“Lose weight or you’ll get diseases early”, “watch what you eat, make sure it’s healthy, “don’t wear tight clothes, they don’t look good on you” – these are just some of the many things I after started gaining weight during puberty.
We don’t often understand how caring advice can sound overwhelming, especially when the other person is already feeling uncomfortable in their skin. The impact these seemingly simple comments have on our perception of our body is immense.
These comments over the years also came with a side of health advice that confused me even further. My relationship with my body was in trouble and my idea of what was healthy was more skewed than ever.
Changing Body and Changing Health
As a child, I used to be extremely thin. This is why unexpected weight gain after puberty was something that didn’t sit right with me. But I was always too busy to take care of my body. I wouldn’t blame it on puberty alone, I now realize that I lived a very sedentary life during college. But seeing everyone else not change physically while following the same habits as me, made me feel different.
Years of neglect and unhealthy eating habits enabled weight gain more than expected. For a long time, I made peace with how I looked but everyone I know wouldn’t stop recommending weight loss plans to me. From eating healthy to going to the gym and doing yoga, I was “advised” on what I should do to take care of my body. The problem with this advice was that they didn’t seem to motivate me enough. It had gotten to a point where I started zoning out to health advice. I hated looking at myself.
The intentions may have been good but I was tired of hearing everyone noticing that the first about me, even without talking. I was once told by a random stranger at the railway station how I would “look good” if I lost weight. It completely threw me off but by then I had learned to ignore what people said.
Realising the Need to Be Healthy Vs. Finding the Best Way to Do So.
It’s not that I didn’t realize I was overweight, it’s the fact that nothing that was recommended to me was interesting. I tried two months at the gym, making it a chore instead of looking forward to it. I didn’t enjoy what I was doing and I gave up. It made me sick to the stomach to wake up every day and work out in the gym for hours. It was supposed to make me feel healthy but somehow I felt worse than ever. I felt out of place in a gym as I’m someone who enjoys the outdoors more than indoors. I quit the next day.
I felt extremely guilty. I tried to make up for it by eating less which was not going to be a permanent solution. As expected, that didn’t work out. I felt more hungry by the end of the day which would lead to overeating on most nights. My weight became such a huge issue for me that I would avoid going to weddings or social meets just to not be reminded of how I looked each time I was introduced to someone new.
Rediscovering Joy And Health In Cycling
It was last year in the lockdown when I told myself that I’ll find something that makes sense for me. I did want to lose weight but I knew I had to find something else. I bought a cycle and would cycle 10 kilometres every day. The distance didn’t bother me because it was something I enjoyed doing. I would look forward to cycling every evening.
When you start doing an activity that makes you feel good, like cycling did for me, you forget about your weight loss goals. The concept of needing to be consistent went out the window, as it became the highlight of my day, and there was never a question of skipping it if I could help it.
Soon enough, I started seeing the changes in my body, visibly. I realised that I had discovered what works best for me and I stuck with it. Eventually, when my progress was more evident, I slowly started eating healthier, to maintain and support the progress I was making through cycling. This shift in mindset and practice was gradual, but eventually helped me form better habits.
Human bodies are different and just because an exercise regime works for someone, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for you. It took years for me to understand and discover activities and approaches that didn’t take a toll on my mental wellbeing.
At the end of the day, remember that our health and the practices that we use to improve it, shouldn’t feel like a burden. When it does, you’re doing something wrong. There is a lot of noise when it comes to healthcare-related advice. But don’t allow yourself to confused, or forced into diets or workout regimens that don’t work for you.
Doing what’s best for your body means finding reliable approaches to improving your health and wellness. Yes. It will take some trials, errors and maybe some falls and tears along the way. But discovering a healthy activity that you can keep going back to, will be a worthwhile experience.
I know it has been for me.
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