In the fitness and well-being industry, the prevalent messaging often takes a toll on mental and physical health.
Promises like ‘Drop a dress size’ or ‘Lose X lbs in X days’ are frequently used to market weight loss and fitness programs. However, adhering to these strict rules doesn’t always guarantee success. What happens if the target isn’t met? Or if the rules prove unsustainable? In such cases, individuals are left feeling defeated—damaging self-esteem, disrupting metabolism and hormones, and potentially leading to weight gain.
Let me share a personal aspect of my fitness journey that is rarely discussed. After a summer of indulgence working in Greece in 2002, I returned somewhat chubby, facing comments that fueled self-consciousness and motivation for change.
Embarking on a weight loss journey, I joined the gym, adjusted my diet, and cut back on alcohol. Seeking guidance from women’s health and fitness magazines, I navigated contradictory information and fad diets. This was in 2002 before the Internet became readily accessible.
Fast forward to today, the internet bombards us with information, often confusing rather than enlightening. Fitness professionals vie for attention with promises like ‘drop a dress size,’ contributing to the problem.
What truly frustrates me is the lack of health-first messaging. When the focus is solely on size and weight, it disregards the fact that we all have unique shapes and sizes. It’s time for a shift in the narrative towards holistic well-being that embraces our individuality.
A focus on health didn’t drive my initial journey into fitness; those who know me might describe my behaviour as that of a control freak. And that’s precisely what happened. Over the following years, I became a daily gym-goer, meticulously measuring and weighing my food. Looking back, my typical day’s food wasn’t about health—it was more about control.
Here’s a glimpse into my daily routine:
- 1 slice of wheatgerm bread with a smear of peanut butter
- Green tea with lemon (I had read that green tea burned fat)
- 20g peanuts
- 20g raisins
- 10 almonds
- 50g pasta with a tomato and chilli sauce (I read chillies helped burn fat)
Yes, that was the entirety of my daily food intake. I know, seriously lacking in so much, but in 2002, you don’t know what you don’t know.
I incorporated a 35-minute fast march to work, wearing ankle weights to burn more calories and tone my thighs and high heels to tone my calves. After work, it was off to the gym for at least an hour on the cross-trainer, followed by a walk home.
Things took a turn for the worse during my time in Australia. Surrounded by super fit, athletic, surgically enhanced individuals, I felt inspired yet horrifically insecure about my own appearance. Constantly comparing myself to others without seeing myself objectively, I now realise, looking at pictures from back then, that there was nothing wrong with my shape.
Every week, I subjected myself to the scale. The goal was always the next kilogram down, regardless of how I looked or that I had already reached a size 8 (I just couldn’t get my hip bones to show).
Then came the era of calorie-counting websites, long before internet access on phones. Another obsession was born—every calorie and workout was meticulously logged as I consistently tried to reduce my numbers. It was a cycle of control that took a toll on both my physical and mental well-being.
During those early years, my understanding of health was limited to the pursuit of being skinny. The cultural influence of the waif-like figure, influenced by quotes such as Kate Moss’s infamous “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” and stories of celebrities like Victoria Beckham sustaining themselves on a handful of almonds a day shaped my perception. The damaging narrative fed to young women about what’s considered acceptable is nothing short of appalling. Even the current ‘body positivity’ movement often falls short of promoting genuine health.
In Australia, where I continued my fitness journey, the gym offered free biometric testing by a nutritionist. Eager to achieve that elusive one more kilogram loss, I underwent measurements in 2007. The nutritionist, perplexed by my low body fat and weight but detecting ‘inflammation,’ proposed a detox plan. Eliminating wheat, dairy, and gluten while introducing expensive supplements, I diligently followed her regimen for four weeks. Although I shed another kilogram, the inflammation persisted.
Intrigued, the nutritionist recommended consulting a naturopathic practitioner. I was instructed to get blood tests from a doctor to provide additional information. In 2007, the understanding of inflammation wasn’t as widespread, and when I approached the doctor, he seemed baffled by the concept. Despite the ‘normal’ ranges in the test results, the doctor’s assurance sowed doubt in my mind. I cancelled the appointment with the naturopathic practitioner and continued with my existing routine.
As I reflect in 2023, it’s now apparent that the cycle of over-exercising and under-eating I was caught in drove inflammation. Chronic inflammation, as I now understand, underlies various illnesses such as eczema, Crohn’s, and endometriosis. The journey has been self-discovery, unlearning damaging beliefs, and recognising the importance of genuine health over societal expectations.
In 2009, I made a pivotal career shift from the travel industry to the health, fitness, and exercise sector. This transition gradually reshaped my understanding of a healthy body. Despite still over-exercising, my dietary habits improved, although alcohol consumption increased until I gave it up entirely in 2014—a story for another day. However, it wasn’t until 2017, with the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, that I truly grasped what a healthy body entailed. Unfortunately, I realised I wasn’t living in one.
The core focus for overall health is the reduction of chronic inflammation, a priority that may not sound as enticing as the promise to “drop a dress size.” Yet, by placing emphasis here, your body naturally aligns with the right weight and size for your unique structure, promoting physical well-being and genuine happiness. This journey involves learning to care for yourself, listening and responding to your body’s needs.
Reducing inflammation is a holistic endeavour, encompassing factors such as gut health, digestion, dietary choices, beverages, and eliminating alcohol, processed foods, excessive sugar, and seed oils. It extends to mindset, stress management, rest, varied exercise, movement, laughter, connection with nature/grounding, and understanding your cycle—even if you no longer menstruate. For those dealing with health concerns, adapting to the ebbs and flows is crucial.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no universal diet plan for everyone, and empty promises of unrealistic results are misleading. I’ve personally experienced the frustration of trying plans that worked for others but didn’t suit me, leading to feelings of failure and inadequacy.
Your health and happiness should never hinge on a specific dress size or the pursuit of dropping one. If you find yourself disheartened, frustrated, and feeling like a failure, it’s likely because you were sold a one-size-fits-all plan that wasn’t tailored to your unique needs. What you need is guidance on how to listen to and nourish your body.
If you’re ready for a new approach, prioritising your health and discarding the scales, the Healing Rebel Mastery could be the transformative journey you’ve been seeking.