For over 12 years of my life, I spent my days criticizing my body, hating what I saw in the mirror, and berating myself for my imperfections. Negative thoughts about my body ran through my mind 24/7. I thought criticism and self-loathing were the way to “motivate” myself to get the body I desperately desired.
After years of keeping four different sizes in my closet and gaining/losing the same 60 pounds over and over again, I remember the morning I had a life-changing revelation.
I woke up for work, showered, and stood in front of the mirror naked, scrutinizing every inch of my body. I wanted to see if my stomach looked thinner, if my dieting had paid off, and if I could finally smile at the body I saw staring back at me.
That morning, I was the smallest I’d ever been. My size 2 pants were loose on me. I’d done it; I’d finally achieved what I’d been trying to do for so many years.
And yet, I looked in the mirror and had the same self-loathing thoughts I’d always had. I hated my stomach, thought my thighs were too fat, convinced myself I needed to lose even more weight, and believed that my belly needed to be hidden away from the world.
I realized I had gotten it all wrong. Beating myself up and hating my body had never brought about any lasting change in my life. Every criticism brought even more hateful thoughts. I had not once looked in the mirror and felt love toward my reflection.
Sure, I lost some weight. And it did bring body changes. But I was still trapped in the diet/binge cycle. And it wasn’t the outside that really mattered. It was what I felt on the inside. I wanted to look in the mirror and know that I was lovable, deserving, and beautiful. I wanted the critical, antagonizing voices in my head telling me I was disgusting to stop.
It was only when I stopped fighting my body, began treating it with kindness, and worked to gently accept where I was that my body could return to its natural state of balance. The bingeing and dieting cycle that I’d been entrenched in began to lose its hold on me as I began to shift out of self-hate and criticism into acceptance and self-love.
Everywhere we look we’re taught to hate and punish ourselves into a “better” body. But we’ve got it backward. Criticism will never bring us what we most desire—peace in our bodies and freedom around food.
Here’s why self-acceptance is key to lasting weight loss:
Self-loathing is never a sustainable motivator.
You cannot hate yourself enough to create the deep, soulful, lasting change that you desperately want for your body. Criticism only perpetuates the negative, destructive mindset that keeps us stuck in patterns that no longer serve us.
When we’re trying to sculpt or “fix” our bodies, we punish ourselves. We restrict what we eat, slave away for 45 minutes a day on the treadmill, and reprimand ourselves if we stray from our rigid food and exercise rules. But that never lasts long.
We fall off the wagon because self-hate and punishment never motivate us for the long haul. Kindness, curiosity about your food patterns, and acceptance are the sustainable motivators that invite in big shifts and changes.
There is never a happy ending to an unhappy journey.
For so much of my life, I thought if I just beat myself up enough and forced myself to diet, I’d get to the place where I finally accepted my body. The startling reality of this belief is that it’s an illusion.
We can’t be miserable on our path, arrive at the end, and expect to be filled with joy. We’ve got it all backward. We must learn to embrace where we are, accept our imperfections, and cultivate self-love. So when we do get to where we want to be, we’ve loved ourselves at our thinnest and at our heaviest.
Our self-love isn’t dependent on our weight. It fills us from the inside because we know that, no matter what, we are deserving of that love.
Acceptance allows for awareness.
In order to change our habits and patterns around health (including weight loss), we’ve got to be aware of what is going on inside of us. There is no external fix that will ever satisfy our inner longing for acceptance and love.
When we spend our days dieting, obsessing over what we’re eating, exercising to lose weight, and living with the sole focus of whittling ourselves down to a certain size so we are “acceptable,” we’ll never shift our patterns for the long term.
When we begin to accept where we are, this is what allows us to soften enough to see what behaviors and habits no longer serve us.
Change happens when we become more and more aware of what we’re doing and why; it’s only when we are aware of our patterns that we can find ways to take care of those needs so that our destructive patterns begin to fall away.