Changing body shape – It happens and that’s OK


Over the last few months, I have lots of conversations about this topic with my friends, family and my clients. My reply has been – ‘It’s OK, your body naturally changes over time – your body is still valid and should be honoured’.

At certain points in our lives we might put weight on, recent experiences, during lockdown have seen many people put weight on through overindulging or anxiety. Being in and still was safe, that is a valid coping strategy and it helped us get through a tough time.

We would naturally expect our bodies to change over time, I’ll explain why.

1) Life events happen. There are always going to be life events that cause our body to get bigger or smaller, like getting an injury, grief, celebrations, pregnancy, studying for your finals or menopause. Life events happen and just because we eat more or less or move more or less often while we are going through something is OK. Sometimes, when life returns back to some form of normality, we will see our weight slowly (sometimes really slowly) return back to what it was and sometimes we don’t, both are OK. It doesn’t render that life experience or event should send us into a spiral of negative self-talk. Retraining our brain to see our body shape as a neutral thing can help us to see our body as an instrument for movement and joy, not an object to be looked at. Why should we hide it, criticise it or judge ourselves for being different!

2) It’s Ok to be in a bigger body. Despite what diet cult and fatphobia tell us – it’s OK to be in a bigger body. We are not all supposed to be the same shape and size but there are billions of pounds to be made from making us think that we should be in a smaller body. Diet culture promises us that if only we could lose a certain number of pounds or kilos – then we’ll be happy, then we will feel better about ourselves. It tells us we can (and should) get back to our pre-pregnancy weight. Society celebrates those that manage to lose weight so that we are all scared of being bigger, worried who is judging us for being heavier. Fatphobia is taught to us as children. There is always someone out there able to profit from us feeling bad about ourselves so that when we subscribe to dieting apps, purchase books about the latest crazy weight loss regime, we shop to cheer ourselves us, they sell us healthy versions/low fat/low sugar products to eat.

3) Food can be an emotional crutch. It is common to turn to food when we are bored, feeling down or lonely and in the short term that can help us through a tough patch. When these types of feelings continue and if we are privileged to have access to someone to talk to, we can find other ways to help with this if you feel you’re turning more often to food, as there are other coping strategies. When I was studying for my finals at A’level and university I rewarded myself with food, as a result, I put weight on. I felt at the time that this was a reasonable trade-off for doing well in my exams. I tried to do some exercise as well to help with my stress levels but that wasn’t always doable.

4) It’s how we are wired. In times of increased demand and stock running out in supermarkets, food became scarcer to us so of course, we would want to protect ourselves from a future shortage. This is why we get obsessed with food when we are on a restrictive diet and why we are doomed to fail in the medium to long term.

5) Cooking and being creative was one of the only things that we could do during the lockdown. Who baked, or dug out the recipe book and cook some more elaborate meals or ordered more takeaways that normal? I know I did. When we were staying safe at home, we looked to meal times to provide a break from the monotony of each day. It’s a joyful and social activity, during the last few months we had time and energy to focus on food in a way that maybe we wouldn’t normally.

It’s the positive things we do for our body and our mental health that really counts not what size leggings you are wearing while you do it. We feel better about our bodies when we move them so it’s important to get them moving and doing the activities you love.

Over the last few months, we were moving less than usual. Gyms were closed and our routine was off-kilter. Yes, Joe Wicks was keeping the kids moving and entertained a few of us who joined in for a couple of workouts but it’s not how we would have chosen to move if we had free choice. I missed my Spinning classes more than I can tell you, I know my clients missed our face to face sessions and all the activities they do in between them like tennis, netball, hockey, horse riding, long-distance walking.

If you would like some help kick-starting your fitness goals please do get in touch to arrange a no-obligation discovery call.

Sara McDonnell

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