• Sara Marsden-Shreeve

Don't Let The Scales Define You!


Happy Woman In Undies, Don't Let The Scales Define You, The Image Tree Blog
Love The Skin You're In

Our weight should not define the living, breathing human being within, we're so much more than that.


It's been a drip fed diet culture for so long I'm getting truly bored with it all. Lose the weight and then you will be.... happier, more attractive, more popular, more successful, much smarter, find love, rollerskate in your pants and so much more.


"Get beach body ready", my arse. I have a body and there is the beach. Who are we getting ready for exactly? I'm pretty sure most people are on holiday there to enjoy themselves aren't they? Not look at my real life dimpled butt cheeks.


Yes, a balanced and nutritious diet is important but the restriction, the control and the sadness surrounding what your weight is and what you should and should not eat, is not.


There's no happiness in diets. Who the hell has ever enjoyed the marathon cravings, small plates and misery at a social event when the sausage rolls are calling your name. It can take over your life and even have a long lasting negative effect on your mindset in

the long run.


Sad Plate, Dont Let Your Scales Define You, The Image Tree Blog
Food Should Be Enjoyed

If it's health professional lead and it is beneficial to your health concerns and you're receiving mental health support alongside, that's different. Rocking up to a place where you get in line to be weighed and told you've been naughty seems an unhappy place to be, for me anyway.


I love food choices and I'm a bit of an intuitive eating fan. Food shouldn't come with a side helping of guilt or shame, it's a fuel source after all and such a flippin tasty one at that, beige or no beige.


Look, I know I seem ranty now (like an ex smoker) , but the truth is I was once consumed with what I weighed and what my body looked like, I think we all have been or still are to some degree.


So, why do we let our weight define us and why can we still be slaves to the scales?


My soul purpose and ikigai over the last 8 years has taken shape organically and thus, defined my business, my ethos, and my manifesto to help mindful women kick start a happier self-image from the inside out via my Mind, Body & Wardrobe connection strategy.


Good eh? Absolutely, and I flippin love it. However, there has always been one big shiny turd that has continued to spread its negativity and stink over my quest and that of the many women who it has taken prisoner of over the years…


Yes, I am talking ‘diet culture’ and the ‘weight loss’ mindset.


Woman On Scales, Dont Let The Scales Define You, The Image Tree Blog
Weighing On Your Mind

It hinders, restricts, and causes such sadness to both women and men because it feeds your ‘not good enough’ thoughts and makes you wait to be happy, promising the holy grail at the end of it when you’ve lost the weight, got a flat tummy, abs to die for and so on.


Now, before you start, I’m not dissing good nutrition, movement, and healthy values. I’m talking about society's obsession with weight, fat, ‘body ideals' and controlled eating here.


Why does our weight seemingly define us? Aren’t all bodies, good bodies in the end? Why is one better than the other based on just a glance? Why do we judge a whole person on just their weight and build?


Someone who is struggling with an eating disorder such as anorexia may be painfully thin and desperately needing help for their mental health… that’s not positive in any sense. It’s heart wrenching for them and their loved ones. Yet thin is attractive right?


Alternatively, a woman who is fuller in body and heavier in weight may be a dance teacher and full of vitality and health… that’s positive in all senses. Yet because they are deemed ‘fat’ by society, that makes them unhealthy and somehow less attractive?


It makes no sense to me at all and makes my blood boil when I see harsh comments and criticisms made by complete strangers on social media who know nothing about the person they are looking at.


Women of different shapes, Dont let the scales define you, The Image Tree Blog
Be Kind With Your Words

This societal turd has been feeding the notion that weight loss alone is the only gateway to happiness for generations.


Look, I hold my hands up, I have in the past thought, “When I lose 10lbs I will be happier” Then I will be more attractive, more likeable, more popular, more camera friendly. blah blah blah… What have you promised yourself? It’s such a massive stressor to put on yourself, particularly if you believe you have a lot of weight to lose.


WHAT DOES A WEIGHT LOSS MINDSET LOOK LIKE?


  • It focuses on how our body looks.

  • Numbers on a scale, size on a label, counting calories and the like are some of the factors that are used to influence much of our decision making to change shape and/or reduce or gain weight.

  • It loves a goal to aim for, whether it be weight, time periods or in preparation for an event.

  • It charts your progress and wants you to follow a diet plan criteria or regimen with various rules and guidelines.


SO WHY DO WE THINK THIS WAY IS THE BEST WAY?


Granted, some people take all this in their stride happily, especially if they are sports people or training for a physically challenging adventure or the like, and have an army of professional help, such as psychologists, trainers, and nutritionists to aid them with specialist care, but what about the rest of joe public? We’re left to go it alone? All you can eat cabbage soup for 14 days? No chocolate for you Sandra until Christmas 2022! Pffft.


The thing is it’s not your body that is the problem, it’s a combination of the following 3 factors that feeds a weight loss mindset: - (pardon the pun)


1. Shaped Beliefs


Thoughts and beliefs that have been passed down for generations through family, friends, colleagues, and total strangers that being thin is somehow best and for those who don’t fit their norm are criticized, commented on and discriminated against.


Don't get me wrong, not all comments are purposely underhand or critical, especially from loved ones, they just don't know any better either. It was what they were told and brought up with too and merely passing it on from their mothers, fathers etc. You can break that cycle with your kids though.


family generations of women, dont let the scales define you, the image tree blog
Pass down positive vibes and break the old stories

Cruel comments stick like shit to a blanket though, so if it’s said enough you come to believe it too, without question. I have a personal story that relates here and I’m sure you do too, at some part of your life. Time to let it go..


The truth is though, they’re not your beliefs to keep, they are someone else’s opinions and often are a transfer of their own misconceptions, short-comings, or outdated mentality.


You can choose to dismiss them and stay strong to your own path, but I realise this is easier said than done. I know, it took me nearly 10 years to embrace myself and learn to rebuff any negative comments offered out.


I took it upon myself to seek out that little girl in me that loved to dress up in my mum’s shoes and wear the tutu with the wellies and had no thoughts of fat, calories or supposedly ‘sinful foods’. I just enjoyed everything and saw wonder in anything. My advice find her again.


Free Little Girl, dont let the scales define you, the image tree blog
Remember Her? She's Still in There

The world taints what we see and skews our mindset as we grow but we can find solace, it’s just a matter of finding where to begin with your journey and getting the right help or guidance.


2. Society’s Ideals


The glossy magazines, the photoshopped selfie, the professionally applied make up, the stylist, the lighting, the camera, the luxury setting and more paints this picture of perfection and sells it to us with a neon sign that reads “this is beautiful, you need to look like this”. Buy the dress and look like a fashion model, oh wait we only go up to a size 14 pftt. Those shaped beliefs are weeding their way in again and fueling those beliefs we are holding onto.


Womans Glossy magazine, dont let the scales define you, the image tree blog
Look and Read With A Bigger Awareness

On the flipside though, women who do work out, look good, feel good (whatever their age) and don’t find exercising a chore and love spinach smoothies are berated too, for showing off? WTF? The fact that they have probably made massive sacrifices to obtain a wash board stomach or toned derriere and are genuinely quite happy in their choices are overlooked for accusations of vanity? I take my hat off to them personally.


Again, all bodies are good bodies, that level of commitment, is just not for me… I love cheese, gin & tonics, and an occasional jog round the village in my reflective jacket, job done. Happy as a pig in ….


3. Diet Culture Industries


I would say this is the biggest cog in the weight loss machine, that serves up quick results and gives us loads of opportunities to throw our hat at. Pop a pill, stick to 500 calories a day, no carbs, only eat raw, exercise 5 times a week and then rub your cellulite away with this cream.


Who has ever enjoyed being on a diet? Be honest! I certainly haven’t and ditched them a long time ago, seeking the intuitive eating option instead.


The thing is with diets, if you don’t manage to meet your goal, you’re left feeling defeated because you maybe lapsed or couldn’t hack the faff of measuring and counting, which then allows that sense of failure to bring along it’s friends to join in… guilt, shame, and misery.


We’re not designed to restrict our eating in all fairness, our bodies want us to eat for survival purposes, so it will always be trying to keep you eating to maintain its own healthy ‘set point’ of weight happy and that looks and works very differently for each person.


Woman sitting with innocence, dont let the scales define you, the image tree blog
Your Body Loves You With Every Cell

Yes, continuous over or under eating is not a helpful factor to a balanced approach but many other health issues affect our weight as well, it’s not always just about the food.


To summarise then, a weight loss mindset: -

· Makes us believe our bodies aren’t good enough compared to those we see in the media.

· We are quick to berate ourselves and obsess on our ‘flaws’.

· We struggle with compliments.

· We forget about how remarkable our bodies are on a biological sense.

· We let the negative voices get the better of us.

· We don’t practice enough self-care, deeming ourselves unworthy or too busy to try.


SO, WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE THEN?


Time to put things into perspective.


Image ref: Foz Meadows article


Here are women who might well be brain surgeons, judges, nurses, teachers, pot-holers, novelists or deep-sea divers. They are more than just a weight or a body shape or size.


Enter THE HOLISTIC APPROACH


HOW DOES THAT WORK THEN?


  • It focuses on how you and your body FEEL.

  • You are more than a number on a scale or a size on a label. Your weight alone does not define you.

  • You are your strengths, your assets, your passions, your personality and much more.

  • A journey of finding ways to accept, embrace and work with your body to feel happier.

  • Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.


If I asked you now, to write down 3 things you like about yourself as a whole person both inside and on the outside, what would you write? It doesn’t come easy because we’ve forgotten to look or even think about it.


Bright eyes, strong legs, perky boobs, empathic, compassionate, resilient, professional, organized, smart….?


I bet you could write 3 things you didn’t like pretty quick though and most would probably be related to your looks.


SO HOW DO WE GET STARTED AND NURTURE THIS APPROACH?


I would start with these 3 biggies in my experience that work together to help build a happier self-image: -


1 Acceptance


Ok, so this IS a tough nut to crack due to the ingrained stuff we have going on in our minds, thanks to diet culture and societal factors I’ve already mentioned, but you can start making small steps to recondition your thoughts with some simple habits.


Such as, being mindful of your inner critic and challenging the negative words you tell yourself rather than just accepting them. You are your minds only audience so if you choose to speak out loud then seek help or consort from those who can help challenge them with you.


Happy Colourful Woman, dont let the scales define you, the image tree blog
Embrace The Good Stuff Within

Look with kinder eyes at your reflection especially focusing on the good stuff and try to curb the comparison when you look at others. I know, I know, it’s tough but what you see is not always the whole truth, especially in magazines, films and on social media where photoshopping and an army of professionals making them look ‘perfect’ is present.


Getting into the habit of just being ok with your body and your weight is a big ask but I just want you to consider looking at yourself as a whole picture, not just an aesthetic vessel because you are so much more than that. The less stressors and strains you experience regarding your looks, the more freedom and clarity you will gain in the long run and your mental health will thank you for it.


There are so many things you can do to seek enjoyment from life than worrying about your weight and there are always ways to improve, grow and move forward in life and in health by following passions and placing yourself in positive environments that nurture you rather than pull you down.


Find positive body image movements, forums, TEDtx, books and inspiring people to follow or engage with to help you adjust, they are out there trust me. Taryn Brumfitt, Megan J Crabbe, Mel Wells are but a few…


2 Self Care


So, this doesn’t just mean slapping on a face mask when you feel like it, though I’m not knocking that for a second. It is more the time, effort, and resources you provide yourself with to dig deep and give your mind and body space and self-love.


It’s about taking care of yourself in positive ways so that you can be healthy and well from the inside out and may well include good nutrition, fun exercise or movement and getting a good night’s sleep.


Woman in quiet nature, dont let the scales define you, the image tree blog
Listen In To What Your Mind, Body & Soul Needs

Instead of diets and weight loss focus, you could investigate long term tweaks and other food freedom methods such as ‘intuitive eating’ which comes with a side order of freedom not guilt or restriction and teaches you to trust your body as a functional and efficient biological wonder that always has your back. It's around tuning in again.


Many of us don’t listen to our bodies or have forgotten how and have learned to eat for different reasons other than hunger, fascinating stuff.


I know over the years I have made a few simple changes to my eating and have also chosen to swap a few food items round because they were causing me discomfort, such as bloat and achy joints, and it did me a world of good with no feelings of hardship or lack whatsoever, just contentment.


Another great thing you can do regarding your wellbeing is not only to do things that make you happy but also to wear things that make you happy. This additional string to my specialist bow takes the relationship with your looks, body, and features to a synchronized and more healthy partnership with your clothes, which as you know can send us reeling into feeling crest fallen and disheartened when things don’t fit or look right on us.


Mature lady in blue, dont let the scales define you, the image tree blog
Wear things that make you happy

We tend to blame our bodies rather than the clothes especially in the ole changing rooms but, I’m here to tell you that simply isn’t true. Right Body Wrong dress move on gal.


The brands each have their own weird idea of a size and shape because they use a standard pattern block, so go elsewhere and find one that is a little more realistic. I give you permission!



3 Action


It’s all very well saying you’re going to do something but without actually taking steps or doing it, it’s just talk. The key is to choose something small and keep with it, do it daily and stay consistent, even make it into a positive habit or part of your routine. For more ideas, see My Daily Do’s for A Happier You.


However, to summarise this blog post I’m just going to give you 5 super quickies to get you started on easing any weight loss niggles that may be lurking, plus, I'm inviting you to S.W.E.A.R


Confident black woman, dont let the scales define you, the image tree blog
Where focus goes, energy flows. Just start...

1. Smile = At yourself in the mirror as well as at others. It creates a physiological chemical response of dopamine and serotonin that lifts your mood. Smile whilst brushing your teeth or getting ready morning or evening create a habit. It’s a first step to positive mirror talk later.


2. Write = Positive words on your mirror or pillow, memes, and quotes, start a journal or write out some affirmations to say to yourself. See affirmations blog here for ideas.


3. Educate = Find your tribes, seek positive role models listen and learn. Limit the glossies and avoid the comparison trap.


4. Appreciate = The body as a miracle, what it does for you daily. Book in self-care, therapy, treatments, counselling, meditations, yoga or whatever you feel you need. Use the power of mother nature and seek green spaces and water for energetic recharging.


5. Remember = Negative beliefs are not yours to keep, talk to yourself like a friend, choose to see yourself positively and remember YOU ARE ENOUGH!



Image ref: www.anastasiamour.com on Pinterest


If you would like to get in on more of the good stuff and start your happier self image journey from the inside out, then feel free to join my private 'Mindful Community' for women who want more Mind Body & Wardrobe Freedom and inspiration to be themselves,


www.facebook.com/groups/TheImageTreePositiveBranch/