Why We Do It


By Shani Petroff

A couple of weeks ago I was at the gym, and as the class let out the instructor said, “We work out because we love our body — not to love our body.”

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that line.

I want to lose weight for a number of reasons — one of which frustrates me. It’s the one in which I want to lose weight to look a certain way because I think it’s what other people will prefer. It frustrates me because I know beautiful people of all shapes and sizes, and I don’t want them to feel they have to be a certain weight to look good. And yet, when it comes to myself, sometimes I feel that way.

In fact, it’s often that self-consciousness — and those moments in the mirror where I cringe at my reflection — that send me spiraling and off-plan. Trying to do something to please others and because I don’t feel good enough isn’t motivating.

So this instructor’s words really hit home. It was a reminder to adjust my mind-set. When I feel positive and love myself and my body, I’m much more inclined to treat it right. So instead of wanting to lose weight because I want to look a particular way so that certain people will like me more, here’s why I want to do it:

1. It makes me stronger physically. I want to improve my muscles, flexibility, and stamina. I want to be able to take the stairs and not be out of breath. I want to be able to pick up a toddler and not have to put the child immediately back down. I want to run to catch the bus and not be red in the face. I want to see all the amazing things that my body can do if I train it.

2. It will also make me stronger emotionally. I like to succeed. Hitting my goal weight (and staying there) is something I really want to do. I want to say that I did it. I want to prove that I can have the willpower and the right habits to get where I want to be. I also don’t want to use my weight as an excuse anymore. I want to take that off the table.

3. There’s obviously the health factor. Eating right and exercising can improve my quality of life — and there’s no substitute for that.

4. Of course there are looks-based reasons too. For instance, I want to be able to shop at every store in the mall and have them carry items that not only fit me, but are also super-stylish and out in the open — not hidden in the back or on some top floor that many people don’t even know exists.

5. I want to be considered for jobs in media that often only go to those who are a certain size. While I hope these things will eventually change and that finding great clothes and getting certain jobs are equally accessible to all, right now, societal values do play into certain perceived ideals. Who wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of that?

But above all, what I want most is to feel good in my own skin. And that starts now. Our bodies are incredible machines. (No matter the size.) Eating right and going to the gym are just ways to show that we love them.

I’d love to hear from you. You can find me on Connect at @shani!  

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