How to not stress about being fatIt’s one of the most famous and most damaging reasons teenagers hate themselves. And a worrying number of the people who say they’ve grown out of that mindset are either lying to you or to themselves.

Men and women alike are obsessed today with being thin. People will go to insane lengths to shave off every tiny extra spot of cellulite on their bodies, as if it’s cancerous. They spend thousands of pounds a year on gym membership, on personal trainers, on equipment they can use in the privacy of their own home. Some people spend even more on drastic plastic surgery to suck the fat right out off them.

They care so much about looking thin that they stop caring about being healthy.

Which is really what being thin is supposed to be about.

If you look thin, people tend to assume that you eat somewhat healthily and exercise a fair bit. At least, you never gorge yourself until you puke or pass out and are capable of running for a bus. It makes sense that someone in decent shape would lead an active lifestyle and will live long and happily into their old age.

Which, generally, is desirable in partners and friends. You want them to be there your whole life, so you want them to live at least as long as you do.

But it’s not worth getting so obsessed about appearing slim that you forget about what it’s supposed to signify.

Regular exercise doesn’t mean having to waste yourself at the gym every night. It means going for a jog every now and then. It means riding your bike instead of driving from time to time. It means playing football with your mates or your kids in the park. It means taking your dog for a walk.

And healthy eating doesn’t mean only ever eating salad and protein shakes. It doesn’t mean never eating carbohydrates – which is one of the most dangerous things you can do to your digestive system. It means limiting the amount of pizza and cake and beer you consume on a daily basis. It means having a decent proportion of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet. It means making sure you don’t live entirely off junk.

And if the occasional glass of wine and takeaway gives you a bit of roundness in the hips, so what? That’s normal. It is how the human body stores energy. It keeps you warm. If you didn’t have a little bit of flesh on you, you would probably be dangerously underweight.

Malnourishment is just as serious a condition as obesity.

And if someone is shallow enough to judge you for having a few extra pounds, then that’s their problem. Not yours. No one is allowed to judge you for what you look like. Anyone who thinks that that’s okay is the kind of person you don’t want in your life anyway.

When you let your diet get so bad you can’t lift your swollen gut out of bed without some kind of assistance, then you’ve eaten too much. When your exercise is so lacking that you get out of breath carrying your groceries down your driveway, then you’re not working out enough.

As long as you are able to live your life without your belly getting in the way of it, you’re fine.

Keep your body in a condition that allows you to do your job, have a hobby and not lose all your energy while you do them. And that is all you need to do. Anything more is, effectively, posturing.

It’s great if you’re proud of your body and proud of the effort that you put into maintaining it. But it doesn’t have to be supermodel perfect for you feel that way. You can be proud of your body because it can run a four minute mile, or you can be proud of your body because it can handle a forty inch pizza.

As long as you’re happy.

Aim, when you do make these goals, to be healthy.

It’s easy and attainable and, ultimately, all that’s important.

Kirstie Summers,

Daily Zen.