Why your weight isn't a measure you should use to define yourself
Have you ever stepped onto the scales and been disappointed by the number staring back at you? Do you have an “ideal” weight in your head as the goal where you can finally be happy and feel good about yourself?
We’ve been told that to be perceived as ‘worthy’ you should be a specific weight on those dreaded scales, a certain size in clothes or look a particular way.
There is a multi-billion dollar industry focused on making you think your weight is an important reflection of who you are. And that you need to do everything you can do to reduce it to that “ideal” number.
But what do those numbers really mean? Is weight the best measure to define yourself?
Here’s how you can boost self-worth and focus on forgetting about the scales.
Why weight isn't an accurate measure for you
Accredited dietitian and nutritionist, Shivaun Conn, encourages us to look at the bigger picture.
“It’s so flawed to look at just one outcome,” says Shivaun, “Many of my clients feel that because their weight isn’t what they think it should be, they’re failing themselves or that they are not good enough.”
Shivaun says when someone wants to lose weight, they usually increase exercise, eat more vegetables and reduce their alcohol. This all helps them sleep better and feel better. But as soon as they step on the scales and see a number they don't like, they think ‘what’s the point’ and stop all the positive behaviours.
But it’s those behaviours that were leading to longer-term health benefits and our general wellbeing can get disregarded because of a number on a scale.
So, let’s throw away those scales or at least push them to the back of the bathroom cupboard. It’s time to consider different ways to develop a more positive body image and a better way to feel good about yourself.
What do you actually want out of life?
Do you want to spend all your time thinking about your weight? How if only you could lose just a few more kilos, you would be so much happier. Or how being only a certain weight means you are a good person?
Or would you rather focus on the amazing life you have with people you care about?
Understanding what you want from life is an important step towards that sense of self that you feel content with.
Shivaun tells us a common theme she sees with her clients is the desire for a fulfilled and contented life.
“If you can work out what you want to achieve in your life, you can work on the behaviours and actions that will support these desires. You may want to be a positive role model for your children, enjoy more time with your grandchildren, have a rewarding career or go off on wild adventures. Your behaviour needs to support what you want in life, and be aligned with how you see yourself,” she says.
None of these lifestyle choices depend on a particular weight, so why is that measurement considered so important?
Respecting yourself no matter what you look like will have a bigger impact on your children’s lives, rather than focusing your efforts on achieving a meaningless number.
Encouraging your family to take up outdoor activities and move more will encourage a healthy lifestyle for everyone.
Enjoying wild adventures may need a certain level of health. But if you just focus on your weight, you don't know whether or not you’re actually healthy enough to achieve those adventures.
Be the best version of yourself
Identifying any underlying issues will make looking after yourself more meaningful. Acknowledge that you are worthy of a healthy body, no matter what shape it is.
If you do need to lose weight to improve your health, let the weight loss be a side effect of becoming healthier, stronger and more nourished - not the main goal.
“Stop trying to fix your body. It was never broken.” – Eve Ensler
There are many ways to motivate you more than the numbers on a scale. These will help you focus on what’s important in your life. Knowing what matters to you and why you want to reach a goal provides the best motivation.
Feeling healthier and acting on ways to improve your health are great steps towards having a more positive body image.
How to boost your self-worth
Self-worth is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect”.
So to give yourself a self-worth boost, you need to take the time to understand what makes you a good person.
Try making a list of your good qualities and how they make you a good person to be around. If you struggle to list them yourself, ask a trusted friend or family member why they think you’re a good person. Their responses might just surprise you! Use those qualities to create some affirmations. You can use these when you are feeling low to remind yourself why you’re a good person and why you deserve to feel good about yourself.
If you need some help creating your affirmations, try some of these.
You can adjust them so they’re inspiring for you.
- I am perfect just the way I am
- I am a good friend/partner/parent
- I am worthy of nourishing food
- I deserve to be treated with love and respect
- My body can do awesome things
Try repeating these affirmations as part of your positive body image habits.
Remember that things like weight, your job title or how much you earn don’t matter compared to your compassion, your kindness and the way you treat others.
The Body Positivity Movement
Being body positive is about accepting yourself no matter your size, and appreciating your body. It helps people feel good about their bodies by taking the focus off losing weight through unhealthy diet and exercise efforts.
TheBodyPositive.org says that “Body positivity is important because we have many things to do in this life that are more important than obsessing over our bodies!”
This is especially important for those who have given birth. Pregnancy means your body goes through significant changes which are largely out of your control. Yet new mothers often define their self-worth on how quickly they get back into their pre-pregnancy wardrobe, rather than celebrating what their body has just achieved.
Those feelings of inadequacy can last long beyond those baby years and can have a knock-on effect on your children.
Focusing on body positive messages improves self-confidence, reduces shame, and encourages respect for others. All beautiful traits for ourselves and our kids.
The focus on non weight-related health leads to sustainable, life-long, positive self-care behaviours for all the generations.
It's better to feel vibrant than to look at those numbers and feel despondent.
You deserve to feel good about yourself
Have a think about all the parts of your life that the scales don't reflect.
- Does it show what kind of friend you are?
Like that time you dropped off a few meals to a friend who was going through a rough time
- Does it show what kind of partner you are?
Cook their favourite food and having their favourite movie ready to go for a relaxing evening at home at the end of a big week
- Does it show what kind of parent you are?
Dedicating so many hours to standing on the edge of a sports field cheering on your child or helping them with their homework
These are all much more accurate ways to define your self-worth and show why you deserve to feel good about yourself.
It’s OK to be not OK
Sometimes, this advice is easier said than done. Putting these ideas into practice can seem overwhelming and pointless if you feel you don't deserve to feel good about yourself.
If you’re struggling to move past those kinds of negative thoughts and behaviours, you may need to seek the advice of a professional. Whether that's a dietitian, psychologist or even both at the same time, they are there to help you on your journey to feeling good about yourself again.
If you suspect you may be struggling with an eating disorder, speak to your GP or talk to someone from the Butterfly Organisation on 1800 334 673.
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Shivaun Conn is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, Accredited Nutritionist and Certified Health Coach with particular interests in nutrition, lifestyle, executive health and health behaviour change.
Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Panel June 2021