We see it all the time, sometimes not even on the designated day of the week. #TransformationTuesday!! Maybe I’m abnormal and spend too much time browsing Instagram, but day after day I am bombarded with pictures (usually women) with the sluggish, overweight body on the left, and the chiseled abs and biceps on the right. These pictures are almost always proceeded by a novel of a caption, talking about how tough the journey is to lose weight, how you must dig deep and work hard and–most importantly–how much happier they are in the picture on the right.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t try to lose weight and be healthy, obviously that is a very positive thing. But the very idea that this new version of themselves equals happiness is what really bothers me. The main reason I take issue with this is that our bodies change ALL the time. Just because you lose weight doesn’t mean you’ll always look like that.
Most of the time #TransformationTuesday is seen as the end of the road. Now, these people have reached optimal happiness and healthiness, and have fixed their horrible misshapen bodies to conform into what we deem “normal.” They are riding off into the sunset, credits rolling.
Last year, I lost weight and wrote about it but it was far from the end of the road for me. I gained back about 15 pounds after I wrote that post, and to this day still struggle to keep myself in check. Since I don’t have a scale, I haven’t known my exact weight in 7+ months, but I do know that living abroad makes it extremely easy for my weight to fluctuate constantly.
Going back to the most important point of this rant: your end goal should never really be determined by your weight. When I was 19, I weighed about 125 pounds, looked great in bodycon dresses and form fitting clothes, but was depressed and nearly suicidal. Fast forward two years: at 21, my highest weight was about 170 pounds. I wore loose clothing and leggings every single day, but I had made lifelong friends and was having the time of my life in my last year of college, anxious and excited for the future. I was never 100% happy at either of these weights, just like no one ever is.
Sometimes, I look back on pictures of myself when I was heavy and try and project feelings onto myself. Things like, “well I must not have been happy, I wasn’t taking care of my body.” But when I think back to my last year at OU, only good memories surface. I only remember laughing uncontrollably at stupid memes with my roommate, or sitting on my friend’s porch for hours with nowhere to be.
Sometimes I take care of myself and eat well and exercise, and sometimes I don’t. My body is constantly changing and there will never be another “end goal” for me. For everyone who is trying to, or has already successfully lost weight, that’s amazing. But we are constantly transforming, not just on Tuesdays.
Social media is particularly harmful because it can be seen as, “OK, I made it.” But now what? After I lost weight, and particularly after I was so open about it, I got a lot of compliments, “wow, you look great!” But then what happens when those stop?
Even though I wrote specifically about how we shouldn’t be defined by our bodies, I felt so defeated after I gained back some weight, like I had let people down. Yes, I realize this is pretty self-involved and absolutely no one cares what I look like to the degree that I care myself (hopefully, unless I have some serious stalkers I don’t know about).
Never say never, but I hope to never have another goal that is directly tied to my body. Because even today, writing this, I feel pretty healthy and active. I’ve worked out a few times this week and have eaten fairly healthy. But even just a week ago, I would’ve said the exact opposite. I went a while without exercising and treated myself a little too much, and didn’t feel great about myself. That was just in one week. Someone can post a #TransformationTuesday and easily feel something different by Wednesday.
I have many, many anecdotes about various struggles I’ve had since last year. And every time I went to write something about one of them, I could never post it. It all felt redundant and irrelevant because this isn’t really any new information. “Don’t let the scale define you, blah blah blah…”
I guess all I’m saying is that you’re never at the end of the road. Physically, personally, professionally, whatever. A lot of times I find myself anxious just to be at the end (hence why I’ve finished some pretty crappy shows on Netflix). But life doesn’t have a final destination (depending on your various religious affiliations) and that’s kind of scary. That’s why I’m so scared of outer space, it goes on forever!
So yes, let’s transform. But let’s transform into people who learn from each other, care about the world, and stand up for beliefs when they’re unpopular. Social media is a fickle friend. It’s how I keep in contact with 99% of people back home, but it never tells the whole story. So here is the whole story: don’t believe what you see and strive for more in your life than just a six pack.