Let’s Rewind to 2009. I had just started highschool in a new city outside of Toronto. Add to that, I was one of only a handful of students of color in a predominantly white school. Aside from your typical academic pressures that come with transitioning into this new chapter, there was also this societal pressure to fit in with people who looked nothing like me.
Here was this curvy latina with curly hair, in a world where female perfection was portrayed by thin, fit white women without much attention to other body types or even races. I’m pretty thankful that social media wasn’t as big back then. I can’t even imagine being a teenage girl in today’s social media age.
You’re constantly being thrown images of perfect celebrities, influencers and every fad diet imaginable – it’s easy to internalize this when you’re young and impressionable.
At some point I got tired of being unhappy with myself, which led me on a health journey. I decided that the suburbs weren’t for me and moved back to the city to study nutrition and health sciences. Unlearning the damage that diet culture caused wasn’t easy though. It took years of reading, university courses and mentorship to finally get to a place of confidence.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still moments where I catch myself challenged by my own thoughts, but I’ve learned to prioritize my own health by surrounding myself with an amazing support system – whether it’s working out at women-only facilities or joining inclusive and welcoming groups in my community.
In 2019 I launched the Working Woman’s Health Collection – a place of empowerment for women looking to transform their health while taking into consideration the busy lifestyles we live today.
With so much misinformation online, I wanted to create a space where people could go for credible information. Boosting women’s self-esteem and educating people on body positivity became my daily mission. Since then, WWHC has grown to be the go-to for your daily dose of health and wellness.
Today I counsel clients on the importance of nutrition and building a healthy relationship with food while giving them the tools to feel confident in themselves.
When women hold themselves back because of low self-esteem, they miss out. It’s a sad way of living to constantly feel the pressure to change the way we look without being appreciative for what we have. It’s so important to explore why you want to look a certain way and then ask yourself if it would even make you happy.
Looking good is completely different than feeling good and only you have the power to change how you feel about yourself.
My advice to anyone who is going through a similar experience...
1. Practice Self-Compassion
Diet culture is so deeply ingrained in us and unlearning it doesn’t happen overnight. Just like starting a new workout routine – the more you work at it, the easier it gets. Some days will be harder than others but that’s okay. Avoiding the negative self-talk will make the process a lot easier on you.
2. Ditch the scale
Here’s the thing – the scale is just one of many tools used to measure overall health. Your weight doesn’t define you. There are many thin people who are unhealthy, and many larger-bodied people who are perfectly healthy and there’s no way a number on the scale alone can tell you that.
3. Avoid comparing yourself to others
It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others, but let me tell you – comparison is the theft of joy. It’s hard to be happy when we’re constantly picking apart what we hate about ourselves or what we wish we could look like. Practice pointing out what you do like about yourself and do it routinely. You’ll transform your mindset from a place of comparison to a more appreciative state.
4. Clean up your social media feed
Unfollow triggering pages and people who routinely post negativity. Follow people who inspire you, educate you, or just make you laugh.
5. Have a strong support system
Whether it’s online or in real life, having people you can talk to can help you build genuine connection, community and support. It’s a lot more uplifting than scrolling through #fitspo on instagram. A strong support system can include friends, family and even your doctor or registered dietitian.
Despite the countless times we may have looked at ourselves in the mirror and avoided going to certain social settings because we’ve been embarrassed or dissatisfied with our bodies, it is possible to reach a point of confidence.
Remember that your body is different than anyone else’s and what might work for someone else might not work for you and that’s okay. The journey towards developing a healthy relationship with food takes time and dedication, but living a life free of dieting is so liberating and worthwhile.
This article was written by Gabi Abreu, BSc (Nutrition). Gabi is a certified health coach, aspiring dietitian and founder of the Working Woman’s Health Collection. For more nutrition tips or to connect, head over to wwhealthcollection.com or @wwhealthcollection on instagram.