Looking in the mirror, a surge of reality overtook her petite body, and her eyes opened for the first time in years to the protrusive bones at all angles of her body. Her relationships were dwindling by a thread, and the hourglass of her life was almost up, yet she continued fighting an impossible battle for an impossible body. How did she allow a seemingly harmless diet escalate into something so drastic? Why was she putting her health on the line for a body that was only seen on billboards and magazine covers?
It's that inevitable time of year when the weather's getting warmer, the birds are chirping, yet your mind has been roaring ever since Target released their bathing suit line in January. Especially during the warmer seasons, everyone wants to look and feel their best, mostly because we can no longer hide that extra "damage" done by Aunt Judy's peanut butter pie in 100-degree weather on the beach.
Having weight loss goals, or any body-related goals for that matter, are true tests of discipline and are certainly rewarding, for both our health and for our self-esteem. However, progress can become addictive, and you could very much start performing a disappearing act if you're not careful and strategic in pursuing your goals.
Particularly to my fellow extremists out there, learn to mend your battle stations wisely if you plan on preparing for the summer season, and don't sacrifice your sanity and your health for a war you'll never win. Here are some signs that you may be overdoing it, or essentially causing more harm than good.
1. You're eating numbers
Not that you literally ate the quadratic formula for breakfast, but you're seeing your food for its numerical value instead of for its sometimes soul-satiating and always body-nourishing means; knowledge is power and counting calories to lose weight is undoubtedly an effective way to track your progress. But not for us extremists. If you have obsessive tendencies, there are more precautions to consider when using this weight loss tool. When the moderate indulgence of a succulent brownie suddenly warps into an off-limits red flag, ringing in your mind: "410 calories, 24 grams of fat and 46 grams of carbs, oh my!" then it's time to step back and reevaluate your plan. Don't let numbers run your life. Food is not the enemy, and you will start becoming your own with this mindset.
2. You've been staying in on the weekends
Your goals for the perfect beach body (as seen, literally, only on TV) just don't involve a night out at the bars, drinking empty calories of alcohol, and, unavoidably, eating pizza. Getting off track for one night makes you anxious. But this will soon start to eat away at you. We are social beings and thrive in social settings. However, no one wants to be around a hangry grouch who's in dire need of many snicker bars.
3. You workout to "earn" and "burn off" your meals
Let's say you did go out one weekend and had more pizza or "off-limit foods" than you would have liked. The next day, your initial thought is to go work everything off, and you begin to form this love-hate relationship with the treadmill, simultaneously with yourself. Instead of allowing fitness to enhance your life, it dangerously starts to consume you. You're not a dog, and do not need to "earn" anything!
So why does self-love always feel like a battlefield?
We forget that long-lasting, high self-esteem stems from the invisible qualities we all have that define us, such as compassion, intelligence, humor, and resilience. Today's media has ingrained an idealistic, nonexistent (except maybe for those who eat cotton balls for breakfast and ice cubes for dinner, no judgments here though!) image in our minds, where women feel pressured to obtain a body seen only on billboards and magazine covers. We fight our bodies past their warning signs of exhaustion, making self-love feel like a battlefield.
I once overdid it.
I viewed food as numbers and for only their effects on my appearance. I had to effortfully rewire my brain to stop associating certain foods as "bad" or detrimental to my physique that I prioritized over every other aspect in my life.
I stayed in every weekend, watching my relationships crumble in a domino effect, while only having enough energy to exercise. There's nothing more mentally consuming, and addictive than looking in the mirror and wanting to become smaller and smaller every day, but this was my reality for a long time, and it started with simple diet intentions for the upcoming summer season.
Be careful with your body goals, because as humans, we always tend to take things too far, and we are not indestructible. Eventually, the repercussions of inadequate self-care catch up with us, and we will always be the underdog on the battlefield for self-love.
If you're still worried about your bikini bod, let's also not forget: One-pieces and high-waisted bottoms are always an option!