Letting go of the weight loss fantasy
I would always dream about the day I lost the weight.
The day I thought I would approve of my body, find confidence and wear whatever I wanted without feeling self-conscious. It would be the day I finally allowed love into my life or felt deserving of a partner. In other words, existing in a smaller body was akin to finding love, connection, happiness, confidence and worth, in my mind.
Except to this day of writing, it never came. I never lost the weight. The one thing I was convinced would finally bring me all the happiness I desired, never happened. The prophecy I had held onto for so long never manifested.
If anything, the reliance on shrinking my body only brought about adverse emotions of depression, helplessness, burnout and self-loathing.
As many do, I blamed myself, and particularly my body for not being able to do the one thing I wanted most. However, after years of no avail I began to question whether it really was my body that deserved the blame, or whether it was the idealistic nature of my belief that weight loss would magically save me from all the dissatisfaction in my life.
In short, it was the latter.
In a diet-culture ridden society that berates us with media depicting ‘ugly duckling’ story lines as well as the emphasis on attractiveness and thinness, I cannot blame myself of believing something so conditioned from a young age. Distinguishing this belief system as fantasy was the first step in trying to break the cycle and find acceptance.
If you can relate to this narrative, then you are probably aware that a simple dismissal is easier said than done.
There is this sense of grief, almost like a period of mourning, of the idealistic image you had of yourself. It may never occur, and as hyperbolic as it may seem, it can be extremely heart-breaking when you’ve associated most of your happiness to your physical nature.
It can also rob you of your sense of hope. The anticipation and promise of happiness tied to changing your body delivers some level of comfort and reassurance that things will get better, and when that is first stripped away the sense of hopelessness can be overwhelming.
I can’t say that I am completely on the ‘other side’ yet- if there even is something so linear and static- however letting go of the fantasy has allowed me to see that virtues like love, connection, happiness, confidence and self-worth are not mutually exclusive with weight loss and physical attractiveness. This may seem like an obvious realisation, however to readers who haven’t seen the world through the extremely distorted lens of an eating disorder and body dysmorphia, then it can be hard to understand how consuming the link between the thin ideal and happiness can be.
Letting go allows space to find acceptance
If there is one thing I would like you to take from my experience, it is that changing your body is not the answer to finding acceptance and happiness on a deeper level. I’ve been told this many times and never believed it, however through my lived experience now I do see its merit.
Here me out when I say that simply allowing yourself to be present and accepting of your body as it is, is something both radical and empowering within a space that does not want us to be happy with ourselves. When you focus on the fantasy, you feel like you must obtain something you don’t have, therefore all you can see the parts of yourself you are unhappy with.
Finding self-acceptance is an extremely contrasting experience. Your perception shifts and you start to awaken to the parts of yourself that you enjoy. I’m not saying that you will completely love what you see, but you may find that you become more impartial to it which is far more liberating than struggling to achieve a certain look or weight.
The unapologetic nature of proclaiming that this is who I am, that this is my body, and that I am deserving of love, happiness and respect no matter what it looks like is something so indescribably freeing and ultimately only something achievable upon the dismissal of the weight loss fantasy.
Overall, the idea that everything will magically come together at your ‘ideal’ weight and not in your current state is both a false dichotomy and a lie. Try to enjoy who you are now, and you may find that some of your desires will manifest because you’re allowing yourself space to be open to them- not because you changed your body.
Written by member of the Butterfly Collective, Kiara
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Lived experience of eating disorders and body image concerns lies at the heart of Butterfly’s work as it connects us to our origins and the communities we serve. By drawing upon lived experience wisdom and embedding it across all our work, we can ensure that our advocacy work, programs, projects, and services represent the diverse nature of our community and their needs.
The Butterfly Collective is an online community of people across Australia who either have a lived experience of an eating disorder or body image concerns, or are a carer, family member or friend of someone with a personal experience. This community is designed to help Butterfly to amplify the voice of people with a lived experience by inviting its members to take part in activities which will help to shape our work.