Read time: 5 minute read

Most people get into the body transformation game with one idea in mind – 

“The perfect body will make me happy”. 

Is this true though? NO! And in this post I am going to cover this in detail. 

There are a few things I want to cover on this topic including; 

  • Where does it come from? Let’s look at the media’s role in it, and our own
  • How much this impacts us personally
  • Where does the happiness part lie? and, 
  • What can we do about it?

WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?

I have been a Personal Trainer for 20 years, and a full-time Women’s coach for at least 12. Personally I have always been obsessed with weight loss and body transformation. And most of the women I have trained over the years share the same obsession. 

There are a number of factors behind why we think being skinner will make us happy, but we can narrow this down to two categories; 

  1. The media
  2. Our own personal issues.  

If we go back prior to social media, and particularly up until the last few years, there was zero representation of the averaged-sized women in the media. Every teen magazine or fitness magazine had on the cover – how to lose weight’, and most often it was a 1200 calorie diet with no carbs paired with an excessive exercise routine. 

Let’s start with the Media 

As we started to make traction in the fitness world, learning from our earlier mistakes and teaching women to nourish themselves (I’m talking between 2010-2017ish) I really saw a shift. Women want to eat more, meaning, they want to eat what their bodies require of them. They were sick of the yo-yo diet cycle. 

However, with social media came the introduction of influencers – most often slim women who looked exactly like those we had seen in the media our whole lives, but now there were more of them, and their accounts grew as women everywhere wanted to know what their ‘secret’ was. I can tell you what their secret was – their genetics – but they won’t tell you that themselves. 

They began selling diet products, fitness challenges, getting photo shoots in their underwear and the bikini and fitness model divisions were introduced to competitions to fulfill this need. Now the perfect body can be two things – tall and slender, or lean with large muscles and a perfect set of breast implants. 

So in 2022, we have a new problem, being thousands of genetically elite, self-proclaimed experts who use their own ‘perfect’ bodies to perpetuate diet culture for profit. They don’t coach and have no idea of the impact their behaviour has on young women, nor do they probably care. Furthermore, we see them as ‘experts’ because they look the way we have been programmed to believe ‘healthy’ women should look. 

So just as we were making progress, an even larger force came in and we were moving both forwards and backwards at the same time. The fitness industry which was once a safe place for women to build themselves up was now just as toxic as the mainstream media industry. 

Women turn to fitness to boost their confidence, and are exploited. They achieve great things with their own minds and bodies, but because they aren’t aesthetically extraordinary, or can’t maintain a lean physique, they feel like they have failed. 

So that’s the media aspect of it. 

Then we have the second part, which is our own personal issues

Technically speaking, no ‘health’ organisation inflicts an eating disorder or body image issues onto us. In order for us to be susceptible to the messages, we need to be somewhat vulnerable to them. 

Much like they don’t remove addictive things like alcohol, porn, sugar and certain prescription drugs off the market, they wont ‘ban’ this kind of body from being supported because 1/ this kind of aesthetic-based ‘beauty’ sells, and we live in a corporation driven society, but also because, only some people become addicted. 

Some people are susceptible, and others are not. There is a really great thought leader in the area of trauma and addiction, Dr. Gabor Mate. We will use his words here to illustrate what I am saying; “ask not why the addiction, ask why the pain?”

HOW DO YOU BECOME SUSCEPTIBLE?

There are two ways you may become vulnerable to believing that your body needs to look a certain way in order for you to be happy; 

  1. You need to feel like you’re not good enough as you are, on some level, and
  2. You need to believe that there is something positive at the other end of the transformation – praise, belonging, success, attention, love, etc. Whatever you believe you need in this life to be safe and accepted, this lies at the end of your body transformation journey. 

We have only a few basic human needs – shelter, food and water, and connection. In order to survive, we need to be accepted by the tribe as no one human being can thrive on their own. 

Most corporations prey on our need for connection, as in the western world we have plenty of shelter, food and water to go around (disregarding the quality of that of course which is on a sliding scale). They do this by creating scenarios where it is taken away, for example the ever changing algorithm on Instagram based on what they call the ‘fame lottery’, supplying endless food and drinks that inflame the nervous system, and dating apps where we swipe instead of boldly approaching someone in the real world and asking for their phone number. So things aren’t really working in our favour here. 

Our need for connection is created into cash for large corporations. For those of us who become fixated on our bodies as a place of inadequacy, ‘diet culture’ is the solution. Once we walk down this path due to our own insecurities, there is no shortage of places to land. 

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LOSE YOUR BODY-FAT?

When you lose all your body fat, you do not immediately feel happy. To be perfectly honest, you may even feel worse – more vulnerable, more disappointed in learning that this wasn’t the answer. Your friends and family may distance themselves from you because your lifestyle is so restrictive, so you may even feel more left out than when you started. 

Furthermore, if you’re in a loop of thinking there is something inherently wrong with you, you will continue to find things that are wrong with your body. For me I hated the shape of my waist, and my left shoulder was smaller than my right. I’ve had clients get breast implants because they hated the way their leaner bodies came with a smaller bust, or they complain about the tiniest bit of cellulite that remains under their butt crease, which I can’t do anything about because it’s their genetics

Lately, as I have been engaging in therapy, with the trauma being the root cause of my body image issues since childhood, this ‘issue’ has been much more apparent. I noticed I look and feel different multiple times of the day. One day I think I am fat, the next I am old and ugly. I would put on clothing thinking it won’t fit because I’ve gotten so fat, only to find my body hasn’t changed at all. 

So how you see your body is linked directly with issues you have going on within yourself, and although the lifestyle adopted by going on a weight loss journey can be helpful, the weight loss itself won’t change those beliefs you have within your nervous system unless you actively work with those too. 

WHAT PART OF THE JOURNEY DOES CONTRIBUTE TO GREATER HAPPINESS?

Whilst losing fat doesn’t bring about feelings of happiness all on its own, the activities undertaken in a body transformation process absolutely can, such as;

  • Better food choices leading to lower inflammation 
  • Regular exercise increasing lymph flow and blood circulation
  • Lowered stress hormones which lead to improved sleep, gut health and feelings of calm

The truth of nutrition really is that eating a diet full of highly processed food is a problem, causing leaky gut, and neuroinflammation, which directly damages neurotransmitters and makes us feel crap about ourselves. So a healthy diet is key. Once again corporations interfere with your assimilation of this information because it’s unfavourable for their profits. 

Losing weight will not make you happier, but being healthy will

For a healthy weight woman, meaning that your body has the amount of body fat it deems to be necessary for you to create life, forage and protect your young, fat loss will not make you healthier or happier. It is also highly likely that whatever fat loss you achieve will be put back on, as this is the body’s safety mechanism. 

The body decides how much body fat is safe for you personally, and has no care for your body composition goals. So for this person, a dieting process may make you healthier because you’re eating better, sleeping better, and moving more, but you could also achieve this without cutting your calories back and losing body fat. So there is no benefit to losing that body fat specifically. 

If you’re higher in body fat than what your body deems to necessary, then you may experience more feelings of happiness as you lose weight, and with clients this looks like easily fitting into a plane seat, purchasing fashionable clothes, feeling more energised, less mood swings, moving more freely and being able to play with their kids. 

So weight loss for some people does improve quality of life, but it’s important to identify the ways in which your body weight is affecting you. It’s also important to diet in a healthy way, no matter your starting point. 

In summary, if you’re a healthy or unhealthy weight, making healthier food choices and moving more (both of which come with a weight loss goal) will lead to improvements in the following; 

  • Stable blood sugar, thus more stable moods and energy levels
  • Increased energy do to a lower toxic load, 
  • Lowered inflammation which leads to fatigue and depressive symptoms 
  • Improved sleep which lowers stress and food cravings, and
  • Better hormone balance, so your time-of-the-month will be more pleasant, your skin more vibrant and your mood overall more stable. 
  • Less stress leading to more capacity for connection

So those are the reasons why someone seems happier when they lose weight, but it is not specifically because their body fat is lower. 

What can I do to start healing my relationship with my body?

The following is what I recommend to my clients when they come to me wanting to change their bodies; 

  1. Unfollow anyone that triggers you to feel low self-worth. If you contract or feel envious when you see your feed, just remove them. 
  2. Switch your focus from calorie restriction and dieting to start, no matter where you are on your journey or what your end goal is. Eat your maintenance calories and see if you still want to lose weight once you’re feeling more healthy.  
  3. Train to get strong and improve your overall physical capacity, and do exercise that is friendly to your nervous system – weight training, cardiovascular activity, dance, yoga, pilates are examples. Note that competitive powerlifting, crossfit and HIIT training may be too much. 
  4. Start looking within. What do I want this for? Do I need to lose weight or am I just unhappy? If you feel the issue is outside of your capacity to process, hire a qualified professional like psychologist, psychotherapist, or coach who specialises in this area. 

By working on these things you can start to heal the relationship with your body. There is of course the ‘body positive’ movement, but I would be very wary of that as it often does not encourage a healthy relationship with food, which is foundational to good health in the long term. 

Often the best way out of body image challenges and diet culture is through it too, so don’t beat yourself up if you did a competition and felt like you failed. This is all a part of the journey. Now you know that’s not the answer and you can start focusing on those practices that brought about joy throughout the process and build on them instead.

Want to master this topic? Check out my super-affordable mini-course on Body Love

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transformation is yours for the taking. 

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