I’m not a stress-eater. In fact, I’m the opposite. When I’m stressed, I can’t eat. My stomach is upset and putting things in it makes me feel worse. Food makes me happy so I guess it makes sense that when I’m not happy, I would want it less. I’ve struggled throughout my life life with self love and body image. Now in my 40s I’m realizing what I thought was weight I put on during the pandemic may actually be ‘happy’ weight. I’m realizing the body I’m in now is my ‘happy life’ body, which is different from the body I lived in during those darker times, and a lot of my adult life. In this blog, I’m exploring what its like accepting and living in my happy body.
In My Mid-Twenties
I was the heaviest I had ever been. I hated exercise. I hated even the suggestion of exercise. There was no self love, or body positivity happening in my life. My mom would encourage me to go for walks and I would lash out at her that I hated the idea of walking. To go nowhere, for no reason at all – what a waste of time. I don’t know why I was so angry about it to be honest, but I know that I was. I didn’t want to sweat, to exert myself, or to deny myself any food I wanted to eat.
In My Early Thirties
After a stressful relationship was ending, I was full of anxiety. I’d never experienced that feeling before. I hated being in the house we shared. I hated myself, and couldn’t get out of my own head. So I started walking then, because I had to – not to improve my body image, but to clear what was going on in my head. There were times I had to get out of the house and vent my thoughts to no one. I had to move my body or I felt like these feelings would drown me. I would walk a couple of times a day some days, to help feel less like I was suffocating.
As a result, I lost weight. Yes, I was finally moving my body regularly, but I wasn’t eating because I was so anxious and stressed. Life eventually levelled out and so did I.
Flash forward a few more years and another toxic relationship that lasted a couple of years. I was back to living in a state of stress and anxiety. While I was exercising on a more regular basis, I was losing weight in a not healthy way because I wasn’t eating. I reached the lowest weight I’d ever been in my adult life. I wanted to celebrate it, but I couldn’t because I knew I couldn’t maintain it. Eventually I was able to end the relationship and again, I levelled out.
Now To My Late 30’s
Like a lot of people, I gained weight during the pandemic. That shutdown came 4 months after my relationship with my husband began. I was maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle balance when I met him. Once he arrived in Nova Scotia, and we were in lockdown together for 3 months, we started cooking great meals and trying new craft beers. Then we had to figure out how to exercise at home to balance out all that eating.
The world reopened, the months went by and I was still putting on weight. I didn’t feel like I was eating more than normal, or eating particularly bad foods, but despite exercise, I kept gaining. Now we’re into our third year since the pandemic shutdown and my weight hasn’t come down. I have good body image days and bad ones, but I’m trying to be gentle with myself. I believe in moderation over dieting. Denying myself foods I want to eat just ends up being a recipe for disaster, so I try and have things in moderation. Just this last week, I had an epiphany: What if this is my ‘happy’ body? I’ve never had a healthy adult relationship (I realized this in counselling). So what if this is what it looks like to be happy and healthy, instead of stressed and anxious?
I didn’t know how I felt about this realization at first. A part of me longs for that low weight I hit when I was at my worst for stress and anxiety. I was so happy with that body image. A bigger piece of me knows I NEVER want to go back to living like that. And I never will. It can be hard to reconcile how we want out bodies to look and feel with how they actually do. Harder still depending on where we’re at in our own lives. If you’re struggling with your body image, stop and sit with where you are in your life right now. Are you happy? Do you feel healthy? Maybe you aren’t the size you want to be, but maybe that’s ok when you think about the other good things you have in your life.
I honestly didn’t realize I was living in my happy body but now that I do, I’m seeing things differently. I continue to strive for balance in all things but especially when it comes to taking care of myself physically & mentally. I hope we can work towards feeling happy and healthy instead of getting to a size society tells us we should be.
If you’re a listener of podcasts, check out this one by Jenna Kutcher about her own journey with her body image and health journey.