Y’know, I often wonder just how much of our body issues as women come from men.

Trying to attract men… or trying to keep a man… or trying to please a man.

This isn’t some man-hating thesis… I love my men just as much as the next hetero chick (or gay dude, for that matter) but for crying out loud, I have to set some boundaries in regards to just how much of my life revolves around them.

When I chat with women about fitness, we inevitably have the “boo” conversation.

“Hey… I’m just tryin’ to get a boo.”

“Girl, you’re crazy. I get plenty of boos right now with all this booty and all these thighs!”

Then, you get your skinny minnies joining the conversation and pissing everybody off:

“I just want thicker thighs, but I can’t eat all that cornbread! I’m tired of being called skinny!”

Sure enough, we all leave the conversation a little more angry, a little more tired, and a little more depressed than when we entered.

I see three major issues, here.

Firstly, to the woman losing weight solely to get the man – once you get the man, are you pretty much done caring for and maintaining your body? Are you going to skip the working out and eating properly because you “got your boo?” I mean, really – talk about a bait and switch. We’d be mad as sin if he (or she?) only opened doors and pulled out chairs to make us swoon and once he felt like we were deep enough in love, gave up on that stuff. Find yourself valuable enough to be a person worth pleasing. If you’re at a point where appearance is important, be invested enough in pleasing yourself with your appearance… that you’ll work to maintain it for all time. Not just for now… or until he puts a ring on it. Sure enough, you’ll be forced to adopt healthier choices and everyone will be healthier in the long run.

Secondly, to the woman who believes she doesn’t need to lose weight specifically because all the men are praising her frame. There is nothing worse than a woman who uses outside validation as an excuse for not keeping herself in check. It’s one thing to appreciate outside validation (“Oh, girl, you look great!” or the “Wow, you’re getting small!”), but to use it as the basis and/or grounds for decisions in my personal life? Unacceptable.

It’s bad enough that society tells us, on a daily basis, that the end goal for women is [not a successful career, not a dope loft in a bustling metropolitan city, not even CEO status.. but] a happy family and a man. It’s bad enough that we keep being told “Have babies or your eggs will shrivel up to nothingness and you will be worthless, girl!” Letting men (or any outside factor, for that matter) play such a huge role in how concerned (or unconcerned, for that matter) we are with our overall health is just doing too much.

When I first started out on my own path for weight loss, I had a supportive boyfriend. He wasn’t pushing me in either direction – in fact, I think he knew this was a journey I needed to figure out on my own for me. I needed to stand on my own two feet emotionally. I needed to support myself. I needed to be my own cheerleader first, and allow the support of others to come second. I’m thankful for that, because our relationship didn’t last. I can only imagine where I’d be had he chosen otherwise and I’d relied on him to keep me focused, because heaven knows I wasn’t that emotionally stable when it came to self-care. I just now happen to have the hindsight to appreciate how things worked out for me, and how I developed an ability to spot what I needed (notice all the italicized “I needed”s in this paragraph.) and how important it was to make sure that I had what I needed emotionally. No one takes care of you better than you. Ever.

And speaking of hindsight, now I know that the “support from others” is not only conditional, but temporary. Since you, shrinking down in size, means you might be looking more like them/better than them, they become less and less likely to cheer you on in the future. Just like how I wrote about friendships either helping or hindering our efforts to be healthier, those friends might’ve been keeping you around because [in some sick and twisted way] you made them feel better about not being… like you. Becoming a healthier version of yourself – regardless of whether or not that includes weight loss – not only shines an uncomfortable light on their own habits, but makes people feel competitive. Especially if they saw you as beneath them.

Not saying everyone is like that, but dang if it didn’t happen. Please believe the “Wow, you’re getting small!”s eventually turn into “Wow, you’re too skinny, now! Here, have some more [insert crap], girl. Eat up.” and behind your back? It’s probably “That bitch needs a cookie… or a cheeseburger.”

Now, I get questions like “So are you dating much more now that you’ve lost weight?” and get blank stares when I reply, “I’m not dating at all. I’m too focused on me right now to get to know anyone new.”

“Awww, girl, you’re wasting all that hard work!”

Aw, word? So.. my losing weight, escaping diabetes and hypertension, and changing my habits was… to expand my dating options? I mean, forget the fact that I wanted to make sure that if I needed to protect my child and I, I could. And forget the fact that I wanted to make sure that I’d be around long enough to see my grandchildren graduate college. And even forget the fact that I needed to know that I wasn’t actively contributing to my own demise all for the sake of something stupid like the kind of food I insisted on shoving down my throat.

My hard work was wasting because… I wasn’t dating. Priorities, people.

I’m convinced that there’s a conspiracy out there meant to prevent women from valuing themselves and their own opinions enough to be comfortable with shutting out society. Heaven forbid we be empowered enough to tell someone exactly where they – and their silly opinions – can go.

I think that we can all say that 80% of weight loss is eating properly. I think we can also say that for so many of us, our eating problems come from an emotional place. If there’s an emotional void, why allow someone other than ourselves to fill it? Why allow ourselves to rely on something or someone so flimsy?

Let’s be honest about it: no other person, no outside source of validation – whether you’re seeking that validation or already have that validation – can replace how we feel about ourselves… and if we feel like we need to tune up our habits, tighten up our physiques or eat better? Then we need to believe enough in ourselves, have enough faith in ourselves, and value our own opinions enough to make it happen. It’s as simple as that.