I sat naked on the edge of my bathtub and stared at the mirror in front of me. My back slightly hunched over, my breasts full but drooping, my stomach plump and round with crinkled bits of loose skin. I observed intently my middle-aged body. Still youthful in some places but certainly far from where it was a decade ago.
I grabbed the pouch of fat that pooled in my mid-section. Gave it a squeeze and let go. I smiled at myself, because for the first time in my whole life, I was truly happy.
For the very first time in my entire life, I didn’t want to cut it out. I didn’t feel that familiar pang of disgust at the protruding flab and wish that it would disappear. There have been years of punishing myself for having one glass of wine too many or for taking a bite of bread and decades of frustration that even after strict diets and grueling exercises, I could never achieve that coveted “washboard abs” physique. For the very first time, I gave myself some grace, and loved myself wholly.
About a year ago, after a difficult episode battling with an imbalanced gut flora that caused severe bloating and nutritional deficiencies leading to unexpected weight gain of 15 pounds and an enormous amount of stress, I decided to engage a nutritionist. I spoke to US-registered dietician and founder of Better Being, Chella Po. Her first question to me was startling: “Why do you want to lose weight?” My answer was simple, I wanted to be slimmer and return to my ideal weight. “What is your ‘ideal weight’ and how did you get to that number?” I could answer the former but not the latter and this prompted me to dig deeper into the why I was so obsessed with a number.
If I was being perfectly honest, I couldn’t answer. All throughout my life I had yo-yo’d and with my petite 5’2” frame, just a few pounds variation would make such a difference. I would step on the scale and obsess over a small variation, launching me into a flurry of extreme diets and crazy fitness trends. I needed to look good.
At my thinnest, I felt I had achieved my goal, but at what cost? I was on a restrictive calorie count, hard-core strength and cardio training for days on end without rest, and even took diet pills. On some days, I even took prescription diuretics, to “de-bloat.” The result? I blacked out. The world spun around me, and scarily, the first thing that went was my eyesight. I was conscious but couldn’t see. I could hear everyone panic around me. Then I fell to the ground.
It was frightening.
Having two babies allowed me to be gentler on my body. I loved being pregnant because it was the only time where I didn’t hate the roundness of my belly. But quickly after giving birth I felt immense pressure to bounce back. Only amplified by the rise of social media where, with a few swipes of a finger, some pinching and smoothing, one can achieve their perfect and ideal figure.
As I neared my 40s, my metabolism has slowed down significantly, spiraling me into more obsessive behavior about weight. I had started to take a different approach, embracing nutrition and health over fad dieting. Looking more at the quality of the food I ate.
I learned to love myself wholly. To love myself with kindness and compassion. And to love even my belly.
It didn’t matter how slim I was, I still disliked my body shape and longed to be like the leggy, flat-bellied women I saw on Instagram.
I’ll never forget when I once consulted an endocrinologist, hoping she would say I had a thyroid problem and give me a magic pill to make me slimmer. She looked at my lab tests and told me that I was in the prime of my health! Why was I even here? And when I expressed I had gained weight she said, “You look absolutely beautiful!” She also reminded me that genetics played a huge role in our body shapes. “Look at your family photos, how does everyone look?” I expressed that many were on the heavier side and had lots of nutrition-related ailments like diabetes and heart disease. She looked at me and exclaimed: “You must congratulate yourself!!! You’re already winning!”
No one had ever said that to me, I never saw it that way before. At Chella’s encouragement after this doctor’s visit, I got rid of my weighing scale. This has been one of the best decisions of my life.
It’s been over a year since I gave up my scale. I sincerely have no idea how much I weigh, and I feel great!!
I reframed the way I saw food. I embraced my body as a temple, as a wonderful thing that is intrinsically tied to our minds and spirits. In terms of energy, it is all one. I began to choose food that made me feel good. That had true nutritional value and higher vibrational energy. I learned to be more intuitive, eating only when I am hungry and until I feel satiated. This means some days I eat less and others I eat more. Some days I have mostly fruit and vegetables, others I crave iron and protein and will happily devour a steak. I never feel deprived or guilty anymore. I savor and enjoy every bite.
I prioritized whole food. And although I have a few food intolerances such as gluten and dairy, I still allow myself my favorite slices of pizza once in a while. I just accept that my body will react and I will just adjust accordingly.
The result? I have never felt better. I place importance on my energy levels, my vitality, my endurance. I do this by being conscious about the quality of what I eat and choosing activities wisely. I also manage my stress levels better because I learned that elevated cortisol causes fat storage. I also embraced gentleness and moving with my monthly phases. There are times I’m so strong and fit and there are times I’m not. I see rest as an essential part of my overall health.
More importantly, I learned to love myself wholly. To love myself with kindness and compassion. And to love even my belly.