I was scrolling through my old Facebook photos the other day, and noticed a common trend amongst myself and my friends, both men and women... As we’ve gotten older, we’ve gained weight. This isn’t rocket science -- a slower metabolic rate combined with less activity than a younger person means that the pounds tend to pack on in your late 20s and early 30s.
An article in Women’s Health magazine describes it perfectly:
“‘By the late twenties, many women notice that they can’t eat the same things they used to without gaining weight and that the weight doesn’t fall off as easily as it once did,’ says Christopher Ochner, Ph.D., weight-loss expert at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Since this drop starts right about the time people settle into the (largely sedentary) workforce—and start losing muscle—your office job might actually be to blame, he says.”
So, I started thinking… how do you keep your self-esteem high while managing new and different expectations about your body?
(Ironically, as I’m writing this, the body-love hype song “Good as Hell” by Lizzo is blasting through my Spotify. I wish dealing with age-induced weight gain was as easy as just feeling good as hell.)
So, here’s some context for my experience -- I am a 28 year-old woman who has been considered average or slim most of my life. I *love* to eat but have tried to balance eating with working out and being healthy. I tend to fluctuate -/+15lbs, with my heaviest being considered overweight by medical standards.
Even though staying healthy has always been a part of my life, when I turned 28, my metabolism literally stopped. Stopped dead in its tracks. Metabolic rate = 0. Like, I ate a piece of bread and - BAM - I was suddenly one pound heavier. And bagels or pizza, forget about it! Okay, okay, I may be being dramatic, but I have to work twice as hard at the gym to keep my body looking as it always has. And, even with all that hard work, I’ve gained 8 pounds since turning 28 six months ago.
At first, I was angry and distraught, upset at the unfairness of it all. Why is this happening to my body? And with our country’s obsession with being young and thin and beautiful, my self-esteem was at an all time low. I felt ashamed and self-conscious that I couldn’t stop gaining weight even though I wasn’t eating differently than I had always been.
Finally, after two months of agony and anger, I did three things (which I recommend to you):
One, I worked really hard to stop the negative self-talk in my head. It’s not healthy for mental or physical health. Even though those voices are in my head, the look of shame and self-consciousness was written all over my face. It was starting to affect my confidence at my job and my dating life. I had to beat down the negativity before it beat me down.
Two, I rethought my eating habits. Even though I was angry about my changing body, I realized I had to go with the flow. As grown woman nearing 30, I needed to find a different way of eating that kept me satisfied and healthy but did not deprive me of food (because food is my first love in life). I found WeightWatchers which worked for me, and it helps me feel in control of keeping my body healthy and comfortable. Step two, check.
Third, and most importantly, I reconsidered my expectations about my body. Bottom line, my body is beautiful, even if it is a little thicker than it was when I was 22. My body is beautiful not because Victoria’s Secret says so, but because I say so. 10lbs, WHO CARES? If I want to eat a bagel (or two or three), then I am going to do it. I’m done with the guilt. Self-love is way more filling (literally and figuratively).
With age, being “skinny” has become much less of a priority; instead, I focused my energy on feeling comfortable in my body. That shift is transformational. Feeling like myself (whether +/- 15lbs) is my focus now. Looking my best finally means feeling my best, and that’s a good place to be.