Is the weight loss reality better than the fairy tale?
I’ve noticed a different conversation happening over the past few months between myself and my clients and I wanted to share it with you.
Most of the women I work with are over 35, have a family or are career oriented, and constantly juggle work and life.
And whilst their desire around health and fitness is similar to most women – to be fit, healthy, toned, feel sexy and confident – the focus has shifted from fitting into a certain size dress or weighing a magical number on the scales, to something much more powerful.
The conversation is around beginning to accept their bodies and choosing to be healthy and fit because it gives them a better EXPERIENCE in life.
I do the biggest happy dance every time I have this conversation with a woman.
Why? Because it has depth and meaning way beyond the physical, and that is a beautiful thing because it means women are choosing to be real more often.
This is an important shift in the right direction, if you ask me, given the barrage of marketing hype we see every day targeted at our bodies.
Is it just me or is anyone else tired of the messages?
Drop a dress size…get your best bikini body…lose 7kg in 7 days…this shake program will transform your life…blah, blah, blah! This is where the fairytale sits, because most of us who have tried these plans over time know the results often don’t last.
I chose to title this blog post ‘Is reality better than the fairy tale’ because what I’ve come to realise – both in my own life and with many of my clients – is that often what it takes to live ‘the fairy tale’ (or ‘living the dream’) does not feel congruent with how you want to live everyday life, or what I like to call ‘reality.’
Ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be ‘one of the pretty slim girls’. I have many vivid memories of the comparisons I used to make with other girls in my class (or on the front of Dolly magazine), who I thought were soooo much better looking than I was.
One specific memory was in 1st class at a new school. We had to move 4 times whilst I was in primary school and starting a new school sucked each time I did it. This particular time was hard for me because all the girls had already formed friendships and I soon worked out that the ‘pretty ones’ stuck together and the rest of us just seemed to hover around the outskirts of the popular group.
I remember being in the playground, feeling very lonely, swinging upside down on the playground bars and staring at the popular group. I told myself that one day I would be one of those pretty girls – a popular girl that everyone wanted to be friends with. I would not be fat (an unfortunate ballet incident at 3 years old told me I was).
I would have beautiful long straight hair; I would be confident and funny and smart. Even as I write this I feel sorry for that younger me: she really had no idea that she was unique, and special no matter what she looked like. For the record I was actually your average looking kid so everything I told myself was probably not that accurate, but what little girl wanting to fit in doesn’t think similar things.
Anyway, fast forward to my early 20’s when I thought I had found the solution to this ‘pretty girl issue’. I joined a gym, was training hard (code for unhealthy relationship with exercise and food) and I was ‘getting closer to being thin’ (my words, not reality).
In actual fact I was under weight, had lost my period, refused to eat most foods, and was obsessed with training and achieving that perfect sporty yet slim body.
At that time I felt pretty close to living the ‘fairy tale’. I felt in control of my body and thought that Prince Charming would walk into the gym one day and sweep me off my feet all because I was now getting closer to my version of ‘pretty and thin’.
Ironically there was a guy I REALLY had the hots for at the time who went to the gym (is that a term still used today or am I showing my age!) – he was 4 years older, popular with the girls, had the best Mel Gibson blue eyes, and he would flirt with me at times.
I thought I was pretty special and other girls told me so; ”oh wow, he is so into you, you are so lucky.” Funnily enough we got together once, and then he ended up with a slim, tall straight haired blonde girl who I had always thought through high school was so beautiful. Well that confirmed to me then that I was STILL not good enough to score Prince Charming…STILL not thin or pretty enough.
I spent many years depriving myself, not letting myself stray too far from my ridged exercise and eating program, all because I chose at the time to place way too much importance on how I looked and attached my level of self worth only to that.
Trouble was that in doing this to myself, I never heard all the great things people said about me…and to be honest, I would probably not have believed them at the time anyway.
The problem is that what others think is THEIR view of the world…and that is something you can never control.
So to place your level of success, or worthiness on others opinions instead of it coming from within, may leave you disappointed and in pain, always chasing the fairytale and telling yourself that you are just not (good) enough. It had this effect on me for a long time.
Luckily I did happen to meet THE REAL Prince Charming a few years later and I think we live a beautiful life with two amazing kids and loving friends and family.
Yet in the early years I would feel very insecure because he is so darn good looking AND such a lovely person inside as well.
So I constantly felt like one day he would figure out I was not that great and go find someone who was.
Thankfully I have gotten over that bit of self-trash talk and feel blessed that we have found each other and are both worthy of each others love.
Have you ever committed to a program – whether that be a fitness or weight loss program that promised amazing results – or you chose to follow a person who had the results you THOUGHT you wanted?
What happened? Did you go hard, give it everything, tell yourself you had to stick to it 100% or you were a failure (even thought it actually didn’t suit your everyday ‘reality’). Did you get your result or tell yourself you fell short (attachment to expectations are the fastest way to experience pain)? Did you maintain your new life, or find yourself slipping back to ‘your reality’.
And most importantly, did you enjoy the process and could see yourself living life like this forever?
That’s the magical question you want to ask yourself when you think that your reality is not as good as the fairy tale will be.
To give you an example, I will explain the list of pros and cons I made up as a result of choosing to put myself through a 16 week ‘body transformation’ program.
I didn’t have any weight to lose, in fact I was already pretty fit and healthy. But I had always said I wanted to know what it would be like to have a body like the women on the front cover of fitness magazines. I was 3 years away from 40 so I figured it was now or never. I do like a challenge !
Here is the list: and a before and after pic to illustrate!
PROS OF LIVING THE FAIRY TALE (ie. having that lean magazine-worthy body)
- I felt proud that I had set a goal and achieved it…that feeling lasted about 2 weeks
- I got lots of comments…”wow you are soooo dedicated” (hmm, external praise…)
- I easily fitted into a size 8 and was under 57kg for the first time since my 20’s (warning sign!)
- I could do 10 chin ups in a row…being lighter did have one plus!
CONS OF THE SAME THINGS:
- I lost my period (again)
- I had NO energy…who could live on so little food and exercise for 2 hours a day?
- I hated going out to dinner/social events as it was off my plan
- I was cranky and more than a little obsessed at times
- I was living on a very bland diet (somewhat like in my 20’s)
- I felt like I was on auto pilot all the time (emotions were always low…happens when you deprive yourself – LOL!)
- I could not sleep and often woke in the middle of the night ready to chew my husbands arm off
- I lived on diet coke and fat burners to get myself through the day
- I kelp telling myself that this was what it takes and I have committed to the challenge
As you can see, the ‘cons’ list doesn’t look that positive, but I stuck to my guns because I said I would. A silly thing really, as my body was shouting at me to stop, but my ego and pride would not allow that.
There is a BIG difference between wanting to achieve the ‘fairy tale’ and having the expectation that it’s possible to stay there all the time. I’m not saying that you should not set a goal because it’s in setting and achieving goals that we find out how strong we are inside. However, the lesson I learnt was that the fairy tale is not meant to last and that it’s totally ok to sit in ‘reality’ more often.
I hear women all the time put themselves down because they didn’t maintain a significant weight loss from a program they followed. They say they have no willpower, no discipline – which is total crap! They forget the achievement of the actual initial goal set and what that took, and instead focus on how they have ‘let themselves go again’…when in fact two things most likely happened:
- They followed a program that was not sustainable (it’s how the diet industry makes billions of dollars year year)
- They focused only on the outcome and not the journey….maybe because the journey sucked and felt really hard!
The solution is simple: get off the ‘quick fix merry-go-round’ and start to have a different conversation about what you really want long term.
For me, life is about enjoying food, being able to play with my kids, lifting heavy stuff or running fast at the gym, training with my clients so they see how freaking amazing they are, and to feel strong, confident and healthy.
Now that’s sustainable because I know what it takes to achieve this, I’m happy to put in the effort it takes on a consistent basis AND it fits my life.
So if you are going to sign up to a short term program because you want to live ‘the fairy tale’ make sure you ask yourself three things:
- WHY am I doing this? – what is it that I want to get out of committing to the program ? AND more importantly, who am I doing this for? For me because I want to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment and I am really unhappy with where I am now? Or am I feeling pressured to look a certain way because it’s what society or people I hang with deems is acceptable?
- HOW will this fit into my life right now? – is it going to be a massive challenge or shift from where Im currently at and am I committed to these changes?
- WHEN I finish the program will I be happy to continue with this long term? – can I maintain this and does the program give me a long term strategy that I am happy to stay committed to?
FYI – a wedding, special holiday, school reunion, or turning 40/50/60 usually come up as the most common reasons for a woman wanting to take drastic action when it comes to her body. These things all only last for a short time…metabolic damage, hormone disruption, unhealthy relationship with food, missed experiences all last A LOT longer. Take it from someone whose body is still recovering from years of abuse, there are better things in life to focus your intelligent, amazing, worthwhile self on.
Wishing you self love, kindness and less ‘mean girl’ talk.