What is it with us Gen Xers, this obsession to be thin?
We didn’t know it back when we were impressionable teeny-boppers, innocently pasting pics of Simon Le Bon on our walls (actually my fave was Nick Rhodes, I know - weird!), but we were destined to be the diet industry’s fat-loss guinea pigs. Throughout the 80s, 90s, and 00s as we high-fived along to Madonna, The Spice Girls and Beyonce (yeah sisters!), took on glass ceilings at work and tried our best to 'have it all' we were insidiously being enslaved by the tyranny of thin.
Supermodels were held up as our impossible ideals, I remember coveting Cindy Crawford’s slim, perfectly oiled thighs as she smouldered from the TV screen (yes I bought the workout video, another stick to beat myself with) and she was considered the ‘fat’ supermodel!! Then along came Kate with her heroin chic announcing to a generation of women that 'nothing tastes as good as skinny feels' wow, just wow.
But that's how it was. Apart from one or two friends who seemed to be able to eat whatever they wanted to and stay annoyingly thin, for me and most of my friends there was a constant background hum that our bodies were not good enough - we’d just be so much happier/ cooler/ attractive (delete as appropriate) if we could JUST GET THIN. Dieting was absolutely normal - we were always talking about our weight, wanting to be thinner, losing that half a stone before the summer etc.
And it’s a hard habit to shake - I am still secretly thrilled if I’m lighter than expected when I step on the scales, I get a buzz when I can fit into a smaller size than usual and it makes my day if someone asks if I've lost weight. I know these are all throwbacks to the days when I was on a constant mission to lose weight, like psychological muscle memory.
So, I’m loving seeing the younger generation of women kicking back, calling it out, advocating body positivity and sticking two fingers up to the thin police. Yes, sometimes it smacks of ‘protesting too much’ but at least the conversation is changing. We’ve got a long way to go but in the Insta age fitter, stronger, healthier bodies are becoming more prevalent than straight up thin ones (having said that a six-pack and glutes of steel are not exactly realistic for most of us but that’s another blog post).
One of the things I am enjoying about getting older, and most of my midlife mates concur, is a gentle acceptance that our bodies are changing and to a certain degree there’s nothing we can do about it – it’s nature taking its course. The perfection that we sought in vain is no longer within our grasp, our focus has subtly shifted to maintenance rather than improvement. I don’t mean that we are throwing in the towel and giving up, in fact it’s the opposite, we can finally let those silly expectations go and focus on a much more positive goal, ageing gracefully and healthily. This we can do!!
To be clear I do still keep an eye on my weight but nowadays it's not so much about being thin as minimising the risk of the big five (cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, stroke) as well as dementia. Instead of setting an 'ideal' weight (which can be demotivating), I aim to stay within a realistic weight range which allows for hormonal fluctuations, holidays and times when I just feel hungry! If I do exceed this range I will go back to my StealthHealth 28 day plan and within a month I’m usually back within it (if you want to start the plan click here). It’s not a diet, it’s just a blueprint for healthy eating that I’ve found works for me.
So, the trick to freeing yourself from the tyranny of thin is to focus on how you feel rather than your waist measurement. My reasons for eating well, exercising and moderating alcohol are to feel better in body and mind, this is FAR, FAR more important to me now than being a few kgs lighter. What a contrast to my younger self who always felt fat (I really wasn’t) and existed on Diet Coke, SlimFast shakes and Lean Cuisine. Healthy living is not an endgame scenario it’s about feeling better now, tomorrow and every day regardless of your weight.
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