A Journey Towards Well-Being
The Thin = Happiness Myth
I blog on all things mental health related but I tend to skip over what is likely the most common reason people pick up self-help books: weight loss. The reason I skip over it is because I am currently recovering from an eating disorder and don’t find these books particularly healthy or appropriate for me. I also question if they are healthy for anyone in general. Sure, weight loss is an important component of healthiness if you are legitimately unhealthy but by reading multiple self-help books on “Getting Skinny in One Month” (a fictional book that I just made up to prove a point- I sure hope this book does not actually exist!) are we really promoting a lifestyle change for healthy purposes or simply a life that will yield happiness when we are thin? I think the reason it bothers me so much is because there is this magical perceived notion that if we do lose weight then we are being “good” in society and, of course because as I know all too well, we are also alluding ourselves to thinking our happiness is aligned with the size of our skinny pants. (Trust me, I have tried to be thin and happy, thinking shopping would cheer me up but it just doesn’t work in the long-term.)
Think about the concept of weight in our society. How many times have you been praised, admired, or even envied for losing weight? Weight loss = good. This idea of goodness makes it acceptable for people to publicly appraise our bodies and let us know how amazing we are at weight loss, and what willpower we supposedly have when in fact we may not even be living a life we deem as worthwhile. By not doing anything about the unacceptability of weight commentary, regardless if the person meant it in a “nice” way or a “mean” way, we are actually giving people permission to continue to publicly judge our bodies as though we are art on display for critiquing. We all know that it is practically illegal to announce to someone that they are, gasp, “fat” (albeit, it’s usually in a soul-sucking, back-stabbing, round-about way) yet we contradict ourselves by approving of this idea that thin comments are just compliments. They’re not.
People! Happiness does NOT come with the size of our skinny pants. Trust me, if that was the case then it would make sense why we are turning to extreme dieting, even developing eating disorders to compensate for our lack of supposed happiness because thin could fill up this void in our lives. The truth is though, that the happiness void exists for other reasons that we are not acknowledging- completely unrelated to our external appearance. It is so much easier to accept that we “need” to lose weight to be considered attractive, to get this dream job, this dream world, etc. instead of admitting that perhaps (perhaps!) we need to change aspects of our internal being to reach our dreams- and that is not only heart-breaking but involves hard work. By externalizing the need to “fix” our bodies instead of being more outgoing, for example, this becomes more appealing to us because the body is easily “fixable” whereas changing the essence of who we are is simply discouraging and depressing, to say the least. (Not to mention, it’s completely unnecessary!) I want to be more than a number that defines my existence…I hope you join me in this revolution.
I feel like society is laughing in my face as I type this, saying, “you will never win the war on weight”. As I stand up to fight even my own battle, my knees are shaking when I finally respond, “bring it on”.
About the Author
Tara Richardson is a Peer Support Specialist at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, Ontario. Her own personal journey through mental illness has led her to be a passionate and dedicated advocate for mental health recovery. Tara is an aspiring author who is in the (long) process of writing and editing her memoir compiled from journal entries beginning at age 11. Tara has a B.A. in Psychology, a diploma in Social Service Work, and a certificate in Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Tara can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org Non-creepy fan mail gladly welcomed.