This article originally appeared on Elephant Journal. Click the link to read it there.
A while back a client of mine said, “I feel bad admitting to you that I want to lose weight. You’re so good at body acceptance and self-love, but what if I just actually want to lose weight?”
She was right in the sense that I do like my body the way it is (after many years of hating it) and I do truly like the woman I am. It wasn’t an easy road getting here, but I did the life-changing and deeply gratifying work of no longer judging, hating and beating myself up.
What this client didn’t know was that just a couple of years after finding full body acceptance and peace of mind with food (which did result in weight loss as a side-effect), I was physically ill for the better part of 18 months and gained a lot of weight as a result.
It is weight that now (over two years later) I’m ready to let go of. Some may say that body acceptance means never having the desire to shed weight and thus accepting yourself no matter the size.
But here’s the catch: wanting to lose weight doesn’t have to mean you can’t also love and accept yourself.
I truly do accept myself at this size simply because I accept who I am as a woman, as a human on this planet, as someone who is worthy and valuable and deserving of love, respect, happiness and pleasure. And as such, I would accept myself at any size.
Most weight loss motivation comes from a place that seeks to fix, change or improve upon ourselves. We want to be better, prettier and more confident versions of ourselves through strict dieting, portion control, fad diets and whacky exercise routines.
So when my body and health began to fully heal, I started to ask myself, “How does one lose weight from a place of self-love, joy, pleasure and acceptance; free of the usual anxiety, judgment and self-criticism that motivates us to be something different to fix and change that which we think is wrong?”
When you tap into true self-love and acceptance, then any and all desires you have for yourself come from a place of choice, not fixing. I feel beautiful, energized and have my natural spark for life just as I did prior to my weight gain and illness. And from this place of “my life and body feel great,” I can hear my desire to experience my body at a different size just out of a genuine choice to experience something different.
I questioned myself for a while. Why did I want to lose weight if I liked myself as I am?
I did some soul searching and the answer became clear. Fixing isn’t my motivation.
There isn’t actually anything wrong with me the way I am. I have a desire to experience my body free of the “illness” weight. Not because I‘m not good enough at this size, but because I have a desire to shed all the baggage of that time in my life—physical, mental and spiritual.
I once had a teacher who would say “It’s okay to admit that your life (or in this case, body) is good now, and you can still have a want list.” This became my guiding principle. I could like myself as I am and still desire a different body experience.
We think when we lose weight that we will like ourselves more. Have you ever wondered why over 95 percent of diets fail? It’s because diets are focused on food whereas life, including weight loss, requires us to do the work from the inside out.
The reality is this: When you like yourself, respect, care and nurture yourself, when you believe you really do deserve love, pleasure and to receive what you desire, then the extra weight you carry is so much easier to let go of.
It’s a fundamental change of perspective that yields pretty fantastic results, of which weight loss is merely the icing on the cake.
What most of my clients find is that they end up loving their life so much more when they genuinely begin to embrace, accept and step into the women they’ve always been. In turn, food and weight end up no longer being the focal point.
Weight loss in and of itself is not the enemy of self-love or self-acceptance. Self-loathing, fixing or attempting to improve yourself through weight loss is the enemy and a never ending battle at that.
Here’s the deal: when we approach weight loss with the attitude of “something is wrong here and I need to fix it by losing weight,” then we are caught in a never-ending cycle of judgment, shame and chasing the feeling of “good enough” that we believe exists when we hit the right number on the scale. It actually causes stress on the body and long-term stress causes weight to hold on, or creep back up.
You want to be in the land of joy, happiness, and pleasure to lose weight, not judgment, criticism and stress.
What I came to realize is that weight loss based on love and self-acceptance is not about any of those things. I would still go to the pool just as much I did now, I would still go out with friends just as frequently. I would still be my same old kinda shy, sorta geeky, big-hearted, passionate and opinionated self.
The extra weight I was carrying was a reminder of a time in my life where there was so much emotional stress from a bad relationship, that my physical body and health shut down. The weight was a reminder of me feeling powerless and hiding. The weight piled on because my body couldn’t function under the amount of pain and distress I was in. And so, as I healed that emotional pain, I wanted to heal my physical body and I wanted to shed the armor my body had built as a protection mechanism.
Let me be clear: my goal is not the almighty thin.
There’s no six-pack abs or tight and toned tush I’m going for here. I was a size 10-12 before I gained the illness weight and no matter what size I am, I will be the sexy, strong, energetic human I’ve always been.
You can love yourself and shift your body weight. It’s inward journey and there are no quick fixes. There are permanent, change your life, transform your body kind of changes that come from truly accepting who you are (mind, body, and soul) and then letting your desire, not your judgment, motivate you from that place. It really is worth it.