A Healthy Body Isn’t Always a Thin Body

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Girl, Wash Your Face" by Rachel Hollis. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Is your focus on looking like an Instagram model rather than on attaining a healthy body? Do you have an unhealthy relationship with food and distorted body image?

Many women turn to food as a coping mechanism, abusing their bodies to help deal with stress or trauma. This can cause a vicious cycle of dieting, gaining weight, and feeling bad about yourself. Instead of losing or gaining weight to match a beauty standard, you should be doing it to attain a healthy body.

Keep reading to learn how a healthy body can lead to a healthy mind.

A Healthy Body Is a Happy Body

Many women have an unhealthy relationship with food, their weight, and a distorted body image. Often women turn to food as a coping mechanism, abusing their bodies to help deal with trauma or difficult issues from their past.

After weight gain, it is common to turn to diets and diet aids, which don’t work and often leave you heavier than before, creating a yo-yo situation that is unhealthy and leads to feeling bad about yourself — which in turn can lead to more comfort eating. 

Rachel Hollis, author of Girl, Wash Your Face, has also dealt with weight issues, identifying at an early age that thin women equaled beautiful women — they were the ones who would find love, she thought. She had a distorted body image as a child, but it took a dramatic turn for the worse after an experience with her father trying to teach her how to drive a stick shift turned ugly, as he screamed at her for not handling the car properly. 

After this incident, her food issues, including binge eating, escalated. A bout with mono brought her a skinny body she thought would change her life, but after eating solid food again she gained it all back. She turned to diet pills and suffered from paranoia as a side effect. Later, pregnancy and weight gain affected her distorted body image.

She overcame these struggles, coming to her own personal truth and realizations about diet, exercise and weight that differ from common motivational messages.

A Different Take on Loving Yourself

She agrees with the common motivational message of “weight does not define you,” and you are good enough and worthy enough as you are. However, she has a different take with more of a tough-love angle: While who you are today is incredible, she believes that humans were not meant to be severely overweight and out of shape. Regardless of looks, a healthy body leads to a healthy mind.

While weight does not define you, she believes that the care you put into your body does in fact define you.

This message may be criticized and seen as victim blaming. She understands many people have an unhealthy body because they have lived through trauma and face difficult times leading to body abuse. Some people turn to food and gain weight as a result of a trauma. Other women go in the opposite direction and abuse their bodies via anorexia or alcohol.

While hard times in life are valid reasons to neglect your physical health for a short time, they are not a life sentence. It’s possible to rise above the trauma of the past and work on maintaining a healthy body.

Her advice to women: Staying in an unhealthy body is a choice; she implores women to stop making excuses and justifying living an existence that is less than what they deserve.

You can choose to get yourself out of a situation where you’re abusing your body.

You don’t need to be thin, but you do need to have a healthy body. While you don’t have to look good in a bikini, you should be able to walk up a flight of stairs. Stop filling your body with sugar and chemicals, and focus on fuel that hasn’t been processed. You also need positive fuel for your mind in the form of encouraging input.

If you truly want to love yourself, start with a healthy body. Do the work to figure out what’s causing your unhealthy weight/body issues in the first place. The author studied, went to therapy, and forged new, positive habits to stop the compulsive eating that had been her comfort crutch.

She urges women to understand that there’s no mystery to eating healthy and you don’t need a special diet plan. Just consume fewer calories than you expend. It can take work to figure out healthy meals you enjoy and a workout plan you’ll stick to, but a healthy body and a well-cared-for you is worth the effort.

Tips on Building a Healthy Body From the Mind Out

Try these strategies when focusing on your physical health:

  • Positive mantras. Many women have a lifetime of negative self-talk in their heads. When you replace that voice with positivity (I’m strong, I’m smart, I’m brave), you can begin to believe the truth.
  • New content. We are surrounded by unhealthy body images of unattainable perfection in the media. Instead, surround yourself with positive, uplifting role models whose focus is strength and health. Unfollow perfect Instagram models if it’s making you feel bad.
  • Prepare. Anything you want to succeed at, you must prepare for. Creating a healthy body is no exception. Pack your workout bag and schedule your gym time. Have healthy snacks at the ready.
A Healthy Body Isn’t Always a Thin Body

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Here's what you'll find in our full Girl, Wash Your Face summary :

  • Why you should accept that life can be messy
  • How seeing that you're in control of your life can help you live more joyfully
  • The 20 lies you might be telling yourself

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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