For years, I put my life on hold: all I did was grind away, working towards fat loss.
When I say it was all I did, I’m not exaggerating: I didn’t have any hobbies and I avoided doing almost everything that wasn’t centered around fat loss, because I was so nervous that it would interfere with my meal and gym schedule.
I kept telling myself: When I lose weight, I’ll be happier. When I lose weight, I’ll be confident. When I lose weight, I’ll… start living.
I white-knuckled my way through several holidays without allowing myself any treats — I actually packed my own tupperware meal to the family Christmas dinner once — and I frequently turned down social invitations just to go to the gym.
Anytime I lost a little bit of body fat, I was always surprised to realize I didn’t feel any different: the confidence and happiness that I was certain would magically show up were in fact nowhere to be found. I assumed that I just needed to get leaner still, so the cycle continued: diet, exercise, diet, exercise, diet, exercise — it was all that I did, all that I thought about, read about, and talked about.
Finally, on a Saturday afternoon in 2013, after seeing a really fun photo that my friend Jen Sinkler had posted on social media, it suddenly hit me: my entire existence was centered around fat loss — I had turned fat loss into my sole purpose.
Over the course of the following week, my life completely changed. I threw myself headfirst into all sorts of activities that had nothing to do with the way my body looked.
I bought a motorcycle and — for the first time in a long time — happily ditched gym sessions to hang out with my brother and learn how to ride. I got into mountain biking, downhill riding, and then discovered the love of my life: motocross.
Guess what? It turns out I’m a really good rider! But I never would have discovered that had I not pulled myself out of my fat loss tunnel vision. In addition to riding everything with two wheels, I started writing again, spending time with my friends and family, and dove enthusiastically into different projects.
It all became so clear to me: my purpose here is not fat loss, and neither is yours.
Let’s get this out of the way: fat loss is not — nor should it be — a lifestyle.
Fat loss, should you choose to pursue it, is simply a phase and should be treated as such.
Continuously grinding away towards fat loss, without any strategic breaks built in your progression, will lead to massive burnout as it becomes suffocating and all-consuming. This in turn results in subpar effort, and therefore in subpar results.
If you are working towards fat loss, I encourage you to focus on it for a specific block of time — maybe four to six weeks — and then focus on maintenance for at least one to two weeks. Rinse and repeat, and notice how much better that feels.
I’ve worked with hundreds of women and I can’t count the number of times where, when discussing goals, a woman has told me: “I feel like I’m supposed to want to lose weight… I don’t really want to, but maybe I should.”
Let me be very clear: your goal is not “supposed to be” fat loss, despite all the aggressive marketing pushed on women through every media platform. Contrary to what this messaging would have you believe, you have a life to live. And this life doesn’t have anything to do with weight loss.
If you have a goal of losing weight in order to feel better, move better — or frankly for whatever reason you desire (#YourBodyYourBusiness) — I completely respect your choice. But I implore you remember that your worth is not attached to your weight, regardless of what that number is.
Fat loss may be a part of your story if you choose, but it doesn’t have to be the plot.
There are so many possibilities for goals beyond fat loss! There is an entire world full of things to learn and explore, all of which could be very fulfilling. So many women choose never to entertain these things, however, because of the constant pressure put on their appearance.
Which things could you get involved in or work on that don’t have anything to do with the way your body looks? Hiking, activism, writing, biking, drawing, dancing, baking… the list goes on. Which things are you good at? Which things do you feel drawn to, or called to?
It can be easy to get wrapped up in fat loss, but there is so much more to life! Even if you choose to pursue it, please remember that fat loss is not your purpose. Fat loss is not your life’s work.
We need you, your voice, and your gifts in this world, regardless of what your body looks like.
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