Weight loss and Self-love – Can they coexist?

Is it possible to love yourself and still have the desire to lose weight?

I mean, self-love is all about loving and accepting yourself for who you are right now, while desires to lose weight seems to be in opposition to that, right?

Honestly, I don’t agree.

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Self-love, like love in itself, isn’t just about positive stuff. To have self-love doesn’t mean that you look in the mirror every day and shout “Woohoo!”.  And at the same time it doesn’t “glorify poor diet and lifestyle choices” (boy am I sick of hearing people say that) by allowing people to celebrate their bodies no matter their size.

Think about any relationship you have with someone you love. You see so much of the good in them, but there are parts of them that make you think, “I wouldn’t do/say/wear that”. You don’t judge them for it (I hope), but you see all of them and acknowledge the good and bad in them (because there is good and bad in everything). You love them.

Taking steps to improve yourself, be it your ability to complete tasks, your temper, the way you manage your money, the food you eat, your organisation or even your weight are all acts of self-love, in a way. Recognising the areas of your life that you’d like to change and then actually doing something about them is courageous. You are facing your fears in one way or another, and taking action towards the life you want. Acceptance is an important part of this self-love, but acceptance doesn’t mean that you have to accept a part of your life that you aren’t happy about either.

Just as you would for the people you love in your life, when you take action for yourself out of love, you don’t hold expectations over yourself and berate yourself when it doesn’t work out the way you hoped. So when you have that thought, “I want to lose weight”, if you want it to be successful and feel good and fulfilling, do it from a place of love for yourself and who you are right now, rather than who you think you will be when you reach the expectation you have given yourself.

Where do I start?

Start by appreciating who you are today.

Make a list if you need to, even if it’s just in your mind. Self-love starts right here, right now. It’s not vanity to appreciate the things that make you who you are, and being humble is just making yourself small for the benefit of other people – you deserve so much more than that. If the best you can manage is a list of things that make you who you are, then write that down – you’ve gotta start somewhere, right?

When you think about your reasons for why you want to lose weight, give deep thought into where those motivations are coming from.

Do you want to see the look on people’s faces? Is there a specific event that you feel you need to look a certain way for? Are you worried about your health? Are you comparing yourself to other people? Was there ever an event or person who made you feel rejected, unworthy or unlovable?

Having an honest conversation with yourself (a friend, or even a counsellor) about these things can really help you understand your own motivations, and whether or not you are rejecting yourself. Remember that your relationship with yourself is the only permanent relationship, so learning to talk to yourself the way you talk to your friends and family is an incredibly important part of nurturing that relationship.

Focus on the positive health outcomes.

If your go-to motivation is about how you look, push yourself to think about the other benefits to improving your diet and lifestyle. They might be as simple as boosting endorphins, having clear skin, less painful periods, being able to run around with your kids, or more serious, like increased fertility or less chance of heart disease. I’ve written about some of the motivations I use here to give you some more inspiration.

Learn to give yourself tough love – without the bullying.

If I see one more “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” so-called motivation post, I swear to god, I’m going to snap!

Honesty is a cornerstone of every important relationship, even the one that you have with yourself, so speaking from a place of truth – not judgement – is a crucial step in making lasting tangible changes to any facet of your life. But truth doesn’t have to be delivered in a way that is hurtful.

I’d like to emphasise the word ‘love’ in tough love. Tough love is honest, sometimes blunt, but never cruel. Your tough love should sound more like, ‘No more excuses, you’re getting out of bed’, than ‘Why are you always so useless/ugly/fat/pathetic/lazy/(insert insult of your choice’)?’. Speak to yourself in a tactful manner that you would any work colleague to get the job done. That whole, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar phrase definitely applies here.

Start small.

Going all gung-ho with your diet and lifestyle changes can be incredibly motivating in the short-term, but they are rarely sustainable when done in this way. Instead, make small changes. Change one or two aspects of your diet that you’d like to improve before you tackle the next ones. Aim for 20 minutes of exercise per day – if you get to 20 minutes and want to do more you can, but 20 minutes also just feels more achievable than half an hour does.

One step at a time. You can do this.

Track your progress.

So, I don’t know the exact quote, but it goes somewhere along the lines of, “nothing left unmeasured ever changes”, meaning that if you want to see something change, you have to pay attention to and track where you are starting to see how far you’ve come. This goes for saving money, training for a marathon, or weight loss. While sometimes there are tracking devices that can get a little obsessive in a negative way, it can be really helpful to use some measures to understand your weight loss journey.

I will be talking to you next week about healthy ways to use specific programs for tracking your diet next week, but even simple things like weighing yourself one day per week, measuring your bust, waist, hips with a tape measure once a week, or using a GPS app to track your pace, distance etc when you walk, run, ride or swim can be really motivating. Use them to improve on your own personal bests, or just to see your own progress.

Create a community for yourself

Whether this community is your friends and family, or an online community you’ve created for yourself (ahem, The Babe Collective *cough, cough*), find a community of people who encourage you, understand what you are going through and are open to not only teach you their experience, but learn from you at the same time. Community is good for the soul, and when you’re taking on a change in your life there will be people in your life who – for whatever reason – fade out of your life. So ensuring there are people in your life who want to see you move forward is crucial.

Focus on every single win, big or small

It’s easy to get caught up in the end-goal and not be satisfied until you are there. I caught myself doing this last week before I realised all of the positive steps I’ve been taking and realisations that I’ve been making. I literally had to tell myself to stop and smell the roses – you’ve done exercise every day since this challenge while also encouraging other people to do the same thing – that’s bloody awesome! Last month you were lucky to be active once a week – you are killing it!

Our expectations so often get in the way of just being in the moment, enjoying the good and staying inspired and motivated. It might help you to journal your feelings each day or keep a gratitude jar to get back into this headspace each day, but you can do it.

And if you haven’t done so already, join the #activebabeschallenge to have an active life full of encouraging babes (and oh-so-many prizes!)
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