There are a lot of things that the weight loss industry in general gets wrong: all or nothing thinking, quick fixes, punishing workouts and restrictive diets…. I could go on and on (I have on several other occasions). Many of these things are obvious once you get off of the diet hamster wheel, but others are much more subtle.
One of the most subtle and damaging messages of the diet and weight loss industry is teaching us to believe that we aren’t good enough, can’t be happy, and don’t deserve love until we look a certain way, or weigh a certain amount.
Think about it: all of those ads with a frowning disheveled “before” picture, and a happy, smiling, well put together “after” picture. Catchy testimonials like “I’m so happy now that I’ve lost 20 pounds” or even the more subliminal message of “You will love your body, be all sorts of awesome and confident once you’re fit” type messages that are everywhere.
Lies. All of it, lies! And I’m here to bust through this with a couple of truths.
Truth #1— Losing weight will not change how you feel about your body
We all have insecurities, we all have struggles and feelings of inadequacy. It’s really easy to think that weight loss will solve these problems for us, but I’m here to tell you it won’t.
When you look in the mirror and pick apart everything you can’t stand about your body, you’re teaching yourself a habit: the habit of self criticism.
True fact of life: If you want to find fault with your body you will always be able to find something, and the more time you spend practicing self criticism, the more natural and automatic it becomes.
So imagine that you’re losing weight while being motivated by the fact that you can’t stand how you look. Every time you make a choice that will bring you closer to your weight loss goal, you are reminded of why you’re doing it: because your body isn’t good enough.
All that time dieting, all that time making “good choices,” reinforces the habit and pattern of self criticism, and we find ourselves digging deeper and deeper into the pit of self criticism and self hate.
So despite reaching a “goal weight” you will likely still feel bad about yourself, or chances are, even worse. You’ll look in the mirror and notice the next thing that isn’t right, or needs to be changed, or needs to be “fixed”… it’s a vicious, never ending cycle.
Truth #2 — You can love your body now
I’m going to say this again: We all have insecurities, we all have struggles and feelings of inadequacy. The question is whether or not you are going to allow yourself to focus on those thoughts, or consciously choose another thought.
The fact is regardless of your weight, shape, size, appearance, your body deserves your unconditional love.
Unconditional love. Not love-it-if-looks-a-certain-way. Not love-if-everyone else approves. Unconditional self love.
So how do we do it? How do we love ourselves when we are bombarded every day with messages of how we are only lovable if we look a certain way?
My tiny 6 month old is teething. He’s been difficult all week, needing constant attention, wanting to be held, crying for no reason, chewing on everything, and not sleeping well. Needless to say, I’m exhausted. But you know what, I still love the little dude unconditionally.
I would do anything for him. Anything. What did he do to make me love him unconditionally? Not a thing. The fact is, I love him unconditionally because he’s mine and because I choose to love him no matter what. Someday he will go through the terrible twos, not want to go to school, become a rebellious teenager, but that unconditional love will still be there.
Your body is yours. You can choose to love it unconditionally, just as a mother loves her child unconditionally.
Step 1: Choose love—
Love is a choice and an action. The feeling of love is what follows that choice and that action. When you decide that you are sticking with yourself no matter what, something really awesome happens: it becomes much easier to see the good in yourself because you’ve chosen a side. You’re no longer wavering as to whether or not you’re going to love yourself today, you’re no longer depending on an outside influence (like a number on a scale) to determine if you deserve love.
Step 2: Practice love-
Just as we can practice and become experts at self criticism, we can also practice and become experts at self love. When you look into a mirror, what do you see? Your faults, your weaknesses, or your awesomeness and your strengths?
The trick is to daily take time to appreciate yourself and love yourself. Find something awesome about yourself every day. Choose to see the good.
Step 3: Let the rest go —
There are a lot of thoughts and feelings that go through our minds on any given day. Odds are, some of those thoughts will be negative towards ourselves. These thoughts happen, but they alone are not a sign of self-hate or body-hate. When these thoughts come to you, remember, that’s all it is: a thought. You decide if you will focus on it, feed it, and allow it to grow, or if you will starve it, let it pass, and move on to the next thought.
Does unconditional self love help or hurt weight loss?
I hear this a lot: “but if I love my body, then I won’t want to change.” Ok, let’s start there. If you don’t want to change, then by all means, please don’t force yourself to.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to losing weight.
There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to lose weight.
Either way, it’s your choice, and it’s ok.
But if the only thing motivating your weight loss is self hatred, then it’s impossible to succeed in the long term. You become consumed by self hate, end up self sabotaging, create disordered habits… it just doesn’t work.
When you love your body, as it is now, you create a deeper reason and desire for change. You find your big why. Maybe it’s so you can be more active with your family, maybe it’s so you can feel more energetic throughout the day, maybe its for health reasons…. whatever it is, it will be much more powerful than using “I’m not good enough” as your reason why you want to lose weight.
What is one thing that is AWESOME about you, your body, your mind?
I’ll start. I am so grateful that my body can be so flexible and adaptable to so little sleep. I know it’s not ideal, but it’s what needs to happen to take care of my baby, and day after day, I’m able to get up and get going, no matter how little sleep I get.
Let me know your answer in the comments below.