It’s the catch-cry of women everywhere. For the more Rubenesque, simply losing weight might be the goal, but often the last few kilos present a ‘problem’.
Why is it that people can lose weight really effectively and reach their healthy goal, only to be discouraged by still having a ‘problem area’?
There are a few answers to this question.
Is it really a problem?
This first answer is actually a question: Why is having a bit of extra fat in a particular area considered a problem? If it makes you physically uncomfortable or if it presents a health issue, then perhaps it is a problem. If not, it’s probably a reflection of what you perceive to be desirable or perfect. The skin-tight jeans have a little muffin top. The slinky dress isn’t as smooth as you’d like. And – horror of horrors – you can see a bit of cellulite when wearing shorts. So what?
We’ll let you in on a secret: every woman, including svelte supermodels, has an area of their body that they perceive as imperfect. Perhaps it’s a little pinch of skin/fat, perhaps a dimple on the wrong cheek, or maybe some old puberty-induced stretch marks on the thigh.
The problem is not these body ‘imperfections’, it’s photo-shopping: magazine editors and photographers believe that perfection is called for, and so even images of supermodels get a bit of a touch up. The consequence is that we all think being perfect is the only way to be.
On a personal note, a number of years ago a photographer touched up my image so much that I could not recognise myself. Not only had the middle-aged wrinkles magically disappeared, but the bags under my eyes had gone and I had no freckles. Sure, I looked gorgeous, but it was no longer me. Interestingly, I assumed that the photographer thought that I looked bad and would not be happy with my real image.
Where we first gain or last lose weight is determined not by how many sit-ups or squats we do, but by our hormones.
The apple-shaped person who gains weight primarily around the tummy is more likely to have higher levels of insulin, melatonin and cortisol. Dietary choices can influence insulin, and better sleep and stress response techniques affects melatonin and cortisol respectively. The pear-shape gains more around the hips and thighs is likely to have lower insulin but higher oestrogen.
The thing is, though, that the apple can be a Jonathan or a Granny Smith, while the pear could be a Seckel or a Bartlett. The size can be reduced or increased, but the shape remains.
So, if you love those sit-ups or squats, do them. You’ll get beautifully strong and functional muscles, so keep it up. But if you think targeted exercises will strip fat off your tummy or thighs, you’ll be disappointed.
Focusing on the negative
This is a bit like the conversations:
“Nice dress” – “Oh, this old thing”
“You look great” – “Oh gosh, I’m so tired”
Rather than taking the compliment, we often find something that diminishes it. Similarly, a person may have lost, say, 10 kilos then says “Yeah, but I’ve still got this tummy fat”. Why not be grateful and proud of what you’ve achieved? Don’t diminish your achievements; celebrate your successes.
Imagining that losing weight will solve all your problems
If you hate your job, the last few kilos won’t magically turn your boss into a nice person. Your teenager is turning from a sweet child into the devil personified, but fitting into skinny jeans won’t help. Ageing parents won’t stop ageing just because your thighs are slim.
What helps in all of these situations is prioritising yourself. Give yourself the time, care and attention to work towards your personal goals, and you’ll be better able to handle the challenges life throws your way. Not because you’re skinny, but because you’re treating yourself and your needs with care, acceptance, and love.
Appreciate the challenges you’ve overcome and be forgiving of perceived problem areas. Realistic expectations and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are good reasons to continue the lifelong journey of making the best of what you’ve got.