Tanya Wyatt, Happy Valley pond

While leanness may give you some satisfaction, it doesn’t equal happiness.

I was recently on a weekend away with a group of peeps. Among the women, the conversation inevitably steered towards bodies and the shape of them. Without fail the women all dissed their own bodies and claimed that they desperately needed to lose weight. (These women have been saying the same thing for as long as I’ve known them, which is years now.)

Body image stuff

It got me thinking about what really goes on below the obvious level of body image and aesthetics. On a conscious level of course we all concern ourselves with staying in shape. (“In shape” being whatever currently constitutes the ideal body shape as defined by society.) This means that we diet and exercise constantly to try and achieve something that promises to make us feel good about ourselves but can only ever give us a little satisfaction. We think/believe/are sold the premise that if we can just lose those extra 5-15kg we put on when we were pregnant (with our now-15 year-old child), life will be fantastic and we’ll be happy at last.

Below the surface, at the unconscious level, we don’t believe this at all. In fact, we know it’s bullshit. We know it’s going to take a lot more than shedding weight and a tight arse to make us happy. The really hard part though is in consciously acknowledging this. Instead, we create the most innovative excuses not to drop the weight. (It’s a weekend away with friends so I’m going to drink a lot; I want to live my life to the fullest; I’ll diet when I don’t have any social events to attend. Blah blah blah. Whateverrrr.)

Self sabotage

We sabotage ourselves repeatedly. We do this to avoid facing our demons. If we did lose the weight and kept it off, we’d have to recognise the fact that it won’t make us any happier! Then what? Then we’d have to ask ourselves questions that might lead to very scary changes indeed. “Am I happy in my marriage/partnership?”, “Do I feel fulfilled?”, “Am I really stimulated in my work?”, “Am I living life to the fullest?”

So it’s much easier to not drop the weight and blame my lack of self-control than it is to face up to the hard questions. I’ll just keep going around in circles, never actually changing anything until (possibly) my partner or spouse has an affair/midlife crisis/buys a motorbike/leaves me etc. and then I’m forced to look into the mirror!

The mirror

It’s true that looking within can be bloody scary. I’ve been there myself. But what comes out of the process of personal growth and understanding is beyond satisfying. It takes you to a place of comfortable introspection, self-appreciation and personal understanding. Nothing beats this place because once you’re there you’ll have a good idea of what’s going to make you truly happy. When you know this and can chase it, the obsession with body diminishes. It’ll find its appropriate place amongst the other self-care factors you’ll naturally consider because you’re learning to love and take care of yourself properly.

If you want to be happy don’t waste your time on the superficial stuff and remember that leanness doesn’t equal happiness. Dig deep, unpack the weird and wacky aspects that make you the unique and wonderful person you are. Start to understand yourself better, and then step into the void and change what you know needs to change, no matter how scary.