A few weeks ago, as I was moving my winter clothes from my drawers to my closet I happened to come across a t-shirt from my university. My university tends to always have some sort of theme every week, and this t-shirt was from Body Positivity Week.
I remember scrolling through my school email that day, and came across the message in caps lock saying “GET A FREE SHIRT AT 1PM ONLY.” Now, one thing university students love to hear is the word ‘free’, so naturally, without reading much about what the shirt was, I stood exactly at 1pm at the specified location ready to get my free shirt. (I mean technically speaking, my tuition is paying for this free shirt so is it really free..?) As I now look back at the t-shirt I was happy to get, because hello free stuff is great, I now realize how much this shirt really needed to find its way out of my life. In bold letters, the T-shirt said: “Objects in mirror will get thinner than they now appear.” The more I kept reading it the more annoyed and rather disgusted I got with the message perceived behind this t-shirt.
Most people equate being healthy to being thin. Sometimes we do it subconsciously equating healthy to being thin when we’re out trying to figure out what to eat for lunch. The most important thing is to love the body you’re in and – something that I myself struggle a bit with – stop comparing yourself to everyone on your Instagram feed. Bit of advice – try unfollowing anyone who makes you feel that you need to be or look like something or someone else. I know this is a lot easier said than done. In thinking positively about yourself, you have to be your own biggest fan. Instead of thinking ‘oh I don’t have the body to do xyz’ THINK ‘oh look how much I can do! look at how much my body is capable of!’. There is so much to love about yourself and the body you’ve been blessed with.
This is essentially how I think some of us thought at one point (or currently) think: How to be healthy: diet → thin → healthy. Now, there’s a lot to unpack here. Whenever I hear the words ‘diet’ come out of my friend’s mouths I always sort of jump a bit. And by jump, I mean plan out in my head how to say that dieting is not a good idea even though they’re pretty sold on going on a diet.
Something I loosely live by is the 80/20 rule. 80% of my days I’m eating fruits for snacks and the other 20% is a bit of a freestyle. The reason I say loosely is because I don’t like restricting myself to eating only a bit of X per day. Treat your self-day is pretty much every day for me. As a runner, I am more geared towards eating fruits and oatmeal – fruits make me feel great and energized. Most runners have “cheat days” but I actually don’t believe in “cheat days”, rather I believe in eating a bit of everything each day. I used to have a cheat day and my weeks generally went like this: Monday to Saturday I’d only eat fruits and vegetables when Sunday rolled by I would eat everything and anything. Essentially, it did not matter how healthy I ate throughout the week, Sunday undid everything. It was then that I changed my outlook on how to eat certain foods and the loose 80/20 rule came into play. The reason why I say loosely is that there is no possible dimension where I’d be sitting with a measuring cup to ensure that I don’t go over X grams of carbs or X grams of sugar on a weekly basis. Now, I’m not trying to put those who do that under a microscope, I’m just aiming to convey that that isn’t the type of lifestyle I live by. The way I approach micromanaging every bit of food I eat is a lot like how my mother approaches the measuring cups section in the cabinet when the recipe calls for ¼ cup of flour – she doesn’t. She eyeballs it because she mentally knows the limit she needs to ensure that whatever it is she’s baking turns out right. If I were to see some cookies on my kitchen table, I’m not about to go measure how much sugar is in there. One, that’s sort of impossible.
Two, there’s not enough hours in the day to do that even if I tried. I’ll eat a cookie, then find my way over to some fresh watermelon. After that, I’d probably eye an ice-cream cake in my freezer and make myself a mental note to eat a slice after my speed workout, endurance run, an easy run the next week. As much as I love my fruits and vegetables, a few desserts here and there make their guest appearance in my life. There is no denying that there are “bad foods” (i.e. potato chips, twix bars etc.). I read an article by Dr Freedhoff that helped reshape the way I look at different types of food groups, in it he mentions that: “In a sense, a bad food is one whose risks outweigh its nutritional benefits when consumed regularly.” So, given this information, does that mean you cancel out potato chips entirely? No, you can have potato chips here and there just not daily! Your body needs you to eat, and constraining yourself to the idea that the only way to be healthy is to be thin, is damaging – your body needs you to eat, period. How else are we going to function on a daily basis?
The thing that I want you to keep in your mind as the summers roll around is: Be your own biggest fan. You just organized your desk area? YES GET THAT PRODUCTIVITY! You just walked to your bus stop? YES LOOK AT YOU GETTING THAT FIVE MINUTES OF EXERCISE! Be kind to yourself- you’re fabulous just the way you are.
Something that really helped me mentally is to view myself in a positive light is the Body Love with Lucy Challenge. It was a new exercise video every day for a month and each video – while doing each exercise – Lucy talked all about loving the body you’re in. Sometimes it’s hard to love the body you’re in, and when those tough days come rolling around like a tumbleweed rolls in those really old western movies, just remember: Be kind to yourself.
Sahara is a computer science student and loves venturing out on different creative routes. She's all for jumping right out of my comfort zone; life is great with a little bit of adventure! When she's not typing her thoughts into concise sentences with punctuation, she's most likely attempting to apply her Stunna lip paint correctly with one hand and holding a warm cup of tea in the other.