Hi friends! If you are sensitive to discussions about eating, dieting, or weight loss, you might want to sit this one out, because that’s what I’m talking about today.
I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about his diet. He was trying to argue that him wanting to lose weight was because he wants more job opportunities, and not because of his own desire to look different, and that that was a healthy mindset about weight loss.
I don’t think that I gave him a good answer, but talking to him sparked a lot of thought in my head. I started thinking about what it really looks like to have a healthy relationship with weight loss and food while seeking to lose weight. I thought about what he said about his motivation, and about my past motivations to lose weight, and the motivations of those around me who are trying to lose weight, and I realized what the main difference is between healthy mindsets and unhealthy ones, at least in my own opinion (I’m not a psychologist by any means but I have struggled with eating disorder behaviors in the past and I’ve researched a lot about this sort of thing, but this is entirely just my opinion, not expert advice or fact).
That’s what differentiates healthy mindsets towards losing weight and unhealthy mindsets. Most of the time, I’m opposed to “diet culture” and the idea that everyone should be trying to be thin, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t good reasons for someone to lose weight.
For example, a healthy motivation for losing weight would be if someone is a trans man, and having fat on their hips gives them dysphoria. In this case, as long as they do it in a healthy way, they can have a healthy relationship with food and their body while actively trying to lose weight. Another scenario would be if you have some clothes that are just a hair too small, as many of us do, then that’s a healthy reason to lose weight. There are many different examples of healthy motivations to lose weight, but there are also plenty of unhealthy reasons.
Unhealthy motivations can include any motivation that is based on an external idea or concept, or any motivation negative feelings associated with it. For example, losing weight because you’ve been told it’s “unhealthy to be fat,” without a doctor’s input or any weight associated health problems, isn’t a good motivation. One of the most common motivations for losing weight is to make someone thinner, or to make them “better looking.” This is also an unhealthy motivation because it stems from the idea that having extra fat is inherently less attractive, and the guilt of existing with more weight than is socially acceptable. These ideas stem from negative emotions, can foster more negative emotions, and can lead to serious eating disorders.
How do you know if your motivation is unhealthy? Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you trying to lose weight because of an external motivation?
If yes, you might want to consider that motivation more
- Does your method of losing weight cause you guilt, anxiety, or any negative emotion? For example, eating more calories than your app tells you to causing guilt, or wanting to eat more causes anxiety?
If yes, then it is probably not a healthy motivation
- Are the methods you are using to lose weight healthy? For example, restricting calories below what one should eat, checking the scale every day and being upset with any increase, using “weight loss” medications or considering weight loss surgery, or similar behavior?
If yes, then what you are doing is probably not healthy.
- Are you trying to lose weight because of a love for your body?
Changing your body because you love your body and want to be more comfortable or feel better in it is healthy. Changing your body because you hate it or want to punish yourself for eating too much might not be healthy.
Of course, I’m not a mental health provider, and I’m not qualified to say whether or not someone is healthy. These questions are the kinds of things I ask myself when I worry about slipping back into eating disorder ways of thinking, and they help me a lot to catch myself before I become more unhealthy. If you are worried, reach out to a professional.
My main point here is that healthy mindsets come from a healthy relationship with your body, and changes to your body should have a purpose that is healthy, too.
I hope all of y’all are having a nice day and that this article helps anyone who’s been thinking about this!
About the Author:
Andrew Adams is a transgender college freshman at the University of Central Florida who is committed to LGBTQ advocacy at the local and national levels. Nationally, Andrew serves as a youth ambassador and advocacy volunteer for The Trevor Project, a youth social media ambassador for the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and a Volunteer and Intern Coordinator for Point of Pride. On the legislative side, Andrew lobbies for the Equality Act by visiting with his Congressional representatives and their staff.
Additionally, Andrew has spent years fighting to change his school district’s bathroom policy to be trans-inclusive, and the fight is still ongoing. Andrew is an International Baccalaureate student and a volunteer at the Mayo Clinic, and he hopes to go to medical school and become an adolescent psychiatrist specializing in transgender health. For fun, he practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, creates sculpture art and plays the piano.