I remember the day that I hit my “goal” weight. (It only happened once in my entire 18-year dieting career.)
I stepped on the scale at 6:30 a.m., bleary-eyed but weirdly wired after 48 hours of fasting and running for an hour on the treadmill the night before. I looked down and finally saw the number that I had been visualizing and clinging to for years.
My heart skipped a beat. I stepped off and then back on the scale to make sure it was true.
It was. I was 2 pounds UNDER my weight goal, something I had never even thought to dream about.
I did a little fist-pump, shouting “yesssssss” while I did a little dance. I put on some of the “skinny clothes” that I had bought to motivate me to reach my weight goal — a crop top and cutoff shorts — and paraded around in front of the mirror.
My mind was racing as I analyzed my body. “I don’t look like I thought this weight would look,” I thought.
I pinched my triceps and lower belly and pulled my thighs back so that my legs would look more like cylindrical hot dogs than the hammocks that I saw.
If I had gone 2 pounds under my goal weight then I could probably lose a couple more, I thought. I was in momentum. I just couldn’t mess it up.
And then it dawned on me that I had been fasting for 48 hours.
I was going to have to eat something soon, and I was all going to go away. My stomach would bloat like a balloon. The 2 pounds would probably come back… and more. My belly would stick out, and the scale would go up if I even just drank some water.
And then the scariest thought: what if I only ever looked this way when I fasted?
The euphoria I felt just 5 minutes earlier had quickly turned into panic. The swirling thoughts started:
“You better enjoy it while it lasts, you always mess it up.”
“You are going to have to do 2-day fasts every week for the rest of your life.”
“One bite of any carb, and it’s all over. You know that the second you cheat, you always lose all control.”
“Tomorrow is Friday, and you have to attend a birthday party this weekend. How will you get away with not eating and drinking?”
It was the thoughts that were always the worst. I was always stuck inside my head doing calorie math, planning what I was going to eat and beating myself up for my choices.
Sometimes the thoughts would get to be too much, and I would just want to give up.
“I mean, I am 5’1” with broad shoulders and hips. There is no way that I am going to be tall and lean like I want to be anyway, so why am I even trying?” I would ask myself.
But I wanted to be thin SO badly. Not even just thin, I had a magazine image inside my head of very specifically shaped legs, arms, torso… from the size of my boobs to the shape of my calves I knew EXACTLY how I wanted to look. I wanted it more than anything else in the world, but it felt like no matter what I did, no matter what number I saw on the scale, I didn’t feel any closer to my ideal.
Because hitting my goal weight—even going 2 pounds under my goal weight—wasn’t enough.
And it never would be.
Because it is not actually about the number. Or the shape of my calves. Or even about how I look. It is about a feeling.
We chase a number on the scale or a dress size or a certain body fat percentage or protruding abs thinking that it will make us feel sexy and confident and worthy of… something? Do we even stop to think about what we are seeking?
I know I didn’t.
I thought to have the perfect body meant that I would be desirable, significant, envied.
What I didn’t realize was that I had been duped by a society that made me believe that being thin and desirable and envied was the ultimate goal. But those sensations don’t bring lasting joy and fulfillment.
They are fleeting. Fickle. Shallow.
Does Reaching Your Weight Goal Really Make You Happy?
It wasn’t until I was 30 years old that I realized that by focusing on manipulating the shape of my body and collecting accolades and achievements in my career and academics I was making my sense of self-worth dependent on external things.
Like many other people, I believed that my value as a person had everything to do with what other people thought about me, how I looked, and how much I accomplished.
But when we externalize our worth, no accomplishment is ever great enough, no dress size ever small enough, and no bank balance is ever abundant enough.
We stay in the cycle of constantly seeking the next thing to make us feel how we want to feel.
But true fulfillment comes from going inward, unearthing the stories that we are telling ourselves that confirm the fact that we aren’t lovable enough the way that we are and choosing to believe and start collecting evidence for something different. We have to want to believe that we are innately worthy of love, success, and abundance. Worthiness isn’t earned, we are born into it.
I can’t say that anyone was defining the moment when I realized that I needed to heal my relationship with food and my body. It was more of gradual awakening. I didn’t know it at the time, but my intuition began shouting at my more loudly than my logical, rational brain. And after taking a couple of trembling, tentative steps in the direction of my hunch, I noticed how much better it felt and I started following it more.
The more I followed my intuition, the more of a sense of joy, fulfillment, and love I found in my everyday life, and the more I got to know myself, my body, my likes and dislikes, and my passions. And the more I got to know myself, the less I cared about being rejected by others… because I found acceptance within myself.
If you are a seeker, constantly searching for love, acceptance, and fulfillment in outside things like your body, your career or travel, remember that those are just distractions. Your inner world is more profound than the outer world, but it is often the last place that we begin to explore.
Look inward; that is where you will find what you are looking for.