Do you think you can change a person you hate? I used to try. I thought if I despised my body enough, I would be motivated enough to change it.
But that’s not how it works. And with time I realized that hating myself wasn’t getting me anywhere. So I tried something different. I tried loving myself instead. And you know what? It worked.
If you’re struggling with weight loss, you may be missing this incredibly crucial first step: love your body as it is now.
Yikes! Sound scary doesn’t it? When I tell clients how important this is for long term success, I usually get one of two responses:
#1. But if I love my body, then I won’t be motivated to lose weight
#2. I have no idea how to love this body.
Before I talk about both of these concerns, I want to explain why this step is SO incredibly important.
What’s your motivation?
How we view our bodies, for good or bad, can be one of the most powerful motivators for our eating choices.
If you hate your body, you will most likely make choices based on your need to punish yourself, restrict yourself, or deprive yourself of certain foods. This is a miserable way to live your life, and these actions and thoughts can only last so long before you’re likely to give up.
If you love your body, then your choices will be based on your desire to take good care of yourself, improve yourself, and fuel yourself well. It will become an enjoyable experience and something you want to do, rather than something you’re feeling forced to do. Beyond the fact that it’s miserable and unsustainable to be motivated by hate, there are some dangerous consequences down the road. If you use hate as the motivator for your weight loss journey, that feeling will have to grow stronger as your journey progresses. Each time you make a food choice, you will be reminded of what motivated that choice, and negativity towards yourself will become a constant companion in your life.
One common misconception is that once we reach our weight loss goals we will start automatically loving our bodies, but if we reach our goals being motivated by hate, it will have become so deeply ingrained in our lives that we can’t help but find other things about ourselves to hate. Even if we do reach our “perfect” weight it will never be enough. There will always be something to pick apart about ourselves: our hair, our teeth, our wrinkles, stretch marks… the list goes on.
But if instead you are motivated by love for yourself, each time you make a loving choice that love for yourself will increase, leading to more love and more good choices. It gives you the opportunity to be happy and confident now, not at some date in the future when you think your body is finally “perfect”.
“If I love my body now then I won’t change”
A lot of people believe that by loving their bodies as it is now, means they will stay the same. This is absolutely NOT the case. By loving your body, you’re not “giving up” or choosing to remain at your current weight. You’re actually creating a safe and powerful environment for long-term growth and progress.
Imagine if you were a child, working hard on accomplishing something difficult. Which would cause you to be more likely to succeed? A parent who continually tells you that you’re not good enough and worthless, or a parent who encourages you lovingly, helps you up when you fall, and tells you to keep going?
We are essentially doing one or the other of these for ourselves.
How do I love my body as it is?
Easier said than done, right? How do you love your body as it is now, when your goal is to lose weight? While I can’t say that I have all the answers on this subject, I do have some ideas that have worked for my clients (and for me.) Here are a few thoughts:
1. Wear clothes that fit well: This may seem obvious, but it’s a common mistake that I see. If you’re still trying to squeeze into those pants that are a size too small, or waiting until you reach a certain weight before you buy yourself new clothes, then you’re likely going to struggle with accepting yourself as you are now.
It’s not admitting defeat if you buy a larger pants size or new clothes, it’s telling yourself that you are worth it, and you deserve to look and feel great no matter what size you are.
2. Do the things you want to now: There are so many people who have a long list of things that they want to do after they lose the weight: go on a vacation, take dance classes, play in the pool with your kids, learn a new hobby, go out more with friends… whatever it is that you’re waiting to do once you’ve reached that magical number on the scale, stop waiting. Life is happening now, not 5, 20, 50 or more pounds from now.
3. See other people the way you want to see yourself: Have you ever noticed that the more judgmental we are of ourselves, the more likely we will also judge others? I saw this happen to me first hand. When I was focusing intensely on my weight and size, I also started judging others for their weight and size as well. How we judge others is often an inward reflection of how we feel about ourselves.
An easy way to reverse this is to start seeing the good in others, regardless of their size or shape. Notice the wonderful personalities, awesome talents, and great sense of humor that those around you have. As you focus more on these things for other people, it will become easier to do it for yourself as well.
4. Forget yourself: This is probably what I would consider my most valuable tip when it comes to body acceptance, and it’s the one that most people have never even considered. Have you noticed that the more you focus on yourself, your thighs, your tummy, your wiggles and jiggles, the more insecure you get?
Instead, focus on serving others. Bring dinner to your neighbor who was just in the hospital, help your sister with her kids, spend time talking to a good friend who is going through a hard time, volunteer at the soup kitchen, whatever it is that allows you to help those less fortunate than yourself. We have less time to dwell on negative thoughts about ourselves when we are busy being useful to those around us who truly need our help.
As you continue on your journey, I urge you to consider your motivation, and whether you’re motivated by love or hate. Realize that while both can initially be powerful motivators, only one can lead to happiness and long term success.
I’d LOVE to hear from you: What tips do you have for loving your body? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.