You can love yourself and still want to change.
These two things can exist at the same time.
You know the movie The Perks of Being A Wallflower? When Charlie says towards the end of the movie, that he’s sad and happy at the same time, and he’s still trying to understand how that could be. I remember it being the first time I truly understood that those two emotions could exist at the same exact moment(s). That being both happy and sad was a completely normal part of the human experience.
The same concept can be applied here.
You can love yourself, and still want to lose weight.
It doesn’t make you a bad person or someone with automatically low self esteem. It makes you someone who accepts your entire self, while being honest enough to admit that there are aspects about yourself that you’d like to change.
In my early 20s, I had gone up to almost 200 lbs and felt horrible, my energy was trash, I was constantly overeating foods that made me feel like garbage. And not because I was enjoying it and #livingmybestlife, but because I felt trapped by it. I was in this binge-restrict cycle that made it feel like I had no control over my eating habits.
But did I love myself? Hell yeah. I’m amazing.
I am all of those things now, and I was all of those things then.
When I made a decision to lose weight, it came from a place of ‘this is who I am now and I friggin love her, and I’m excited for who I know I can be’.
And those two feelings can exist at the same time.
“To get upset by someone trying to lose weight, and encourage them to just love themselves the way they are, is to dismiss a genuine desire, and to make an unfair assumption about their motivations.”
(Toxic) Body Positivity Movement?
Recently, I’ve been reading some articles about toxic positivity.
Toxic positivity can be described as an unwillingness to ever think negatively, no matter how difficult a situation is.
I’m sure that all of us have either witnessed this, or have been on the receiving or giving end of this phenomenon. When we’re going through a rough time, we don’t need to be guilted into feeling good (it doesn’t even work lol), what we really need is to have our experience validated and affirmed. Simple.
And I’m guilty of this myself.
I’m a notoriously positive person, and my mindset has kept me pretty happy in life.
But it’s hurtful, not helpful, to dismiss negative feelings entirely. Because sometimes feeling like crap, and feeling like everything sucks, is a perfectly normal part of the human emotional experience.
And don’t get me wrong, I love the body positivity movement. The general expectations surrounding women can be absolutely ridiculous. (As a recently postpartum woman, I feel this more than I ever have.) And I’m glad that we’re calling BS, and encouraging women to be mindful of where their own standards may be influenced by society’s unrealistic ones.
The problem occurs when someone expresses a desire to lose weight and we assume that because they want to change something about themselves they must hate themselves. And from then on, we make it our new goal in life, to convince them that they should love themselves.
But what about when they already do love themselves?
Where does that leave them? Feeling invalidated. Feeling like maybe they shouldn’t want to lose weight even though they know they’re unhappy with their current weight… and then trying to reconcile with that.
The problem here is the assumption. This assumption that if you want to lose weight, you must have a self-esteem issue. It’s just not the case for a lot of people in my experience.
Are there people who have low self-esteem and want to lose weight because they unfairly place their worth and value in the numbers on the scale? For sure. But it’s not everyone.
There are plenty of people who already love themselves quite fine thankyouverymuch, and want to lose weight because they know they can do/feel better.
To get upset by someone trying to lose weight, and encourage them to just love themselves the way they are, is to dismiss a genuine desire, and to make an unfair assumption about their motivations.
Most people’s ‘why’ is about more than appearance.
But that doesn’t mean caring about your appearance is a friggin sin. If you want abs, you shouldn’t be interrogated about what your motives are.
Sometimes it’s just not that deep. I just want abs.
As a nutritionist and health coach, when a client expresses a desire to change (whether it’s weight loss or something else), we always identify their ‘why’ before doing anything else. Your ‘why’ is your motivator, your deeper reason for wanting to change.
And in my experience, their reasons are always about more than just appearance.
Here are some ‘why’s’ clients have shared with me:
- Wanting to play with their kids without constantly needing a 5 minute break to catch their breath.
- Wanting to set a good example for their children.
- Wanting to avoid sickness in old age, and knowing that their current weight can contribute negatively to that possibility.
- Wanting to wake up in the morning without feeling a heaviness on my chest and body, weighing me down.
That last one was my own ‘why’. It’s a difficult feeling to put into words. If you know, you know. (And yes I consider myself my own client haha.)
The point is, for most people who want to lose weight, we have a combination of surface level (“vain”) reasons, and deeper, more personal reasons. And.That’s.Okay.
We change by feeling good, not bad.
When the desire to lose weight comes from a place of self-love, it has a chance to be more powerful.
Dr. B.J Fogg, one of my personal heroes says, “People change best by feeling good, not by feeling bad.”
So when you have a high self-esteem and yet, you make it your business to lose weight because you know you can do better, you’ll probably be more successful at it. And you’ll be more resilient to setbacks.
It can also make you less likely to give in to ‘diet culture’ and harm your body by going on restrictive diets. When I was in high school, I would try crazy diets, just to lose the weight. (Military diet, anyone?) But as I got older, and learned to love my current self, there were some diets I just wouldn’t do, because I knew it was counterintuitive. I knew it would do more harm to me than it would good. And I didn’t want to harm this body that I loved, and wanted to improve.
Losing weight can be an empowering journey, and not a rival to body positivity but a reinforcement of it.
Your greatest friend.
I’ve always held the opinion that your greatest friends are the ones who accept you unconditionally. Who can correct you with love. And who can encourage you to be better.
You can be your own greatest friend by having an unwavering acceptance for who you currently are, and still be hype for the better version of yourself that you know you can be.