Sipping a dirty chai at a crowed café, I overheard a woman talking to her friend.
“Wow!” she said, scrolling through her Facebook feed, “It looks like Kelly has lost a ton of weight.” She added, in an inauthentic cheerful tone, ripe with jealousy, “Good for her!”
That short exchange stayed with me. I couldn’t help but wonder how Kelly had lost the weight. Was she going through a dark time? Was depression suppressing her appetite? Was she eating the same unhealthy food, but depriving herself of volume, constantly hungry? Was she binging and purging? Was her mind consumed with calories, anxious about what she would order out to dinner with friends?
All these were likely. Very likely.
It seems when we blindly praise skinny, we risk praising pain.
Why are we so quick to admire a result without knowing the cost? To fully honor an achievement, we must honor the path.
My hope for Kelly is that her weight loss was a natural byproduct of her healthier relationship with food, exercise, and her body. Wouldn’t it be lovely if she’s become more empowered around exercise, more in tune with her body’s messages, and more in touch with what food made her feel good?
I don’t know Kelly. I don’t know her journey. And so, it’s doesn’t feel helpful to say, “Good for her!” Instead, “Kelly, I hope you feel great and continue to feel better!”
A dear friend once told me about a study done on interactions between adults and young girls. I don’t remember the specifics of the findings. But I don’t need to. Why? I see the essence play out often. In fact, I notice my tendency to do it…greet young girls with compliments about their looks.
“You look so cute.”
“That’s a cute dress.”
Don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t love being noticed for the beauty and radiance they’re emanating? However, pressure inevitably builds for bodily perfection when that’s the main thing you get noticed for, over and over again.
Now, I make it a practice to greet people with statements that let them know I’m happy to see them no matter what they look like.
“It’s great to see you! What’s been going on in your world?”
“It’s so nice to reconnect! Have you been reading any good books lately?”
“I’m so happy you’re here. You look like you feel great!”
I love this quote from Adele…
“I don’t want to be on the cover of Playboy or Vogue. I want to be on the cover of Rolling Stone or Q. I’m not a trend-setter. I’m a singer. I’d rather weigh a ton and make an amazing album than look like Nicole Richie and do a shit album. My aim in life has never been to be skinny.”
In general, as a culture, why do we assume a main goal, for everyone, should be to be skinny? It’s madness!
Adele’s statement emanates profound clarity. It says, “I know what I value. I know what I’m passionate about. I’m happiest when I align my thought, word, and deed with my unique gifts and desires. It would be out of integrity to do otherwise.”
It’s not virtuous to beat yourself up in order to submit, without question, to default, cultural standards. Especially when those standards are saturated with dysfunction.
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
Instead, my wish for you is that you’ll give yourself permission to shift your health goals from focusing on how you look to focusing on how you feel.
This is what I’ve had to do. Otherwise, I probably would have quit teaching yoga and Pilates a long time ago. I was putting way too much pressure on myself to look a certain way. It was exhausting.
But then I realized…
If you’re skinny and exhausted, you’re exhausted.
If you’re skinny and uncomfortable, you’re uncomfortable.
If you’re skinny and insecure, you’re insecure.
If you’re skinny and neurotic, you’re neurotic.
If you’re skinny and stressed, you’re stressed.
My point? Feelings trump all.
It’s time to prioritize. It’s time to focus on what truly matters. It’s time to shift from dysfunction to function.
It’s time to set a new standard for young girls. Let’s assume the goal is inspired. Let’s assume the goal is kindness. Not skinny.
Are you with me?