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What my belly fat taught me


What my belly fat taught me

Val MacDonald

When I started out as a holistic nutritionist, I thought I would simply tell people how to eat more nutritious foods; educate them about the nasty stuff that is put into processed foods, and give them recipes to make tasty, wholesome meals.  I wanted to help people improve their health and well-being.

Well, it didn’t exactly go that way for me.

Sure, I did get calls from people who truly wanted this.  But most of the people who were contacting me were women, and all of them wanted to lose weight, and most of them had been on several diets throughout their lives.  What I discovered was that there were a lot of emotions caught up in the excess weight that they wanted to release.  I found some women were feeling inadequate, anxious and apologetic.  I found others were feeling exasperated and disgusted with themselves.  For many, the feeling was that their bodies had somehow betrayed them.

It occurred to me that most women are in some state of dislike of their bodies, ranging from mildly annoyed to severely revolted.

While I had been spinning my wheels; talking about cooking with coconut oil, and how to make a quinoa salad, women everywhere had been living in quiet desperation; unhappy with the bodies they are in.

Then came my own weight gain.  Over the course of six years, I gained 30 pounds.  I wasn't doing anything differently with the way I ate or the way I lived.  I outgrew all of my pants and then all of my shirts.  It was confusing and annoying to me.  It affected my opinion of myself.  I felt inadequate on so many levels.  Who was going to hire a fat nutritionist?  Who would listen to anything I would have to say when my own body looks like the "before" picture in all the weight loss blogs?

I had my hormone levels checked and found out that going through menopause not only disrupted my estrogen and progesterone levels, but that it is normal to gain weight during this time.  Why is this? Because when the ovaries stop producing estrogen, our fat cells take over this function.  And the body will manufacture more belly fat to keep up with estrogen production.

Reluctant to start hormone replacement therapy, I realized that I had a choice.  I could either apologize for my size or embrace it.  I decided to embrace it.  This definitely was not a decision that was made overnight.

I judged myself for carrying the extra weight.  Not only that, I realized that I had been judging anyone else who was "carrying extra weight."  I thought that they were not educated about nutrition; that they probably ate nothing but junk food and fast food; and that they had no self discipline. 

I now know for the body to store fat, that it is not as simple as eating too much and exercising too little.

If it were this simple, we'd all be the so-called "ideal" body size and weight.

The body often stores fat due to hormonal changes, stress, certain medical conditions, prescription medications and genetics.

As I journeyed down the road of coming to terms with my extra fat, I also came to terms with my own attitude towards others that looked like me.

I decided to let go of my idea of being a certain body size, and focus on my health, instead.

In doing so, I started to change the way I looked at my body.  Instead of seeing what was wrong with it; fat thighs and belly; I started to see what it does for me each and every day.  I started to appreciate my thighs for taking me where I needed to go. I started to appreciate what lies beneath my belly; all of my important organs that work miracles each and every day, in the functioning of my body.

It was through letting go of having the perfect body that I started to appreciate the perfection of the body that I already have.

I realize now that I am in a relationship with my body and as with each relationship, there needs to be trust, respect and communication. I respect my body's wisdom and I trust it.  I listen to my body and give it what it needs in the way of food and water, exercise, relaxation, rest and sleep.  It communicates to me constantly.

I now honour my body in a way that I did not before.  And by coming to a place of accepting and honouring my body, I also came to a place of accepting and honouring myself; with all of my quirks and imperfections.

For the last couple of years I have been researching the connection between body image and self esteem. I have discovered the Body Positivity movement and the Health At Every Size movement.  I have become passionate about women everywhere accepting their bodies as they are, no matter what their weight or size.

It is my intention to be part of the change in encouraging women to nourish and nurture their bodies and themselves.  My vision, my purpose, and my goal, is for every woman to feel amazing in her own body; to feel full of energy and vitality, and to love the body she is living in, no matter what shape or size she may be.

I thank my belly fat for aligning me with this goal, and I look forward to empowering other women to do the same.