Recently, a precious friend and reader asked me, “How do I learn to love myself, even when I’m not happy with the number on the scale?”
In a world that says we shouldn’t be happy or feel good about ourselves unless we look a certain way, this question resonates, doesn’t it? For years, I thought that my weight determined my worth. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Over the past year or so, I finally grasped the fact that I am worthy of love and respect, both from myself and others. I can say with ABSOLUTE confidence that it’s possible to love the skin you’re in RIGHT now, regardless of the number on the scale.
I’ve heard people say things like, “All this body positive talk is just an excuse to avoid losing weight or making changes in your life.” (FYI: The people who say stuff like this are typically people whose own sense of worth is deeply tied to their appearance/weight.)
The truth is that loving your body builds a foundation for lasting change. Choices motivated by love are always more powerful than those motivated by shame, guilt or fear. (Think about it for a second…if shaming yourself into weight loss actually worked, wouldn’t we all be thin by now?)
So how did I get here? How did I let go of shame and learn to love myself?
Baby steps, friends.
This kind of inner transformation doesn’t happen overnight. Here are a few steps that helped me come to a place of loving acceptance and respect for my body…no matter what I weigh.
#1: I made a decision to love the body I have RIGHT NOW.
I participate in a group program called Smaller Size, Bigger Life (SSBL) with Registered Dietitian Heather K. Jones, and Heather said something so powerful in one of our trainings:
Wow. Think about that for a second. Do you REALLY think that losing weight is going to solve all your problems? I don’t think so.
It’s critical that we commit to loving and respecting the body we have NOW. (That doesn’t mean we’ll never gain/lose weight, that we’ll always be perfect or that this whole process is gonna be sunshine and rainbows. It just means that as of today, I’m open to the idea of loving myself just as I am.)
#2: I became willing to see myself differently.
It’s astonishing how differently we see ourselves vs. how others see us. Take this magic mirror experiment, for example. (Click here to watch the video. Grab a tissue first.) In this video, you’ll see women talking to the mirror about themselves, and all they seem to focus on is the negative. Watch what happens when the mirror talks back to them and they get to hear from the people who love them!
Imagine what would happen if we flipped the switch internally, and started to see ourselves in a positive way? (Spoiler alert: It changes EVERYTHING.)
#3: I shut out the voices that said, “You’re not enough.”
I unfollowed a whole bunch of people on social media that made me feel like junk every time I saw their posts. Some of them were weight loss superstars who promoted obsessive dieting. Others were acquaintances who flooded my newsfeed with negativity or personal drama. I basically hit the “unfollow” button on groups, people or pages that didn’t align with my new values. (Or anyone that just plain gave me an unsettled or “icky” feeling inside.)
Seriously, who do you need to unfollow today?
#4: I surrounded myself with strong, positive voices to replace the negative ones.
Last summer, I started attending a weekly support group for people with binge eating disorder, and there I found a safe place to dig deep and express the stuff that I couldn’t share anywhere else. I also joined the SSBL Inner Circle (the online community cultivated by Heather K. Jones) and I soaked in all of the incredible teachings on weight loss, wellness and self-care.
On a practical note, I also fleshed out my food philosophy and found a way of eating that I can live with FOREVER. (If you want to get into the nitty gritty of the food part, check out this book by Dawn Jackson Blatner or Danielle Omar’s “Nourish Plate.”) Honestly, you’ve got to dial into what works for YOU and your body, and this approach makes me feel REALLY good.
#5: I started using affirmations to confront my negative thoughts.
I used to say things to and about myself that I would never DREAM of saying to my best friend or my mom. (If you wouldn’t say it to them, why would you say it to yourself?) The conversations in my head were nothing short of verbal abuse. Once I became aware, I started using positive affirmations to combat those ugly thoughts.
I started saying things to myself like: I deserve a healthy body. I love myself. Recovery is possible. I am more than a number on a scale. There are tons of websites and ideas out there, but you’ve got to pick what resonates with you, and choose to focus on that when the negative thoughts show up. (Here are a few ideas to get started. Some feel a little woo woo, but one or two are bound to click.)
#6: I incorporated little acts of self-care into my daily routines.
With guidance from my therapist, SSBL and other key influences, I found little ways to show myself some love in the day to day. Simple things like a soothing cup of tea before bed. Regular Epsom salt baths. Playlists filled with music that makes me want to dance. Snuggling up with my toddler to read a book. Taking Vitamin D. Writing in a gratitude journal. Going to small group at church. Finding someone to encourage or serve every day.
None of these things is earth-shattering in and of itself, but the cumulative effect is POWERFUL because it’s proof that you actually give a crap about yourself. (That’s the first sign of self- love.)
#7: I stopped being at war with my own body.
I watched the documentary, Embrace, and it shook me to my core. In the film, Taryn Brumfitt travels the globe urging people to stop body shaming and start promoting positive body image.
If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s absolutely incredible. (Full disclosure for my conservative readers: There’s feminine nudity in an artistic context, a few f-bombs and some stories that will challenge/compel/encourage the heck out of you. That said: I loved it. You can watch it on Netflix.)
The most powerful part of the documentary (for me) comes in the last few moments as Taryn pens a letter to her little girl. I get CHILLS every time I read it.
“In your lifetime, there will be people who will try to tell you that you need to change, but you don’t. The purpose of your life is not to be an ornament to be looked at, but rather to do and feel and accomplish and contribute. Darling girl, don’t make my mistakes. Don’t waste a single day of your life being at war with your body. Just embrace it.”
Let that sink in for a minute.
It’s impossible to lovingly care for a body that you hate, so why NOT embrace it?
What do you have to lose by starting your OWN journey towards a more loving relationship with yourself and your body?
I can tell you from experience that it won’t be easy. But the day that you look into the mirror or step onto the scale without recoiling in shame? That makes it worth it.
*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. That means that I make a small commission if you purchase through my links. Just a side note: I’m not an affiliate for SSBL. I just LOVE it.*