Everywhere you look, someone is using shame as a tool to make us want to lose weight. For decades, glossy magazines have hawked images of Photoshopped models smeared in body-shaming headlines: “Best & Worst Bikini Bodies!” “Hot Bod Secrets: What to Eat to Drop a Size!” “Lean & Sexy in 15 Minutes!” “Get Beach Body Ready! Fast Abs & Ass Workout!”
And why not? This strategy makes selling miracle cures all the easier. When people are focused on achieving an almost-impossible ideal, they’ll try almost anything to make it happen—especially when that something promises results that are quick, easy, and effortless.But the problem goes beyond our cultural obsession with thinness and an “ideal body.”
Skinny doesn’t equal healthy, and that’s something many of us have been grappling with for ages.
Recently, we’ve seen the start of a much-needed conversation about whether or not losing weight will always make you happy—let alone healthy. But there’s a second question that needs to be asked, and it’s one that we’ve been avoiding: Will losing weight even get you to your ideal body?
The short answer? Maybe.
In my opinion, the correlation between a lower weight and a better body is something that needs to be chucked out the window. It’s a misconception that both men and women have struggled with for years, and it’s been a personal battle I’ve fought for over a decade.
After an eating disorder led me to drop 60 pounds in college, I found myself at the same place I was when I started.
I still hated myself, I still had flab, and I still wasn’t happy. Sure, I weighed a hell of a lot less, but the dramatic changes I’d been expecting never happened.
Confidence? Didn’t come. A “perfect” body? Didn’t appear. A better life? The opposite happened—it got worse.
Over the years, I struggled with my poor body image in a variety of ways. Therapy helped me realize that eating only 500 calories a day was doing more harm than good, but—after my weight climbed back up—I swapped one evil for another and started obsessively exercising instead. While it was marginally better than starving myself, I was still suffering both physically and mentally, and the damage I did to my body wasn’t resulting in the ideal that I’d been promised I could achieve.
My weight loss stalled, and over the years, the number on the scale crept upward. I avoided the scale at all cost, even closing my eyes at the doctor’s office and asking the nurse not to tell me, as a slip-up would result in weeks of self-loathing and internal battles over whether or not I “deserved” to eat more than a salad.
It wasn’t until I started working with a trainer that my attitude toward weight loss started to change.
Lifting weights became part of my exercise regimen, and while my weight stabilized slightly, the downward progress eventually stalled completely.
My body, on the other hand, continued to change. The more I trained, the more I saw results in ways I couldn’t imagine. Physically, I looked better than I had in years, and I found myself fitting into clothes I’d worn at the height of my eating disorder—without starving myself or overdoing it in the gym.
The biggest and most important change, however, was mental. Lifting weights helped me conquer anxiety and depression, it changed how I viewed my body, and it helped me realize that I could be strong and feminine at the same time.
Weight loss, I discovered, was a lie.
The scale stopped moving, but happiness could still be found. I looked and felt better, even though I hadn’t lost the 20 pounds I had thought I needed to lose to be content.
As it turns out, I’m not alone. Instagram star Katie Lolas, who’s based in Sydney, Australia, went through the same transformation I did—along with countless others. An advocate of #screwthescale, Lolas is living proof that weight is just a number, and lower isn’t always better.
Thanks to regular training and a healthy, balanced diet, Lolas went from 149 lbs to 158 lbs over the course of her progress and realized that both the scale and the very concept of weight loss were lying to her.
“At first it was difficult,” she said, when I asked her about her journey. “Instead of weighing myself every day, I started measuring my progress by taking pictures of myself and measuring the way I fit into my clothing, which was incredibly helpful.”
Now, she’s a huge advocate of people—especially women—abandoning the scale and pursuing a healthy lifestyle without stressing about weight.
“Weight is not a direct reflection of someone’s health and fitness levels—these are the things we should be focusing on: feeling healthy, confident, and strong at whatever weight we may be,” Lolas said.
In the end? “Remember to be kind to yourself,” Lolas said. “You are enough.”
As difficult as it may be, it’s important to realize that this journey is about more than a number on the scale. Try setting goals, focusing on what your body can do, and start small. Fitness needs to be about health, finding balance, and living your best life.
In my experience, the scale won’t get you there—so it’s time to kick it to the curb.
Jandra Sutton is an author, historian, and public speaker. After graduating from Huntington University with a B.A. in history, she went on to receive a master’s degree in modern British history from the University of East Anglia. In her spare time, Sutton enjoys fangirling, running, and anything related to ice cream. Pluto is still a planet in her heart. She lives in Nashville with her husband and their two dogs. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.