Sarah Vance is an ICU nurse turned body image and self-worth coach, on a mission to help you uncover the radiant badass woman within. She tells us about her former life as a bikini and fitness model, and how her body positive moment made her happier than she had ever been.
An unhealthy obsession with being “healthy”
I didn’t always have a positive relationship with my body. As a matter of fact, I spent many years being at war with it. This was amplified after graduating college and becoming an ICU nurse. During my studies, I became extremely fearful of becoming “unhealthy” and much like mainstream ideals, I believed that my body size was an indication of my health. On top of this fear of becoming “unhealthy”, my body had changed over the last few years. I bought into the illusion that being thin meant being better, and that weight gain was the worst thing that could happen to me.
My life, in general, wasn’t going too great. I was in an unfulfilling relationship, my family and friends had both moved away within the same month, and I was a new grad in a busy ICU where I was trying to learn how to cope with things I had never been exposed to.
In our society, there is this idea that losing weight will make us happy, and changing our body will “fix” a variety of other issues. That if we just try hard enough and lose the weight that we will be: loved, happy, feel worthy, confident, and successful. As women, we often reflect unhappiness and lack of fulfilment back onto our bodies versus seeing the real issues at hand. Because of this – I decided to go down the route of losing weight. As a matter of fact, I went all out. I hired a coach to compete in bikini competition.
Bye bye bikini body
Shortly after, I was on a rigorous workout routine and hardly eating anything. I was forcing my body to be at a weight that it naturally did not want to be at. My confidence was at an all-time low when I thought it was supposed to be at an all-time high. I was more hyper aware of my body than I had ever been, and my relationship with food was a disaster. I “looked” like the epitome of health, but I was far from it.
This continued for quite some time until I just couldn’t take it. Physically or mentally. It dawned on me when I was at the hospital taking care of a young patient around my age who was extremely ill. She had done “everything right”, and here she was fighting for her life.
Maybe I can’t control my health? Maybe health and my body are not directly related? Maybe there is more to life than trying to chase the perfect idea of “health” or the perfect body?
My body positive moment
My first – of many – and most profound body positive moment is when I got super clear about how I wanted my life to be remembered. It wasn’t until I realised that my worth isn’t based on my health or body, but based on who I am as a person. At the end of the day, we are not remembered for the number on the scale or how many salads we eat. We are remembered for who we are, the memories we made, and the legacy we leave.
There is so much more to who we are than our bodies, and when we start exploring who we are outside of our jean size and understand that who we are is enough – that is when we can have unconditional acceptance and peace.
When we learn that the illusion of thinness is just that – an illusion – and we can have anything we thought weight loss would give us in the body we have today, that is when our life can truly change. Instead of waiting to find fulfilment at the end of losing weight, or chasing perfection in hopes of happiness…we can start creating those things today.
The truth is that we do not have control over our bodies. They will change, just like our lives do. We also do not have control over our health as much as mainstream ideals make us believe. And if our obsession with “health” leads to damaging behaviours, then I argue that there isn’t an ounce of healthiness involved anyways. Health, happiness, love, worthiness, and confidence aren’t saved for a specific body. Those things can, and are, present in a variety of bodies. And each of those bodies is worthy because of the human who resides in them. Our worth is inherent and our birth right for merely existing.
My question to you is: how do you want to remember your life? Living your fullest life now, or worrying about how much you weigh, what you ate, and beating yourself up in the gym? What will your legacy be that you leave? I doubt it will be your body…
About the Author:
Sarah Vance is a body image & self-worth coach, host of the Reclaiming You Podcast, and creator of the life-changing Breaking Boundaries Program. She specialises in helping women all over the world let go of diet dogma, body hate, perfection, and all or nothing thinking. Freeing then to step into the badass woman within feeling worthy, confident, loved, free, and enough in whatever body they have. Grab your taste of freedom: 5 Mindshifts to Embrace Your Body and Have Food Freedom at sarahvance.com.