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To care for the health of your body and mind, don’t look to the scales – Sydney Morning Herald

Nov 7th, 2019

She sought reassurance from a relative but they misguidedly made the situation worse, telling her that although a little fat and chubby, she was still cute.

What followed was more than a decade of dieting and disdain for her body; the scales also ruled her life, prompting her to be weight-conscious, not health-conscious.

It was during my nutrition studies at university where I finally realised how much damage I was doing to myself, both physically and mentally, says Sepel, now 28. Id cut out so many food groups by that stage, I was basically living on salad, diet foods, tinned tuna and Diet Coke! And the more I learned about health, the more I realised how wrong my idea of the healthy life had been.

Her husband, Dean, encouraged her to get rid of the scales; a symbol of all that is wrong in the way we see ourselves. Sepel found herself in tears.

To my surprise, I think was crying from relief, she says. I no longer had to live by the numbers on the scale having every mood and emotion dictated to me by this number.

Throwing them away gave her body and her brain space and time to reconnect in a positive and intuitive way and provided the opportunity to look up from the scales and see how rigid her mindset had been.

Obsessing over the scales is a deceptive and false representation of health, but also means we cant tune into our bodies and what they need, she says. It interrupts our connection to our body, and our intuition, since were so focused on what we 'should' be doing according to the scales, and not what our body needs.

It also destroys the joy surrounding food. If were always counting calories to make sure the number on the scale stays steady or even decreases, we dont eat mindfully, or with any joy. Eating becomes something we fear, and after being there myself, there is nothing more destructive.

Some people without body image issues may find scales an unprovocative tool that keeps them accountable. But, body image is an issue for most people. It is the top concern of young people and poor body image is rife.

The fear, of course, is that without this extrinsic goal we flog ourselves towards, we will become rudderless and lose all self-control.

Its worth considering a few things here.

In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear suggests focusing on our process in place of goals.

When you fall in love with the process, you dont have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy, he says, adding: You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.

In this instance, the system might involve feeling healthy and caring for your body.

For Sepel, this meant starting her relationship with her body from scratch, a process she explores in detail in her book.

I started exercising with kindness and listening to my body, ditching the hours Id previously spent in the gym daily. I began sleeping more and felt far more energised, says Sepel. I reintroduced all the food groups into my diet and adopted a balanced approach to food. I allowed myself to indulge and approached eating from a place of kindness, viewing food as nourishment.

I slowly healed my relationship with my body and with food, and realised the healthy life wasnt the controlled, restricted life, but the balanced and nourishing life.

As someone who has also released the heavy weight of scales and found, through a slow and imperfect recalibration, peace with food and my body, I know how far it is possible to come. It is possible to eat and enjoy food without feeling tormented or a slave to the scales.

It's a realisation that seems glaringly obvious in retrospect to Sepel: It doesnt have to be this way! It doesnt have to be so torturous.

Sarah Berry is a lifestyle and health writer at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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To care for the health of your body and mind, don't look to the scales - Sydney Morning Herald

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