This afternoon, I had a great conversation with my friend Melissa about gaining weight, and body acceptance. We were discussing our respective attitudes towards food, overeating, and comments from others about our bodies, and realized that both of us had found peace within ourselves around those issues.
It all started because I told her that this past week I’d had a Eureka! moment. I realized it was absolutely fine for me to want to lose weight. And if that sounds like more of a Duh! moment to you, let me explain.
For years, I hated on my body. I thought that if I could only lose weight, all my problems would be solved and I’d be happy. I refused to accept that I was a worthy person, because to me being overweight symbolized failing at life.
I didn’t like thinking and feeling that way, but I thought I needed to change my body to change my mind.
I was wrong.
I tried and tried and tried to lose, and usually gained everything back plus more. Because even though I was getting into smaller jeans, it was never good enough. I was never thin enough. And I still hated myself. So the weight would come right back on.
A few years ago, I finally figured out that weight loss does not equal happiness, and that I could hate a thinner body just as much as a heavier one. And that love works the same way.
I began to value myself for other qualities, such as my enthusiasm, humor, optimism, kindness and intelligence. In other words, I realized that I was completely lovable without having to change a thing. Such a liberating feeling!
But then, things started to swing the other way. I started to think that if I was trying to lose weight, or trying too hard, it meant that I was no longer accepting of my body. That I couldn’t love myself and also want to change. It felt like betrayal.
Earlier this year, I gained back 10 pounds of what I’d worked so hard to lose, and began to feel like a fraud (being a personal trainer and all), in addition to feeling like a traitor to myself. I was confused, tortured, and even a little rebellious. I ate and ate and ate some more. And tried desperately to ignore the conflict going on in my head.
It seemed like there was no way out – either I accept my body the way it is and it stays the same forever (or perhaps even gains weight), or I don’t accept my body and I go back to my old, fat, sick one.
A few days ago, I decide to stop going to war with myself and instead took the time to really listen to the argument in my head. The same thought kept coming up over and over: there’s something wrong with me if I want to lose weight, because I need to be happy with myself exactly as I am.
And then the Eureka! The exact opposite is true. There’s *nothing* wrong with wanting to lose weight. It doesn’t have to mean I don’t love myself exactly as is. Wanting to lose weight – and actively working on it – can be a sign of body acceptace if I’m doing it for loving reasons. In other words, when I recognize that my body is awesome exactly as it is (cellulite, flappy arms, and all), that my body is strong and fit and can do amazing things, and after all, it’s JUST A BODY – not a character flaw or a statement about my lovability as a human – then what’s wrong with wanting to make it even more awesome?
Here’s the thing: There’s nobody – not one single person – in my life that I love because of how they look. Nobody whom I would stop loving or caring about if their appearance changed in any way. Which means (Eureka!) that I am free to love *myself* the same way.
I can’t tell you what a relief this is.
I don’t have to be disappointed in myself for gaining back some weight. I don’t have to be mad if I never lose it again. And I don’t have to feel betrayed if I decide to start working diligently on losing. It’s all good. Because I love me exactly as I am, and it feels amazing.
I’d love to hear about your body acceptance thoughts? Have you learned to love yourself as is? Do you feel like it’s OK to want to change? Please share in the comments!