"Life doesn't begin 20 pounds from now."
- Jessica Weiner, best-selling author and speaker
You've probably seen those diet commercials where a pretty, peppy, slender woman stands beside a very overweight and miserable life sized "before" photo of herself. As she tells you how thrilled she is to be in her skinny jeans again and how thankful she is to the diet gods for putting the smile back on her face, she scoffs at her "before" photo. Feeling cocky and certain that she's got this weight thing licked, her body language portrays her obvious disgust.
Losing Weight Does Not Guarantee Happiness
In September of 2001, after more than 25 years of being an on again/off again member of Weight Watchers, I finally achieved what I considered my goal weight. I felt strong and healthy. At 5'2', I was a size 8, had a perfect hour glass figure and when I wasn't obsessed with hating my thighs, I grew to love my heart shaped butt. I weighed 162 pounds. Working out all the time, my body was tight and toned. The gals at Weight Watchers suggested that I continue until I reached a lower, more appropriate weight, 110-125 pounds. Despite their recommendations, I decided that I was finally okay with my body, and chose to stop losing weight. With a note from my doctor, I began to work on weight maintenance.
I thought life would settle into a picture of perfection once I got down to my ideal size. But it didn't happen that way. I still had big trust issues that prevented me from feeling safe, receiving love, expressing myself, setting boundaries, asking for what I needed, feeling worthy, being independent, confident, speaking out, and so many other things that I thought would magically resolve themselves once I lost weight. Life didn't settle into the image of peace and ease that I expected.
Dr. Nancy Bonios: "Losing weight through dieting is like learning how to ride a bike with training wheels"
Since I never really learned how to feel safe around food as a weight watcher, I continued to believe that food had me in its thrall. I continued to fear it and doubted my ability to trust myself in the midst of temptation. When I lost the weight, it was a daily struggle to keep it off. I lived in constant fear of gaining the weight back and not fitting into the clothes that I loved, of not being able to relax around the foods I loved without a pile of guilt and shame heaped on top of every extra morsel I ate over my allotted food that day.
If you've been among those who were lucky enough to have lost weight on a diet, you probably recognize the struggle that I describe. Maybe you'd even believe that you traded one obsession for another. I sure did.
I went from being obsessed about losing weight to maintaining it. In truth, nothing really changed. I was still obsessed. I found myself thinking about food all the time, calculating calories, Weight Watcher points or fat grams. In my head, I was always running a constant tally of every mouthful I ate.
Every single step I took was taken with the intention of either wanting to lose weight or a desperate attempt to offset the food I intended to eat later. Food was my master and I was its slave.
The Importance of Accepting the "Before" You to Make Way for the "After"
Now looking back I realize that all that time spent living under the burden of my food and weight obsession, prevented me from living my life. I was waiting for my life to begin and looking outside myself for the answers.
I used to think all my problems would magically dissolve after I lost weight, but because I didn't learn to have acceptance and compassion for the "before" me, I just couldn't stop eating and those 60 extra, unwanted pounds, piled right back on. Have you been playing the body hating game too?
C'mon, 'fess up. Are you waiting to become thin for your life to begin? Think about it, haven't you always thought about the time during which you were dieting as temporary, something you just had to grin and bear until the day came when you were finally thinner, then the real you could come out and play?
I used to think that the time that I spent "losing weight" and being in the process was just like living in a vacuum. It didn't really count, I reasoned, because I was waiting until I reached my goal weight. Now I know that I was living my life in a holding pattern.
I wouldn't buy clothes, because I didn't want to waste money. I wouldn't go dancing because I didn't want people to see me shaking my fat. I wouldn't want to make love with my husband because I wanted to have that beautiful thin stomach and strong tight, toned legs... so I waited. I was in a perpetual state of weighting. How 'bout you? What have you been waiting for?
Don't make the same mistake I did. I urge you to live in the moment. Don't waste another minute waiting for the day when you're fully baked and finally perfect. The truth is none of us are! We all have our flaws and accepting them gives us the power to rise above them.
Here are several tips that I use myself and teach my clients that can help you love your body right now!
Stop the Put Downs: Sarcasm, criticism and meanness may be the only that you know to speak to yourself. But it's time for a change. Make a vow to become your own best friend and advocate. Every time you become aware that you are putting yourself down, stop dead in your tracks! Next take a deep breath and let it out. Now think of what you would need to tell yourself to become the voice of encouragment. Talk to yourself lovingly in soft tones and with sweetness as you would speak to a good friend or loved one.
Stand up for yourself: Because we teach people how to treat us, your body hating ways may have been sending the wrong messages to others. It's never too late to start over. Let people know in no uncertain terms that you're no longer okay with having them make comments about your body or what you eat.
Decriminalize Food: In order to level the playing field and bring balance to your unhealthy relationship with food, you can start to tell yourself, "All food is just fuel for my body and all food is created equal and it's all good for me." Despite what you've learned as a dieter or weight watcher, no food is good or bad. No category or type of food is better or worse than any other. It's time to toss out all the judgments and stop thinking of food as good food, bad food, fattening food, junk food, healthy food, unhealthy food and all other labels that have burdened your food choices. In order for you to get control of your cravings, you have to start to learn how to trust your body. Give yourself permission to eat junk food or dessert as your main meal. To reduce your tendency to overeat, mentally divide your plate in half and eat slowly while paying attention to fully enjoying your meal. After you've reached midpoint in your meal, take a break of a few minutes and check in with your stomach to see how hungry you still are.
Can't stop eating? That's valuable information telling you something is wrong. Just like a tiger with a thorn in its paw, something is hurting you and causing you to feel pain. Overeating is a symptom. It's not the problem. That's why most diets don't work. As long as you continue to do the same thing, you'll get the same result. To change how you feel, you have to be willing to do things differently.
Cope with your stress: I've learned that when you remove the pressure of anxiety in your life, by learning to cope with your stress, you will stop hating yourself. Unless you handle what's bugging you, your stress will only keep you running 'round in circles, making you feel hopeless and helpless. You're not, but unless you deal with the buggin' you's in your life, you won't ever realize that. I love to teach women a simple stress relief method called Emotional Freedom Technique. Based on the 5000 year old science of acupuncture, it really works to iron out the emotional kinks in your body and your life.
Take action: In order to boost your body image, and change the way you feel about yourself, so that you can get thinner, you've got to start being more proactive. Make a list of the things in your life that bug you, and plan to chip away at them every day.
Search out role models: Keep an eye peeled and look for examples of women who clearly accept, appreciate and love their curvy bodies. Some of my favorite celebrity role models are Queen Latifah, Mo'Nique, Nicki Blonsky, and Camryn Manheim. One of my most beloved and inspiring role models is a woman named Jessica Weiner. She is the Global Ambassador for the Dove Self Esteem Fund. As a best selling author and speaker, she has dedicated her life to empowering women and girls. She's the bees' knees as far as I'm concerned.
Get support: Reach out for help and find support, surrounding yourself with other women also seeking to love and accept their bodies right now. Accept the fact that there really is no quick fix. It took time for you to gain the weight and it will take time for you to get it off. Be nice to yourself and find a place to make your changes in a loving environment. Look for discussion groups, websites, therapists, coaches, and people with powerful messages online and in your daily life that reinforce body acceptance and a positive self image.
Change Your Thoughts: The point is you can't combine liver and onions, and expect to get an apple pie. The body you have today is a result of the thoughts that you've been feeding it. It's merely a snapshot reflecting what you have believed to be true. It's the result of a combination of years of beliefs and actions and inactions that have brought you to this place; hating your body.
If, like me you've grown a healthy pair of thighs or a big butt, it's probably evidence of the manifestation of believing what you've been told. The good news is-it's not permanent and you can change it. Your thoughts are powerful ingredients that mold your life and ultimately determine your success. By changing them, you change your results.