always the skinny and pretty girls. i “developed” early, so here I was in 5th grade and beyond with boobs, my period, acne, all sorts of awkwardness, and i’m a complete outsider from the “clique”. obviously i had my friends, some of them are still my best friends to this day, but doesn’t everyone want to be popular in middle school? Even with the boobs, boys didn’t pay attention to me. I think that’s what started it for me.

    i’ve outgrown most of the feelings from back then. the acne mostly cleared, and i embraced my nerdiness and became an engineer, and i’ve got more friends that i can keep up with (which honestly, is a whole other issue, because i feel like a bad friend now instead. sigh.) i think the one hold over is the weight. i was chunky as a kid, slimmed down in high school a bit playing field hockey, but from college on i’ve just been putting on weight. i just don’t feel put together, physically or emotionally? i’ve always envied the people who look and act so put together. i also could never, and still can’t, afford to spend a whole lot of money on clothes. sometimes i feel like if i could just get my wardrobe right, i’d feel so much better.

    • Sarah

      I hear you. Stephanie, tell me what else you love or is good about your life. Do you enjoy your job; is it fulfilling? Are your friends fun and supportive, or an energy drain that brings up a lot of guilt? Go deep!

      I agree, wardrobe can make a huge difference because choosing clothes that we feel comfortable and confident in is an act of self-love and care. You can take small steps to make it work, even on a budget. You’re welcome to check out this post for tips: https://sarahjenks.com/blog/waiting-to-buy-clothes/ 🙂

      • Stephanie

        Alright Sarah, you asked for it, and i’m in a sharing mood.

        What else do I love or that is good about my life?

        My husband. We have our ups and downs, but he is my rock. However, your last article about feeling the need to have sex really hit the nail on the head… most of the downs are related to that. The rest are about money. We have plenty of money, but he’s decided we need to be savingsavingsaving so we can retire by 45. It just impossible to imagine ever living off one salary and keeping up our savings rate to maintain that goal, but yet someday we’d like to have kid(s), and he’s told me that he wants a parent to stay home (which would likely be me..) don’t take this the wrong way though, he makes me happy, and is supportive, and tells me i’m sexy all the time.

        I’m currently working somewhere I’m not happy. Some days are worse than others. The work I do is okay, but the boss’s management style isn’t right for me. I’m in the process of finding something new.

        I find some of my friendships hard to maintain, others not so much. Energy drain. that’s a good way of putting it. I often feel guilty when I’m not doing everything with everyone. One of my friends just had a baby, so I desperately want to be part of his life as his ‘aunt’. i also have step siblings i’m not very close to, but they are all close with each other. the same “friend guilt” applies to my relationships with them too. i feel like an outsider when i’m around them.

        I realize i haven’t said many good things.

        i’m close to my half sister, and talking to her makes me happy. she’s away at college (8 year difference between us)
        i used to love to cook, but lately i haven’t been cooking. i’m not feeling inspired. i also can’t seem to find the time.
        i volunteer with Society of Women Engineers. I love my work with SWE.

        this comment is so long. i should stop. haha.

        Thanks Sarah. Your work always really speaks to me.

        • Sarah

          Stephanie, thank you so much for taking the time and being open to share this. I wanted to challenge your comment that “the one holdover is the weight.” You said you outgrew most of the negative feelings you had as a child, which is awesome! But, I would love for you to continue reflecting on the parts of your life that you’ve listed here. See if you can shift your focus from any lingering thoughts about your weight to making small changes in these areas. What do you think?

  • Anne

    The biggest thing that sticks out for me is that “life will be EASY when I am thin.”

    A huge part of that is the media really plays up the relationship between weight and health/ health and diet. I am in the healthy weight range, yet I still blame a lot of aches and pains on my weight or not being on the right diet. I spend a lot of time thinking “if I could lose 10 pounds then maybe I would have more energy” or “if I could just give up gluten maybe my headaches would go away.” I think it would be easier to move my body everyday if I woke up feeling amazing (and I am so bombarded by the media telling me that not being a size 2 is the reason I don’t wake up feeling like that).

    • Sarah

      Anne, this is very interesting – thank you for sharing. I want to help you move away from this association… What do you think about limiting your time with media? A similar option is to follow (on social media) or watch movies/TV shows that feature a diverse range of women… including body positive advocates. What else could you do to collect evidence that challenges this idea that all of your problems are stemming from your weight…your healthy weight?

  • I really like this article, sarah. You hit on a lot of important points. I do agree that the more we LIVE the less we are constantly thinking about FOOD 🙂 if that makes sense – I find that when I fill my life with fun and adventure, I’m thinking more about “how funny was that date” and “what a beautiful park we picniced in” NOT “what am I going to eat next”….
    I do however believe that we have a “happy weight” – a weight that our body falls at naturally and happily with out starvation and without over eating. I’m working now on getting bak to my “happy weight” so I can fit into my pants again 🙂 but until ten I have not stopped dating and dancing!
    And just as a reminder – the most beautiful woman in the room is the happiest woman in the room – regardless the her shape or size – the HAPPY GLOW doesn’t come in a bottle – it comes from within! wow ok this is a really long comment. LOVE YOU GURL!

    • Sarah

      Thank you for sharing this here, Claudine! This comment is full of wisdom. You’re amazing. xo

  • Stephanie

    So, here is where it all started for me. Every single ad, TV show, movie, and celebrity tells us how much better we will feel when we are thin. Things like “take control of your weight, take control of your life” shove the idea that we aren’t good enough yet down our throats. It’s worse than telling somone they will never be good enough because this idea waves the sick carrot in front of us like “if you just do…..you will be worthy”. If you just eat less of this and more of that and none of this.smaller portions, or six meals a day or no meals at all. We literally can not win.we are told to take up less and less space in the universe. We are told to watch what we eat like hawks and count every single calorie. We don’t need to change the game, we need to stop playing. We need to burn it. Kill it. Otherwise it will keep killing us.

    • Rachel

      Stephanie, you’ve phrased this so well. I think you’re absolutely right about the taunting “if you do this, you will be worthy.” That’s really what it comes down to for so many of us, I think—the lie that we are not worthy if we are not at some “ideal” number with our weight or size. And it gets really sick because then we end up with the mentality that if we try to lose weight and we can’t, or if our weight fluctuates or whatever, that we are less worthy for being unable to manage it and control it. It’s almost as if we are failures as women because we are not able to fit ourselves into a certain mold. And only when we do will we be worthy of love and connection.

    • Sarah

      Completely agree – we need to stop playing. The notion that women are to make themselves as small as possible, both literally and figuratively, is fantastic insight, and I hope everyone reading this will begin (or continue) to be aware of all of the areas that this message tries to play out. Thank you for joining the convo, Stephanie!

  • wow, what a question! Not sure where the idea of “losing weight will solve all our problems” come from. But, I do think it serves a purpose. Sometimes it is so devasting to feel heavy and ugly and socially awkward, we just want to do something concrete to change. We can even say “I’m dieting” to feel better and hold off the condemnation of people who judge other people by their appearance. In the end, it’s just a nasty and even deadly tease. And, it keeps us from facing how we really feel about ourselves. I know. I struggle with self-hatred. It’s as if I think I will be more accepted it I distance myself from my own body. Sounds silly. But that is how far we will go to avoid dealing with the pain inside us. Thing is, I figure if I feel the pain I won’t survive. But, the truth is feeling my pain is a great act of kindness and compassion to myself. I can give myself the love and acceptance I crave by loving myself just the way I am, where I am. I can learn to listen to my own thoughts and desires. I’m taking baby steps in this area but I am convinced that this is the path any one must travel to be trully fulfilled and content. I LOVE your website Sarah. It is livegiving, fun and exciting. Keep on encouraging, coaching and asking provacative questions that will no doubt change lives. Girl, you and all the people you touch are changing the world and making it a better place for the next generation. thank you thank you thank you!

    • Sarah

      Thank YOU Renee for sharing your journey with us. There is a lot of wisdom here, so I encourage you to trust yourself and to give yourself credit for each baby step you do take. Thank you so much for the kind words and for being a part of this community!

  • Elspeth

    I can pinpoint an exact moment when I was told (indirectly) that being thinner would make me a happier person. I was 11 years old and the BBC’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice had just been aired on British television. Being a rather fanciful girl, I was desperate to have a dress just like Elizabeth Bennet. I remember telling my mom that I would love for her to make me a dress similar to Lizzie’s and her words, which still sting today were, “I’ll make you a dress JUST LIKE IT, if you lose weight.” This was just one of many occasions where the prospect of new clothes and seeming teenage/adolescent happiness was hanging in the balance of being thinner.

    Only in the last 4 years (I’m 31 now) have I been able to identify what makes me truly happy, and that weight doesn’t dictate happiness. I’ve been on the fuller figured side my whole life, and I’ll never be a skinny person, and I’m okay with that. I don’t hold this against my mother either, she has struggled with her weight her whole life and has baggage from her parents. I’ve just decided that I am so lucky in so many ways, and it’s better to be grateful for what I have: a fulfilling job, amazing friends, my health, and so many other great things, than things that are only physical and superficial.

    Sarah, your blog has helped me on this journey in so many ways that I can’t even begin to describe. You are an inspiration!

    xxoo
    Elspeth

    • Sarah

      Elspeth, thank you for making these connections. And, it’s so great to hear that you’ve made such strides in the last few years. I’m glad that you are feeling inspired! Keep it up, and I hope you’ll stay connected. 🙂

  • Carolyn

    I was raised hearing the quote “a minute on the lips forever on the hips” anytime we were around desserts or snack food.
    Also I remember my friends as young as 7 years old going on diets “just like their moms”.
    It starts young. Whether the adults in our life realized it or not at the time. Not blaming our parents completely, but those messages start young and stick with us and become our messages.

    • Sarah

      Absolutely. Reading about everyone’s memories in this comment thread affirms the fact that these messages start extremely young for a lot of us. Thanks for sharing, Carolyn.

  • Pat Kennedy

    being overweight is neither attractive to look at, nor does one feel active, fit and healthy. It is very difficult to find clothes styles which suit or flatter – the society we live in now is (relatively) sophisticated and the marketing of fashion and beauty is all pervasive.

    I believe my issues with weight started after I left home and married and was responsible for the household food. so much more choice was available than in my youth and marketing in every direction, thanks to tv, etc. has just taken off. Too much temptation!

    • Sarah

      I agree that, sadly, our society creates and exacerbates a thin ideal. But, I also know plenty of women who are overweight, who are attractive and who feel healthy.

      Leaving home as well as TV (and other media) advertising are also recognizable culprits. Thank you so much for helping me get to the bottom of this, Pat.

  • Kristin

    I grew up believing that image was everything. I was ridiculed by my older sister and her friends, taunted my my own peers and had so much self-hate. The friends I did have were “more liked” than me because they were prettier or thinner {or so it seemed that way at the time} I was never told I was beautiful.

    As I grew up I developed an eating disorder to loose my weight and I slowly grew into my features, no more braces & yay to makeup. SO now I look like I have it all together. I am a good size for my height and generally feel good about my ‘prettiness’. But to be honest, even when I was in my crux of my eating disorder [90lbs} I didn’t feel bad about myself. I was possessed by this feeling like I had won. That I “fit in” now…

    Now as I have worked on self-love I am beginning to understand the nature of the beast, but being “thin” still has a good hold on me. I have great friends and a great life, yet I still come home and binge sometimes… just because !? This thought/idea to be thin has been embedded since birth. A part of my psyche. What I have been learning is that there are great lessons {probably our biggest lessons this lifetime} inside of our hurts, fears and addictions. So I know this was supposed to happen and its something I am destined to break free from <3

    • Sarah

      Kristin, I completely agree with your last few sentences. You are absolutely meant to break free, and I think you have the right idea – that binging (and other destructive patterns) can teach us a lesson; it is often the body’s way of bringing awareness to a deeper-seated issue that needs our attention. Thank you for sharing. I’m wishing you all the best!

  • Rachel

    I think there are just numerous messages that are sent to us throughout all of life. I do think that media has a much larger role than we often give credit. I know for me, however, most of those messages were filtered down to me through different means. I remember two occasions that really marked how I viewed myself growing up. I was always super skinny and knobby-kneed as a kid. Then when I hit puberty (earlier than all my friends) I gained weight and started developing curves. I was one of the few girls among my friends who was tall and curvy, and it made me really self-conscious. Then one day my older brother, whom I worshipped, told me that I would be pretty if I was skinnier. Since I already felt like an outsider among my friends as the only non-petite one, I continued to interpret that message as “if you were skinnier, you’d feel less like an outsider.”

    This then was further emphasized to me later in life when, actually at my skinniest, my father commented on something that I was wearing and asked where I got it. I told him and his response was “oh, I thought they only made clothes for skinny people.” He told me later that it was a poorly phrased joke and that he had meant to imply that I *was* skinny since I could shop there. But either way, it reiterated to me that there are things that skinny people get to do that others do not. Thus, I believed that skinny people were privileged. Unfortunately, life seems to have confirmed that to me.

    I was listening to an audio book by Brené Brown the other day called “Men, Women, and Worthiness.” She was talking about how women are taught by culture that they need to be thin, nice, pretty, and have it all together. That they need to be able to do it all and not let anyone see them sweat. I really think this is a huge part of our problem—we’re taught early on that our role as women is to fit into this box that includes our looks. And since “pretty” is so often equated with “thin” in our culture, we struggle with this. We also view thin women as “having it under control” so often. It’s completely not true, but that’s how we view it I think—that any extra weight I have is a result of my failure to be in control of my life. That coupled with our innate desire for connection and belonging sets us up for buying in to the cultural expectations that we have to fit a certain mold in order to be happy.

    • Sarah

      Rachel, this is so well-worded. I really appreciate your insight, and I think it will be so helpful to the women reading.

  • Bonnie Helterhoff

    We use our weight as an excuse to eliminate true intimacy with friends/lovers…. in my case, something I simply feel unable to cope to with.
    Many years of feeling left out; hurt; put down simply makes me afraid to open up. It is simply easier to go on eating and be alone. I totally understand what you are saying and am in awe of anyone who can simply do it. But overcoming the fear of exposing yourself to others is really and truly difficult.

    • Sarah

      Bonnie, it IS difficult. In my personal and coaching experiences, no one has ever been able to ‘simply do it.’ Having these insights about yourself is a great first step. I would love to help you make a small shift in mindset and offer some practical tips – have you signed up for the free workshop that’s coming up next week?

  • Sidney

    The doctor was the first person who told me that I would be happier, better at sports, have more fun at the pool if I lost weight. Every year when I went back for my check ups and hadn’t lost weight they would repeat this mantra, as would my family members after having heard it from the doctor, a person who was considered an authority figure. Even this week I went to the doctor to talk about an issue that had nothing to do with my weight and he felt the need to comment on it. My point being, we create in our minds a scenario where individuals in “power” have all the answers about what it takes to be a version of ourselves that we are satisfied with. Instead we should consider, amplifying our own voice and listening to ourselves to get those answers.

    • Sarah

      Yes! So true, Sidney. I think this is a common experience and attitude, for sure. Thank you for sharing the notion that we need to amplify our own voice vs. giving all power to the authoritative figure.

  • Julie

    Love this post, Sarah – making us really think about the where & when this started for us. This weight/body image issue didn’t hit me until the last 5 years. I gained weight from a thyroid issue and couldn’t get it off. I think it is a control issue for me, not others judging me. As a recovering perfectionist, I couldn’t understand why I was “failing” in this area; I just wanted my body back to how it used to be and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t do it.
    I think you are exactly right about the comparison — I see calm, at ease women that are thin and think it must be nice to not have to worry about what they eat, exercise, etc. I never really think about that it is their personality, not their body that is directly related to their ease and joy in the world!

    • Sarah

      Absolutely! We believe that if we can be perfect, then we will be beyond judgment (totally a control thing – this is on point!). I’m glad you enjoyed the article, Julie 🙂

  • Amanda

    This is something I’m struggling with right now but I distinctly remember being in 7th grade and my best friends were tiny and petite and I was tall( I’m almost 6″) and curvier. I’ve always been a little insecure but especially now. The world is bomvraded with tiny women in tiny bikinis or sexy dresses and I honestly feel like I NEED to fit this mold. I guess I’m ashamed of myself even though I shouldn’t be. I’m alive and I’m healthy and I have a husband who thinks I’m sexy. Spending time on your website has helped me tremendously but I still get sucked into what society has marked as beautiful.

    • Sarah

      Amanda, I’m so glad that some of my posts have been helpful. It’s not always (ever?) an easy journey. I would encourage you to create more space in your life for body diversity. Let’s counter all of the media that makes us think that this teeny, tiny fraction of the population is the reality, by surrounding ourselves with a great range of people (in real life and all forms of media, including social). Try placing your focus on body positive activists and people who lift up those around them… What do you think?

  • Rachel

    Very powerful message today on the blog. I wrote down the two questions, but have yet to answer them. I do not know why losing weight is so important to me. I know my friends have all recently lost weight and that makes me feel bad about myself and makes me jealous (which I am usually not a jealous person) I actually am already a social butterfly. I have tons of amazing friends, a sweet husband, a wonderful family, and lm settling into my career. My weight has yet to inhibit me from any of the things. I’m funny, smart and pretty but every time I look in the mirror naked I hate everything I see. I can’t figure this out. I don’t know what will change when I get my dream body … I’ll still have the same husband friends family and job …
    I’ll still be social smart and funny … I’ll just have the things while being able to accept my image in the mirror.

    • Sarah

      Rachel, it sounds like you have a lot going for you; that’s awesome! Your weight or the way you feel about your body may not be a reflection of the other great factors that make up your life… but losing weight is NOT the key to loving your body. In fact, it’s often the other way around. Your body is not motivated by hate or a lack of acceptance but quite the opposite. What can you do today to show her some love? I’d love it if you shared a short list, here. 🙂

  • Bre-An

    In my experience, body, weight, eating, being ‘skinny’, looking good, restricting and denying were the things that were always focused on while I was growing up. I had a grandmother that I was very close to, who focused on these things ALL THE TIME. And, a mother who was overweight and constantly struggling in life. On one hand I got the message to restrict food and be hyper-sensitive to my appearance and on the other, I got the message that food was the only “treat” you could have in life. No one ever talked about pleasure, feelings, following your dreams (what your dreams even were!), treating yourself to things other than food, world issues, beauty (except the very superficial kind), having a career that you love or creating great relationships. No one talked about cultivating an inner life and how it all begins there – the focus was solely on the outside. No one was really LIVING and so this is what I learned – that you should focus on your weight.

    I also got this from the other angles – media and friends. I think we are all immersed in this to some degree and for me not having strong role models growing up just reinforced the idea that you can’t have a life and be happy UNTIL you are ‘skinny’.

    Thankfully, I am letting go of the beliefs I inherited growing up and focusing on creating a life and not just a smaller dress size.

    Thanks for the great blog post, Sarah and the amazing work you are doing!

    • Bre-ann…Your first paragraph hits the nail on the head for me.

    • Sarah

      My pleasure, Sue! Thank you so much for your input and for sharing your story. It often takes great effort and intentionality to shift the beliefs that are ingrained in us as children by those we love and look up to. I’m so glad that you are taking steps to do so.

  • Natalie

    I had a time in high school and college where I lost a ton of weight from anorexia. I had been a little bit overweight before my eating disorder and became very very very thin afterwards. And you know what? My personality did change. I struggled with waaaaaaay more anxiety and depression than I had before. I felt more lonely and afraid of life than I ever had. Sure, when I was still overweight, I was a little dissatisfied with my appearance and life from time to time, but it was nothing like the crippling anxiety and sadness I felt at a smaller (and very unhealthy for my frame) weight. My personality did change: I went from a cynical yet mostly jovial & overweight teenager to a “perfect body” emotional and moody wreck. It was aw-ful.

    But, what I will say is the praise that I receive for my body also changed my personality. I did feel more “confident” at that weight showing my body and wearing tighter fitting clothing because I was complimented often when I did this. I did get more attention and felt more confident from this attention. So, basically, I was objectified all the time. 🙂 It was all that I ever wanted, but it was so conflicting. On the inside, I was miserable, but on the outside I was complimented. I had several relationships during this phase but none of them were long-lasting. I would attract awesome guys but I did not have enough emotional stability to actually form a solid relationship with them, and would inevitably end it after a few months.

    And now, I am at my happy medium. Three years later, I have a very healthy body. i am not overweight, I am not underweight, but I am at a weight that feels good for my body. I honor my body and I am happier all around. I get the most attention now from others, instead of being random men at parties or on the street that ascribe to the “Thin is In” mentality, I get attention from people that respect my body and respect who I am. Even though my body is not perfect, I have more friends and love than I ever had. I am not afraid to be me and let myself shine. I am also engaged to a WONDERFUL man, planning out wedding, and am loving life! Doors open when you let yourself be you!

    So, long story short – I don’t remember where I learned that being thin would change my personality, but I can testify that weight loss DID change my personality – for the worst. 🙂

    • Sarah

      Natalie, thank you so much for your courage in sharing this really important story. I’m so happy to hear that you are now doing very well in your life, body, and relationships. xo

  • Sarah, I truly believe that society has brain washed us. After my divorce and I attempted to start dating I realize that the men my age wanted hot and sexy not me. I did settle a couple of times and it was a disaster. I’m 59 and still have a lot of work to do on myself so I made myself a promise that by the time I’m 60 I will be a new and improved me.

    • Sarah

      Liz, thank you for sharing. Do you care to expand on what you mean by a ‘new and improved’ you?

  • Jennifer

    As a dancer in my early years, we had weekly weigh-ins and I was constantly told that my ability to dance depended on being the right size. Later during a performance, I had gained a little weight (college pounds) and my uncle after the performance acknowledge my ability to dance despite my weight gain. It was a pretty harsh comment; more of a surprise of how well I could do.

    That said, since gaining way more weight (over 150 lbs)…I definitely do not dance anymore.

    • Sarah

      Jennifer, you can guess what I’m going to say, right? I know that your uncle’s comment has caused you a lot of pain, but I don’t want it to be a story that you continue telling yourself. If it’s something you still enjoy, PLEASE, for the love of dance, DANCE! You can start by getting your grove on when you’re home alone. How does that sound?

  • Hi Sarah, I think I saw it happening to myself the more weight I put on. Things weren’t as fun anymore because it was harder for me to do certain things. I would NEVER get in a bathing suit now because it would mean I was constantly checking and feeling uncomfortable. Thinking everyone is looking at me. I have given up one of the most healing and soul healthy thing for myself out of my own discomfort with how I look in that suit. Sitting in a roller coaster seat is impossible at the size I am at, so the amusement park stopped being a thing to do. Going to the fair where it is all deep fried foods and rides is out. Going to a concert and feeling like you are taking up more than your allotted space in your seat is a turn off and I dont go there anymore either.

    All of the outdoor, exciting, active things I did, were no longer fun or enjoyable.

    I did the weight thing to myself. My own misery and all. I get it and am glad I am stepping out of it now but I can still see myself choosing what I do being dependent on my ability to look ok too. Can I dress well enough to hide rolls? Do I need to fit in anything I wont maybe fit in? A dilemma to say the least. On the other hand, i am going to two concerts this summer no matter what size I am.

    • Sarah

      Audrey, this is so hard. I know this is a sensitive topic, but I want to go there. The longer you disallow yourself to go to the pool, a concert, or an amusement park, the harder it’s going to get. Instead of focusing on your weight (and I’m not discounting the fact that some things can be physically difficult), let’s take a look at each of the stories you’re telling yourself that your weight implies. If you literally cannot do everything you could do at age 18, hello, that’s okay. Maybe you need to get a little creative. But, it sounds like one of the stories you’re telling yourself is that you’re not allowed to have fun, that you should be punished because you gained weight. And this is so. NOT. true.

      I’m thrilled to hear that you are attending some shows this summer, no matter what! I would love to hear how that goes and what else you are going to plan to do for fun this summer…starting today! xo

  • gulsen

    Great article Sarah!

    For me, the reason is I put so much effort into how to hide my midsection every single morning which makes me wish I didn’t have to do that. Not having clothes that fit me properly is not the issue, seeing and feeling my stomach hanging over my jeans is the issue (+ the embarrassment). I can’t keep myself thinking how easy putting on clothes was before and would be in the future if I can lose weight.

    Also, when I think about myself without the extra weight, I can literally feel free (without anything getting in the way like when I bend down) and light. Intellectually I know my weight does not define me, but I can’t say/feel the same emotionally…

    Gulsen

    • Sarah

      Gulsen, this is great. So, you’re saying that if you did have jeans that fit you, your stomach would hang over them, correct? I want to challenge this idea. I’ve coached women through this dilemma, and I’d love it if you could give it a shot. What would happen if you bought a pair of jeans in the next size up? Or, tried a dress or skirt? Do you need more comfortable pants? A more flowy top? How would that feel?

      Notice the wisdom in your second point. You are able to literally FEEL a certain way, based on your THOUGHTS. What else could you say to yourself and/or what could you do that would make you feel free, light, and comfortable? Secretly not wearing underwear to an event? Letting go of a toxic relationship? Floating in the pool? Wrapping yourself in a cozy blanket? It’s all up to you, but I encourage you to give it some thought …and let us know, here. 🙂

  • Jenn P

    I learned to associate thinness with acceptance and happiness at a very early age, mainly from my mother who would always shame me for being my natural size but was quick to praise me when I lost weight.At the same time I was a daughter trying to fit my mother’s expectations, the age-old exposure to mainly magazines that preached a double standard “How to Feel Sexy” right next to “Drop 10 pounds now!”. So I ended up working out and being “healthy” for all the wrong reasons, I did it for acceptance rather than health, not once did I think of my own happiness.

    But recently, all this was turned upside down was when I met my fiance, who taught me to let go and enjoy life without worrying what other’s thought of me, even my own mother. While this was freeing/liberating, I’m also the heaviest I’ve ever been BUT also the happiest. In fact I was so happy, I didn’t notice my weight until certain people started pointing it out and asking questions like “Don’t you want to loose weight so you can be happy again?”.

    This post touched my heart on many levels. What I’m learning is that as we mature and progress in our journey as women, our idea of weight / health is a living breathing thing that changes with us. What worked when we were young, might not even work or spark our inner glow years later. As I’ve re-focused on taking longer walks, finding a career I’m passionate about, I agree that “cake” is less of a crutch for instant joy and more a treat to be savored….just like life.

    • Sarah

      So much wisdom here, Jenn. I really appreciate you sharing your journey… it sounds like the beginning of a great one! I’m so proud of the shifts you’ve made, and I hope you’ll keep us updated on whatever you learn, next.

  • Linda

    I remember very well which comment made me start worrying about over eating, As a young child my father would often say to me in a very stern voice: “I don’t believe it, are you looking for food again? We have just finished dinner. You must have worms!” Looking back I realise that the meals were not well balanced and usually ended with a very sweet dessert. Naturally this quickly pushed up the sugar levels in my blood. As soon as the sugar level dropped again I felt Hungry. My father spent his childhood in South Africa and Egypt where worms may have been a problem. That was not the case for me growing up in the UK!

    • Sarah

      Linda, wow. What I notice about this story is not just the painful words of your father, but all of the understanding and sense you brought to the situation by shining a light on it as an adult. Thank you for sharing!

  • Juliet

    This is beautiful – thank you!

  • Melissa

    I think for me I first became consumed with the idea of becoming thinner when my life stopped progressing, right at the time when your life is really supposed to take off. I was stalled out in my social and emotional development and unbeknownst to me at the time, in a very stagnant and soul-crushing relationship. I had finished high-school pretty unscathed in the body-issue department because I was pretty average and didn’t really give it much thought until I went off to college, had “too much” freedom and free time and blew off my classes to do drugs and drink and socialize. I was “doing” so much but not “being” myself, telling myself I didn’t know who I was and I had to do “all the things” to find out. It was pretty much a big lie I told myself to avoid looking at the destructive path I was bounding down which would eventually end up in a cycle of addiction. I restricted and exercised to have physical proof that I was “accomplishing” something, and I know now, because that validation I was seeking from external sources wasn’t coming through for me at the time, I turned inward to the inner critic to guide my thoughts and actions. I spent six years literally doing nothing but working and trying to gain some semblance of control in my “out of control” life (which was really just me not setting boundaries for myself and others and not taking responsibility for my life) by not eating and “training” for various physical events. Long story short, I moved on and started living again, but that little voice still speaks to me, telling me that after having three beautiful children that there is no reason to “settle” for this body I have now. Because I lost weight “successfully” (talk about being skinny for a living!) before, my mind wants to tell me must be lazy if I can’t do it again. I think it came down to me needing to fit the mold of what someone else wanted (or what I thought they wanted) mixed with the need to be “The best” at something. Oof da! I am slowly learning now that I was literally not living life in order to weigh less and I am taking steps to live more, in ORDER to weigh less, but because its the point of being alive. Everything else will just fall into place when I respect my body as the wonderful vessel for life that it is!

    • Sarah

      This is amazing. Melissa, it sounds like you have done quite a bit of introspection and that you came out with so much wisdom to offer. The little voices tend to never go away, completely… but trust yourself(!) because you have learned so much, insight you can now use to talk back to those voices and to remind yourself why you’re here. Wonderful; thank you so much for sharing.

  • I thought that my weight was what made me shy and an introvert… In my mind, all the outgoing,popular girls were skinny! I never quite knew what to do when I walked into a room of people and felt very self conscious… I actually think my grandmother (whom I loved) told me she did not like fat people!
    But here’s the weird thing, after my third child, I actually lost the weight (65 lbs.), and I was still shy and at a loss in a room full of people! That was a big wake up call for me… The weight didn’t matter…. I still had to clean up how I showed up in the world!
    On a side note, the food did kind of help me with that… I found out that gluten was actually making me crash, and that there were foods that I was not eating that give me lots of energy. Once food made me feel good, it was easier to separate food from my weight — which has been key!
    Love the work you do!

    • Sarah

      Yes, this! As I said, who told us that losing however many pounds would magically change our entire personality? Love that you were able to come to this conclusion as well as the one regarding the separation of food and weight…and taking pleasure in food. I’m so glad you shared, Mia.

  • Gilda

    I think it has to do with our family members . Like my mother who is always push one diet or the other on me. The media there is always a new diet.it’s hard to love yourself the way you are when everyone is saying skinny is the way to go. I thank you for yr blog. Gilda

    • Sarah

      You’re welcome, Gilda. Thank you for contributing to the conversation. I hope we can stay connected!

  • Teresa

    For me it health issues I need to lose weight because it will be easier and less painful for me to get around and I’m no happy being xxlarge I was skinny before I had kids I know I won’t get down to that weight again but I do need to lose about 60 to 80 pounds to feel better

    • Sarah

      Teresa, I agree that carrying extra weight can sometimes be physically uncomfortable and even painful. But sometimes we group all of our feelings into this category, when in reality there are emotional and bigger pictures voids or obstacles that our body is calling our attention to, as well. Does that make sense? Would you be willing to explore this idea?

  • I learned it early on in grade school. We didn’t have cable so I was saved from tv ads but learned that you ‘shouldn’t be fat’ and that these kids got teased. It literally didn’t make sense to my brain. I remember my best friend crying in the bathroom in third grade because someone called her fat and saying to her, no you’re not, you’re Angelica and you’re my best friend! I didn’t understand why someone else would even care about how she looked, she was awesome! Some might say I was naive, sheltered, whatever, but I just didn’t and still don’t get these catty remarks. I don’t know why we need to verbally mutilate each other when we’re all feeling so fragile already. I remember going to high school and not ever wearing makeup (in my mind makeup was for movie starts and moms going out on dates. I didn’t even realize girls my age did this everyday), another girl asked me, why don’t you wear makeup? You’re so pretty, think how pretty you would be if you did! She wasn’t trying to be mean and I was shocked and thinking but why would I? this is how I look. But that stuck with me.

    It sounds absurd but to this day I do not leave the house without makeup. I have it in my head that I should look my best at all times. I wouldn’t even hang around the house without makeup until a couple of years ago. And am working on the whole not needing it to go out thing. I think these mini moments are like shock waves to our femininity and they recreate our entire perception of reality. Is it okay not to wear makeup to go out? Yea. Of course! But do I feel good doing it? No, so I put it on. I think weight is similar. I never would have thought to observe someone’s weight but it was learned that ‘this’ is not attractive and ‘that’ is.

    I’ve never struggled with my weight but I’ve had a lot of issues with self image in the past and can relate to everything you’re saying. I’ve had friends who struggle with weight that are very dear to me. I’ve had it said to me, you don’t understand how lucky you are. And I just think, but I’ve still been in that place of brokenness, just not with my weight. I think every woman deals with this. So maybe the question is: “How do we stop feeling broken?” I’ve learned to love myself on a whole new level, but I still have those moments of wanting to measure up to an ideal. Always searching and I think conversations like this are the first steps to freedom from a limited perception of beauty. Loving this forum and your content Sarah! <3

    • Sarah

      Alicia, this is a great share, and I’m so glad you took the time to post it. I agree that these conversations are a good starting point, and my hope is that they will carry on in offline chats amongst friends, as well.

      You’re right in understanding that all women struggle with something, and it would be so helpful to support and empower one another, instead of adding to the status quo. It sounds like you have made some major shifts in your perspective, and I appreciate you sharing your journey with us.

  • Julie

    I know the thought that I needed to be thin was with me as young as 4th or 5th grade. I keep thinking that a lot of this comes from TV, which is such a visual medium. I mean, the only overweight kid that I even remember from TV back in the 60’s and 70’s was Danny Partridge. When everywhere you look, you only see thin people and they all look so pulled together and gorgeous and fun and cool, and you don’t see yourself – a regular, curvy woman – you have to think “I am not ok.” I would love to research whether girls felt like this prior to the advent of TV. It’s why now I absolutely refuse to count anything – pounds on the scale, calories, fat grams, points and I rebel against the idea that I have to be a certain weight. Instead, I focus on feeding my body as well as I can, building my muscle because I feel sexier and more powerful when I do, and treating myself well. I also quit buying most magazines and don’t watch much TV. And I am so much happier..

    • Sarah

      Totally! We definitely need more diverse and realistic representations. Thank you so much for sharing some actions that have worked for you; I’m happy to hear that you’ve changed your focus to what makes you feel best!

  • I can remember the first woman I thought was stunning. She went to my church. I don’t remember who she was but I remember she was thin, had small perky breasts and was ALWAYS “put together”. I loved her clothes, her style. I think it was confidence I saw, that state of being together created beauty to me as a child. So I don’t think it was her size that I looked up to but the fact that she looked powerful, put together and beautiful because of her look not her looks (I honestly sit here not remembering her face at all) Although, I did get annoyed when I didn’t end up with small, perky breasts so that admiration did turn into a little disappointment when my body didn’t do what hers did.
    Now all that said, I run a boutique. I see a lot of women, all shapes/sizes/ages coming in and out of the store. I have to say the ones that strike me as beautiful are the ones who carry themselves with confidence, look not just “put together” but OWN their look and who they are (you want runway looks, cool, you want tons of tattoos and blue hair, great, you want flowy, hippie flower child, awesome). Notice I said nothing about their size, that style, that confidence, I have seen it in every size XS–XXL.

    • Sarah

      Jess, I love love this! Amazing example and perspective – thank you.

  • Louise Evans

    Everything you said is true.I am 55 this year and have been trying to lose weight since I was13.Have only ma NB aged it once in my lifetime and really thought all my problems would be solved,they weren’t band I still wasn’t happy wanting to be even thinner to be able to eat evev less.Every day I thought about food in the end it was too much started eating properly again and put weight back on.I need help to be happy in my own skin to know people love me for who I am not what size I am want to be healthy but not constantly thinking about food or will I be like this when I”m 80 xx

    • Sarah

      This is so true, Louise. Thank you for sharing your story. You absolutely deserve to be loved for who you are. I think you’re heading in the right direction. 🙂

  • Mayra

    Hi Sarah,

    Let me first start by saying how grateful I am that I found you and your awesome blog/vision. Since I can’t’ afford your workshops now (but I am super thrilled about the free one coming up!), I started reading everything you post and your videos, OMG your videos are so eye opening. I’m still working on the “have fun” and “stop to enjoy your food” part…

    Coming from a family of women who ALWAYS battled with their weight, I started learning about diets and calories counting at a very young age. But after reading your post, I realized that the very first time I learned that “I wasn’t thin and that was not okay” was when I spent the weekends with my dad and his perfectly skinny wife (who had tons of plastic surgeries). My dad married a woman who was a witch (granted we now have worked out our differences and she learned how to respect me) and she constantly told me that I needed to stop eating this and that because I was getting fat. I remember hiding food from her all the time… That went on from when I was probably 7 years old until I moved to the U.S. when I was 16. When I came to the U.S. (from Brazil) at 16, I hung out with people whom I love dearly, but a lot of them focused primarily on their looks. Gym talks, diets and looks were pretty much the main topics of our conversations and 12 years later it still is. They never directly told me that I was fat, but they implied on many occasions that I was. The most ridiculous thing is that I was the only size 6 girl (I know!) among girls who are size 0 – 4. Boy, did I work hard to stay at that size so I could impress them! Anything from starvation , to crazy diets to taking not so safe pills to lose the weight I thought I had.
    I always thought of myself being fat because my legs are too fat, I have cellulite and stretch marks (without even having kids) and my friends are all skinny. Now that I look back at my pictures, I can see that I was skinny too and I regret hating myself for all these years. After almost two years of severe depression, I’ve gained 25 pounds and a year after getting better and off medications, I found myself really STRUGGLING with the way I look and the fact that I have a closet full of clothes I haven’t worn in years. I’ve tried everything, but all I can do is think about how much I hate the extra weight and how much I love food!

    Besides my family history and circle of thin friends, I believe that the media teaches us that to look flawless you have to be skinny. Every TV show, commercial, magazine and movie imply that being skinny is the only was to be happy and look good. One thing I’ve been learning lately is that I do HAVE CONTROL of what I watch on TV and social media, I do have control of people I am hanging out with and how to set boundaries with them. I can control the type of conversations I’m engaging in and I CAN unlearn this terrible lesson I learned as a child. I’m definitely a work in progress. I’m not even close to where I want to be, but I am on my way there .

    • Sarah

      Mayra,

      I’m so glad you are feeling inspired by the content, and I’m super excited that you’re attending the workshop on Wednesday! I think it’s going to be really helpful for you. In the meantime, pleaseee throw out the clothes that are taunting you! Have you read my recent post with Melanie Kluger that addresses this?

      You are absolutely on your way! I love what you said in your last paragraph, changing what you can. Because you’re right, so much of this can be unlearned, as long as we take the time to be gentle with ourselves, forgive, and continue taking steps toward the life we really want.

      Wishing you the best, and can’t wait to “see” you soon,
      Sarah

  • jennifer heber-brown

    this is the gospel. thank you for reminding me. about 4 years ago i lost about 15 pounds, felt amazing and maintained it for almost two years. then i got divorced and slowly gained it back. i remember how great, how myself i felt in that body, but what i had forgotten is how i got there. i didn’t set out to lose weight. in fact i remember looking at myself in the mirror and thinking, so, i’ve got a little extra juiciness, no matter i’m going to take care of this body i’ve got. and the weight sort of melted away. it didn’t survive the divorce, and i had forgotten the magic of that healthy mindset. maybe i can conjure it up again. thanks for reminding me what comes first…

    • Sarah

      Yes! It was my pleasure to remind you, Jennifer. You’re so right about the mindset and taking care of yourself. You deserve that!

  • First off, thank you. Reading your blog posts helps lift weight from my shoulders (without shedding a pound!). So thanks again.

    Now, back to the subject at hand. For me this thought entered my head when I started junior high. In my last grade school year I gained a significant amount of weight. When I entered Jr. High I lost nearly all the friends I had made over the last six years…without any reason. I just assumed it was because I had gained weight. I had to start fresh, while still seeing the friends I had since first grade in the hallways. That was SO long ago. It’s incredible that moments like that can really stick and mold my thoughts about my body image.

    Thankfully the love for my body has grown leaps and bounds since then, but it’s a hard one to shake off completely.

    • Sarah

      It is incredible! As are the meanings we attach to certain situations, often when we have no evidence of them! I agree that this is an area where most of us must continuously make an effort and be intentional, but it sounds like you are in a much better place in terms of loving your body. Thank you so much for sharing, Kimberly.

  • Heidi

    My beliefs come from certain family members (especially my gran), friends and some men. My relatives used to criticise me for my size when I was little and made me believe I would never be anything unless I was super skinny; some friends used to tell me that if I lost weight I could wear whatever I wanted, for example high heels!!; and a couple of guys said they would never bother making an effort chasing the plump girl (I was size 6-8 at the time). This where it all came from for me, but luckily I found the courage to ditch the “friends” and wait to find Mr Right who thinks the world of me. My gran, well she’s my gran 🙂

    • Sarah

      Heidi, so glad you were able to realize that it was “them,” and not you. Thanks for sharing part of your journey with us. I hope you’ll stay connected!

  • Cynthia

    Here’s the thing:I do feel better when I’m 125 rather than 165. Yes, wearing cute clothes and getting compliments feels great, but the reality is I’m more confident and feel more healthy, vibrant and energetic at the lower weight. With the excess weight, I feel so lethargic, no energy to exercise (and eating is easy), less motivated and my moods are more down than up. When I was more thin, I naturally felt more positive (maybe the hormone balance of being healthy?). I understand the premise of living more now, despite your weight. However, it’s just so much more challenging to do when my body feels so tired and my mind feels so down (due to being tired). Being social, when you feel the physical effects of being heavy is very difficult. At least for me, I desire to be healthy which includes losing weight to reclaim my body and feel good again (from hormonal balance) and have lots of energy. For me, the feeling of “I want to lose weight more than anything”, comes from deeply desiring to live life to the fullest in a healthy, happy body full of energy and vitality.

    • Sarah

      Cynthia, I see where you’re coming from. It sounds to me like what you REALLY want is a full life and a happy, healthy body, which is full of energy and vitality. It’s great that you were able to identify that. I think the problem is that you’re believing that you can only have these things if you lose weight or that losing weight will bring you these desires. And, I just have not found that to be true. I know it feels that way. I’d love if you could join my Get Out of Body Jail workshop, this Wednesday. It’s free, and I think it will be really helpful for you. xo

  • Michelle

    For me I think a lot of it has to do with others perception of me. I may feel happy and social and confident but I know most people have a negative opinion of overweight people. They stereotype them as lazy, messy etc etc. Often just subconsciously. I know my in-laws can’t understand how anyone could be overweight cause it’s a choice right?? Just means you have no willpower.
    I find that thought quite crippling for me….that I can’t change other people’s prejudices – it’s ingrained in their brains. So even though I can still wear nice clothes and lipstick and be social and have fun I’m still being judged for something that I can’t (or find really difficult to) change.

    I know I should care less…maybe that’s a self esteem thing. I don’t know how to turn off that awareness of what others think of me.

    I should add I’ve done a lot of work on myself over the last year or so and mostly I’m feeling pretty good and am excited about this journey I’m on. I’m just digging deep to that stuff lurking underneath to give you an idea of where this comes from for me 🙂

    • Sarah

      Hi Michelle, I hear you. It sounds like you have some evidence of negative things said toward you and that others are merely assumptions. Be careful, as carrying around these thoughts (about others thoughts toward you) is going to train your brain to pay attention to and even create scenarios that back up this belief… Does that make sense?

      Of course it’s not easy, but as you begin to let go of the need to to control others’ thoughts toward you and you focus on your lovely, fabulous life and self, this energy will be picked up by those around you.

      I’m so proud of you for digging deep and trying to figure this out! You’re doing great.

  • jodie

    hi sarah,
    i love everything you write. so poignant and transparent. in answer to your question, i can remember what i felt like when i weighed what i wish i weighed today. i WAS more social, sexual, confident, sassy. i’ve shrunk myself as my body has grown. the bigger i get the more i feel like i am too much and not enough, and in my mind, i equate weight loss with lightness in my mind and spirit. i’ve grown heavy and lost my muchness as the weight has gone up on the scale. many of my circumstances have changed, most of them good – marriage, 4 kids…. but there’s been loads of new stress, lots less free time, i’ve not been good at self-care…. i look back at thin jodie and equate weight loss with carefree me. i “know” it’s false, but i can’t seem to let it go. i still want to be thin more than anything else.

    • Sarah

      Hi, Jodie! The good news (which you are aware of) is that all of this is made up of beliefs that can be unlearned and thoughts that can be changed. Just because you currently associate all of these positive, desirable factors with weight loss does not make the association true and does not mean you can’t have these things now. You need to take some ACTION steps so you have concrete evidence of this. Try incorporating just one act of self care on one morning, and just see if you notice any shifts in the rest of your day. See how it makes you feel. I’d love to hear what you find out. xo

  • Sally

    I can remember when I first realised I wasn’t like all the other children and I was “fat” – I was 8 years old. I didn’t really understand what it meant but I soon learnt that it meant I was subject to a lot of ridicule, name calling and bullying. The beautiful slim children around me never got this treatment and so there it was – fat and ugly bad, slim and pretty good. And so it continued and continued. I’m 47 this year and still get called “fatty” and it still hurts, how pathetic is that?

    I’ve made sure my weight has never stopped me doing anything I wanted to do. Have suffered humiliations, embarrassment and smiled and joked through it all. I’ve watched my slimmer friends get on in life and after my ex left, I have battled with self-loathing for a long time. I’ve tried dating online and received a lot of awful comments from men who “don’t do fat chicks”. It’s hard to believe in yourself when you are told you are not good enough, slim enough, pretty enough – in fact why are you actually around at all?

    The media portrays people who are fat as lazy, unfit, unhealthy, ugly, a drain on the health service and so it continues. If you don’t do anything you are lazy and if you do try and exercise, you get harassed and abused! Can’t win really.

    • Sarah

      Sally, first of all, it’s not at all pathetic that you feel upset when someone says something really hurtful. That sounds like a healthy response to me. What is not healthy or helpful for you is letting these things dictate your life and how you feel about it and your self. I love that you haven’t prevented yourself from being seen and putting yourself out there, but it sounds like your attitude behind all of that is an anticipation of rejection as well as self-ridicule and rejection.

      I encourage you to give yourself the space to really feel angry, upset, and hurt, and to grieve the loss that young Sally experienced. Then, ask loved ones or fellow employees, etc. why they care about you, what they see in you, what you’re good at. Expose yourself to compliments, and daily remind yourself of all that you do have going for you and all that you are. This could be the beginning of a big shift in mindset. I also think you could really benefit from the free, live workshop that I’m offering tomorrow. Have you signed up, yet?

      Wishing you all the best.

  • Linda

    I have found that in the dating world it is often ststed that men would prefer a smaller woman. I have looked on online dating sites much to the encouragement of my friends and most of the people I am matched up with want either someone that is slender or petite. That sends a loud message. I do take care of myself, eat healthy, and exercise, but I have curves. The men that show interest in me are extremely overweight and don’tappear to try to take care of themselves or they are much too old for my preferences.
    Always enjoy reading your work!
    Linda

    • Sarah

      Keep looking and remain open, Linda! I think taking care of yourself and loving your curves also sends a loud message. People are always attracted to this kind of person, no matter her size. You deserve everything you’re looking for in a romantic relationship and in life…and more!

  • Hi Sarah,

    What a great topic to discuss today!
    Although I personally have never dealt with the issue of wanting to loose weight to boost self-confidence or to become more sociable, I have coached many who have. Being a fellow life coach, I’ve come to the realization that many women face this battle and the root is that it does NOT stem from birth but more so from societies unrealistic views, and expectations of women along with the false realities created in media, publications including some of our favorite glossy magazines and television shows. It’s interesting that the body image we view through these outlets portray ONE size of a woman and not the variety that actually is displayed in the real world. Not all women are size 2 and not all are size 12 but we come in all shapes, shades and sizes and with that, ALL should be recognized of it’s individual and unique beauty.

    Because of my strong point of view, I became a partner with BlendInForWHAT?!(TM)… encouraging the next generation and those living now to embrace their uniqueness and care less about following societies definition of beauty. Check out more here: http://www.blendinforwhat.com or on Instagram: https://instagram.com/officialblendinforwhat

    • Sarah

      So true. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Kisha. I’m extremely thankful for women who are willing to take a stand against society’s definition and standards of beauty.

  • MaryKate

    What an amazing and great question – it made me really go back through time and think about when my ‘body consciousness’ started.
    I’m sure it is different for everyone – but for me, it was moving at a young age. It wasn’t the fact of moving, (that one and subsequent moves) which definitely helped to foster my wanderlust spirit (which has led to amazing & fullfilling adventures). It was the loss of community. There was a defining break that I noticed and internalized. I went from a tight knit community of family and friends and as a result, a wider community of volunteerism and service, to a new experience altogether. It wasn’t that the new was negative (in fact, I have many wonderful and life supporting memories from this time), it was that it was severely lacking the community and support that I had grown up supported in. With this change came a new and fractured existence and therefore, a new and fractured view of myself.
    I truly believe that a community (be it family, friends, a combination of) that shares a similar supportive existence can help support and in cases, change one’s outlook.

    • Sarah

      Thanks so much for sharing this MaryKate. Excellent perspective and something to think about, for sure. Community is so so important!

  • Kathy

    hi Sarah,
    For me, it started in my childhood. Someone can call you tall, short or thin and it’s not an insult. My siblings would call me fat when they were mad at me. My mother tried to fix me; pay me to lose weight. It all made me feel something was wrong with me. I couldn’t buy clothes in a regular store. I finally learned I use food to fill an emotional void. My father died when I was 5. I remember coming back and getting a basket filled with treats to help me feel better; to help me cope with my loss. You start feeling if being fat is bad, people judge you and insult you, then being thin is good and people will praise you. Inferiority sets in; why would anyone want to talk to me or listen to what I gave to say.Lose the weight and people will want to hang out with you. I hope this helps.

    • Sarah

      Kathy, yes it is quite helpful to be aware of this type of cause and effect. Thank you for being open to sharing your story, here. I’m so sorry for your loss and all of the pain you experienced in the years where you especially needed the support of your loved ones. I hope that you are continually healing and moving forward. xox

  • Angela

    I think our culture tells women they don’t deserve to be treated like they’re sexy, have lots of friends, and ooze confidence unless they look a certain way. I’m fighting the notion that you can’t feel confident, sexy, and friendly if you have cellulite, a crooked tooth, or uneven skin. (Or if you’ve had medical issues, scars or something.) Stop telling people that only those who fit a narrow definition of beauty are actually beautiful.

    • Sarah

      Absolutely! If it’s not weight that we’re using to hold us back, it’s something else. When one “issue” is resolved, women will often move on to something else, creating a perpetual cycle of never feeling good enough…to have a fabulous life that I love. I agree that as a society, we must put an end to the current, extremely narrow definition of beauty. Thank you for sharing!

  • Laura

    I think, for me, it all started in high school. This was when I noticed that only the skinnier and prettier girls could easily talk to boys, had way more friends and were deemed the “popular” ones. From then on out – I had this idea that if I lost weight – everything would look and appear better on me. I could wear nice clothes, have lots of friends, maybe guys would notice me. I think it’s a desire for a certain appearance. The skinner girls always looked happier, seemed to have better lives, looked good in photos. If only I had known that just learning self-confidence would allow to me to talk to the boys or rock whatever outfit I wanted.
    Luckily, as I got older, I realized size has no place in the equation of how beautiful someone is, or how amazing their life might be. Sarah, what you’re doing is amazing. We need more confident women in the world. Much Love, Laura xo

    • Sarah

      It’s definitely about acceptance and control. “If I can do or be xyz, people will love and accept me.” Laura, I am so happy to hear that you are beginning to question some of the untruths you learned at a younger age… keep moving in that direction! Thank you for being a part of this community and contributing to the conversation. I hope you’ll stay connected.

  • Lisa

    I learned I needed to hold my stomach in from a friend of my mother’s when I was about 8 years old. And then at 11 when I had started getting a little chubby from eating away my anxiety and depression, my diving coach told me I couldn’t compete with the slimmer divers on the other team, if I was chubby. I quit the team even though up to that point I had always been in the top 5 in competitors. I think from being sexually used as a child I learned my only value lie in being for a man’s pleasure. I got fat to protect myself and to subconsciously say, f-you! I bounced back and forth from starving myself and eating the pounds back on. I no longer feel as though I have to be a man’s trophy and accept myself more at 225 lbs than I did at 132, but the weight is so hard to lose. Lisa

    • Sarah

      Lisa, I seriously appreciate your willingness to share your story. The more we can do this and shine a light on the lies, the better we can understand and heal from our experiences, and shift our thoughts on weight and beauty standards. I’m so sorry for all of the pain you experienced at such a young age, but I’m so glad that you are moving toward accepting and loving yourself. I’m wishing you the very best on the rest of your journey, and I hope you’ll stay connected with this community. xo

  • Great post again, Sarah! I think it starts really early now, almost in utero… My daughter who isn’t even five already somehow knows that ‘fat is bad’. It is not a subject in our home, I never struggled with my body size (which is not to say I haven’t had body image issues), nor did my mother, we don’t talk about diets, we don’t watch TV, I don’t buy magazines, she doesn’t have (nor is aware that she ‘should’ want) skinny dolls, the country I live in is quite restrictive about allowing billboard ads in public space, so overall she is rather well ‘insulated’ from media messages about ‘the right kind of body’. No matter, people have internalized those messages so deeply, that our society just oozes them, often unconsciously. She must have heard or overheard things form other kids or adults.
    Once she told both her grandmothers, none of whom are particularly overweight – just ‘standard’ ladies in their 60s: “You know, grandma, you’re fat and old and will die soon”. The other day she asked me: “Can fat people go to swimming pool” – which quite frankly shocked me more that the dying grams… I asked her, why wouldn’t they be allowed to and she answered “cause all the water would overflow”. I am almost sure she hadn’t made it up herself. Then she went on to ask “can very tall people go to swimming pool” – so I guess she is still quite innocent but the seeds have been sown.
    I guess as parents we need to make conscious effort to teach our children how to think critically and independently and to feel good about themselves. Cause they are gonna hear and see things we would never want them to.
    And yet we are social creatures and we crave acceptance – if the society we live in despises a particular kind of appearance – which happens to be ours – it will be really difficult not to be affected by it. The general culture needs to change.
    That’s why I am so grateful for what you do, Sarah! Thank you.

    • Sarah

      This is so interesting and critical to this conversation. It’s so difficult to take a stand against a message that is so pervasive in our society – absolutely. But, I think that notion is what makes it necessary that we “teach our children how to think critically and independently and to feel good about themselves.” Thank you for your kind words, but more importantly, thank you for doing what you do – being a mom who sees the importance in this conversation and takes the time to teach her children another, better way.

  • Vanessa

    This resonates with me so much! In my teens I got very obsessive about food and calories and I got pretty skinny (down to a BMI of around 18). People were commenting on how much weight I’d lost, but I wasn’t happier – if anything I was more unhappy then I ever had been. I was obsessive about everything I ate – every meal was a nightmare of ensuring that my calorie intake was just right. The past few years have been a bit up and down but I have generally found that when I focus on my body and my weight by going on a diet it’s like suddenly all the treats in my vicinty have my name on them. The key I’ve found to actually losing weight in a way that’s sustainable is to shift the focus away from how I want to look to how I want to feel. When I’m focusing on feeling energetic and strong I’m going to be eating foods that make me feel good and exercising more regularly. When I’m out enjoying my life or getting immersed in my work I’m not going to binging on junk food. I’ve found that in striving to enjoy my life I’ve lost weight in the process without even trying.

    • Riri

      True…every word.

    • Sarah

      YES YES YES. Preach! So proud of you Vanessa, and thank you for sharing your journey and insight with us.

  • Lindsay

    I have been severely overweight since I was a young child (started when I was 4) and growing up with 3 naturally thin siblings was very difficult. I watched them go to parties, have lots of friends, get asked out on dates etc. so when I would try to make friends, even in elementary school, no one wanted to be my friend because I was fat. I was socially unacceptable. To this day, it’s the same way. I am now 34 and still don’t have friends, or a social life and am socially unacceptable. My siblings are even awkward around me. I can’t travel or go anywhere because I am treated so horribly. You watch movies where the gorgeous and crazy thin leading lady has confidence and people respect her and she gets this absolutely gorgeous guy fall hopelessly in love with her and you think, if I could just lose this weight I would have this kind of wonderful life because then people would want to know me and I wouldn’t be a social leper. Society doesn’t want fat people and it’s the only socially accepted form of discrimination. You are treated as if you are less of a person, people don’t think you’re smart and cast you off as not worth their time. This is just how life is and it’s horrible. I just try to make the best of it.

    • Sarah

      Lindsay, I agree with you – none of this is okay. I want to hold space for you here to take some time to feel hurt, angry, upset, to grieve all of your missed opportunities. This is painful stuff, and unfortunately we can’t just put on a smile and make it all go away. After you sit with these feelings (take as long as you need), I encourage you to begin to question the beliefs that your experiences have helped you to create. All of the nasty comments, rejection, and lack of representation in media has stolen so much from you, and I don’t want to let the actions of other people continue to keep you from the life you deserve. Are you interested in attending my free, live workshop tomorrow? I’d love to have you, and I think it could be a really helpful starting place for you. Let me know if you need more details! xox

      • Lindsa

        Hi Sarah!

        Thanks for your reply I actually did attend your workshop. I find myself angry and feeling hurt all the time because I try so hard to lose weight and it doesnt seem to work and I just dont feel like I have a place anywhere, I’m just floating through life. I enjoyed your workshop. Thanks for the invite.

        • Hey Lindsay! I’m so happy you enjoyed the workshop! Everyone has a place, it is just finding the right one. We love having you here. Sometimes all it takes to lose the weight is to Live More.

  • Heather

    I’m with Alice. Times in my life when I’ve been happy and feel content are also times when I’m moving my body and eating well and consequently thinner. When things get stressful and out of control, the weight piles on again. I overeat when I am stressed and lonely. I believe you are right that you can start having more fun and taking care of yourself and perhaps the weight will come off (slowly, in a healthy way), so I’ve been working on this. But stress especially saps my energy, and the first step to looking after myself seems hard. I’m 43. I’ve learned I will never have a tiny, tall, thin body. I just want to be healthy and comfortable with myself.

    • Sarah

      Heather, it sounds like you are on the right path. Keep trusting what you’ve said here, and I know that your life and your relationship with your body will get better and better. Sending you lots of love and encouragement!

  • Riri

    I have been on both sides of the fence. I’ve lost the weight before…and I must it admit it did give me a certain confidence that I didn’t have when I was heavier.

    • Sarah

      Thanks for sharing, Riri. I’d love for you to share some actions that you could begin taking today that would bring more confidence into your life…that have nothing to do with losing weight. Feel free to browse the blog and comments if you need ideas, or attend the party (Get Out of Body Jail) with us, tomorrow!

  • Hello everybody,

    In my case it has been what my parents taught me. My family and I (10 years old then) had been invited to a wedding. Looking at the pictures a few weeks later my parents told me it was unacceptable to be overweight and that I had to lose weight. Right after they distroyed the pictures. I felt as if I had failed them. That I wans´t a penny worth because of my “outside”. I must say I still have problems to feel confident.
    On the other hand, I´m proud to raise my 17 year old daughter quiet differently and I can see how confident she is.

    • Sarah

      Eva, that is so hard, especially coming from the two people in your life whose job it was to support and uplift that little girl. Conversely, I’m so happy to hear that you have chosen differently in raising your own daughter. I applaud you!

  • Sharon

    As I think back to the origin of ideas, I remember, as a13 year old, seeing media that suggested that teenagers eat all the time. So, because I was so excited to finally be a teenager, I made sure I increased what and when I ate! Fortunately, my metabolism was very strong back then and I didn’t put on weight or change in body size. However, when one of the girls in our group commented, in front of the other girls, on the size of my butt and suggested that I should wear a girdle, I think my slide into body hatred began at that time. Since then, even though I never gained an appreciative amount of weight until after I turned 50, I have dieted all my life. I always thought I was disgustingly fat. That belief was not supported by other people. Friends and family told me I was just a nice size and I always had adequate attention from men (including my husband). In retrospect, I think I am a self-fulfilling prophesy. I believe my body merely cooperated with my attitude, assuming that since I was so preoccupied with being fat, that must be what I wanted.

    • Sarah Jenks

      Sharon, thank you so much for sharing your experience; I think many of us have had a similar one. Your idea about the self-fulfilling prophecy is an interesting insight – I’m going to think more on that. Again, thanks for being a part of the conversation.

Sarah Jenks

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