Everywhere you turn there are signs telling you, as a female, to lose weight -- in every advertisement, every store and every form of media, not to mention the countless people you see throughout the day who have a physical appearance that you might like more than your own.
Dieting is entirely part of the norm in our society now. There are a million different fad diets that exist, and a hundred more will be created before we know it.
Every person you come across tries to tell you their tricks or strategies, but it's impossible to keep up with them all.
I find myself looking at the food on my plate, simply trying to recall whether I was told it was OK to eat it or not. In the end, I find myself feeling guilty about eating nearly everything except fresh vegetables.
People always feel the need to comment on your weight loss, and that reinforces the idea you constantly need to lose more.
I can barely remember a time past the age of 11 or 12 where I wasn't trying to lose weight in some form. It starts with five pounds and then turns to five more. It starts with cutting out this, then changes to something else. Really, it just starts and ends with a lot of confusion and stress.
Losing weight is no longer a battle to be the healthiest version of yourself. It's not about gaining energy or strengthening our heart and lungs. In fact, often it's not about health at all, because we are no longer doing it for ourselves.
Losing weight has become a mental battle -- one that you pursue every day out of fear. It's a fear of dislike -- from others and yourself -- a fear of disgust, a fear of not being good enough.
You stare in the mirror and you don't wonder if those extra 10 pounds could affect your risk of heart disease, you wonder if the boy/girl you care about will notice. Maybe even if they will like you a little less. In the end, though, the only person who likes you a little less is yourself.
You start to question what you eat, or even if you should eat. You stress about what ingredients the food contains, and the effects of those items.
You feel guilty when you ignore the rules you set for yourself and for sneaking a treat. As a result, your weight decreases and so does your mental health.
Your physical health is extremely important, but your goals should never ever be attained by ignoring and/or destroying your mental health.
We are terrified of so many things in life, but we forget to be afraid of one of the most life-threatening things that exists: the decline of our mental health, and subsequently, suicide.
Did you know that more people die from suicide than homicide in the US? Think about that.
It's time to start changing the message. It's time to encourage weight loss (or weight gain!) because physically it's beneficial to the person.
It's time to start eating so that we can avoid disease, create strong immune systems and provide energy for ourselves.
It's time to start running because it helps us become stronger and it's an immensely good coping mechanism. It's time to do yoga because it helps you live longer and relaxes your mind.
The only reason worthy of trying to lose weight is because you want to take care of yourself.
Our mental and physical health go hand in hand and we have to treat them that way. Don't compromise one for the other.
After all, the battle to become thin is a never-ending cycle that will leave you in a much darker place than where you began, whereas the battle to become healthy can only take you to bigger and brighter places.
This article was originally published on Unwritten.