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By Katie Marshall

Today I had lunch with a friend who told me she went on a Water Diet. It was exactly what you are thinking – a “diet” consisting of nothing but water. She did this for 8 days. She might do it again next month.

My heart is still hurting for her.

Women are always trying to get smaller.

I don’t get that.

Well, let’s be honest here, I do get it. There’s the media, the fashion world, the internet, our friends, teachers, sisters, mothers, not to mention our brothers, fathers, boyfriends and girlfriends, all operating off of what we’ve been fed by the main systems, which is that men should look one way and women should look another. As someone who exercises regularly and eats (mostly) well, I can see the addiction that the pursuit of a beautiful body can create. “If I just do a few more of these and eat a few less of that, I can look like this.” I totally get it.

But we’re living in a beautiful time when we can finally explain, with scientific and psychological fact, that these standards are bullshit. And yet we all still see what is presented to us by media and our peers and more often than not, we fall prey to it. We hear what we should or should not do, and by virtue of simply not having another opinion, we agree.

I believe that “should” is a dangerous word. It condemns without any opportunity for retribution, either for something in the past that you have no chance of changing or something in the future that you most likely will not do, and will merely beat yourself up for now and later. Anyone who tells you that you should do something is wrong, first of all. You do not have to do anything. Everything is a choice. You life is yours to choose and create. Remember that.

This is a freeing belief, and one that I am working to remember myself, lives in direct conflict with all of this – the diets, crazy weight loss systems, food without anything in it that promises us that we will look better if we eat it or beliefs that say we’ll look even better if we don’t eat anything else at all. Listen to how we talk to each other about food. You’ve heard the conversations, the compliments that feel like cuts, the encouragement to eat less, do more. The smallest comments, the ones that come out too quickly, completely bypassing a filter, show the listener so much about the speaker.

Our big battle with body image, food, and self-love, I believe, comes at least in part from the little comments said without concern and left unattended because they are so common. The most obvious things create the infrastructure of our lives.

The comments we skim past, the TV show one-liners that put someone down, the magazines advertising a diet pill stocked directly next the diet pills mentioned at the grocery store, as though the magazine were a billboard telling you exactly what you need to do and why. These obvious things generally receive the least amount of attention, yet require the most.  Awareness is hard work.

Your health is important. I say that deliberately. Your health, not your size, your weight, or how you look in pictures. Your body is the house that you are building. If you lost your car, your house burned down, and all of your friends and family abandoned you, you would have your body. When you build a house from the ground up, you use the best materials you can find, in the right amount, when they are needed. Treat your body and what you put into it and what you do with it the same way. There is such a thing as over-use, as made evident when we over-exercise, over-diet, over-rest, or under eat.

Often we take to dieting to change our physical appearance in positive way. Changing the way you eat can be beneficial, when done with a sense of balance and with the intent of taking care of yourself. However, more often than not, we want to change the way we look because we believe that we will be happier once we’re at that size, with that body, as though a smaller waistline is a bartering chip to pay off our demons that haunt us constantly, in front of mirrors, our peers, and in comparisons to celebrities, photoshopped or not. The thought is, I can quiet the negativity that lives in me, if I can just meet its standard of perfection.

Think about someone in your life who is never satisfied. A negative person who is a victim to their own paralyzing self-judgment. The person who, during the elevator ride discussion about a predicted sunny weekend says, “Yeah, but there’s a 20% chance of rain.” Think about that person. Think about asking them this question: What would satisfy you enough to make you happy?

Probably nothing, right? Because even the best things, the “Winning the lottery,” types of things, would come with some comment of “But then I’d probably get robbed” or some other Negative Nelly nonsense that takes away from the joy of possibility, the freedom of thinking about what all could happen in this amazing world we live in.

This is what you are shrinking for: self-confidence, happiness, love, money, or whatever else you think will fill you only if your stomach is empty and your cells are tiny enough. Please recognize that we are shrinking with the goal of growing. We are doing the exact opposite of what we’re looking for.

Instead of starving ourselves with half-brained diets that will maybe work for a little but will definitely harm us or at the very least, ware off, what if we focused on eating well and enough, and exercising in ways that brought us peace? What if we looked to exercise for self-betterment rather than self-battling? What if your work out was empowering, rather than punishment? What if food was fuel, or even better, something to celebrate and enjoy, rather than a Guilty Pleasure?
Let’s change the conversation. Words are powerful. Words lead to action. We know that because what we hear from others and what we read online impacts how we see and treat ourselves. Could our own words, spoken to ourselves and others, do the same thing?

I’m exercising to get strong. I train so that I can be the best version of myself. I’m here to learn. I’m here to grow.

You look strong. I can see the work you’ve been putting in. You are beautiful.

We were not made to shrink. We were made to make the most out of what we have, not transform into the least amount of ourselves. Take care of yourself. Be good to yourself. And give yourself the freedom to grow as strong as you want.

The big truth is that we all have a negative perspective living inside of us. Some of us more than others, which is a longer discussion on a litany of things, but what I’m learning is that if nothing would satisfy that negative person, that 20% chance of rain person, then nothing would satisfy that perspective in your mind. Thus, what success is there to be found in trying? Or rather, what peace is there to be found in trying to please a voice that is rooting for you to fail?

You do not owe your demons anything. You don’t need their approval.

If there is a self-hate voice that lives in you, then by the laws of the universe, an equal and opposite voice of love and kindness must live in you as well. Listen to that voice. Let that voice be your victor. Allow yourself to see that trying to satisfy an unsatisfiable perspective leads to nothing but torture. We’re here on this earth for a reason, each of us. We don’t always know what it is, but we do know what it’s not – to satisfy the 20% chance of rain voice that dwells in the pit of each of us.

You are more important than a diet. Be kind to yourself. Change your habits, eat well, stay active, drink water, wear sunscreen, and never put someone else’s standard, even that someone else that lives in your head, above your well-being.

You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are here for a reason. Always remember that.

20% chance of rain means 80% chance of sunshine. Always remember that.

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