I really got thinking about this recently. On Facebook, of all places.
I'd spent a few months chatting and contributing in a wonderful Facebook group of women who were kind, supportive, and fun. One of their members had invited me in to do some interviews I was conducting into how I could help people better with their health goals. I spoke to over 15 women in this group, and all of them told me they really wanted to lose weight.
So, I decided to put together a workshop teaching 3 powerful mind-body nutrition strategies to work with weight loss.
Well, when the workshop was posted in the Facebook group, it was definitely not popular! I was told that the weight loss focus wasn't welcome and that it made people feel like they had to change to be 'OK'. That this group was for self love and support, not weight loss.
They are, of course, totally right and welcome to keep the group safe in any way they see fit, and my workshop was clearly not a welcome addition to the community.
This is the same group of women (and in one or two cases, the very same woman) who just finished privately telling me they'd love to lose weight.
While I was appalled at the idea that I'd caused anyone to feel like they had to change, or like they weren't good enough, I started to think about that really tricky ground between the 'love yourself as you are' message, and the real desire so many of us have to grow and do better than we are right now.
This is seen as a choice between self love vs. weight loss, or self-love and change.
And you are often socially obliged to choose one or the other depending on who you're hanging out with.
The choice between self love vs. weight loss
I'm calling it: The confusing, perilous, and oh-so personal paradox of loving yourself while also wanting change.
It goes something like:
Love yourself = good
Positive growth and change = good
But if I truly love myself, shouldn't I not want to change? If I want to change, that must mean I *don't* love a part of me... and that's bad. Right?
Tricky stuff right there.
The answer is...
I think the answer is that you have to love yourself and from that place decide if changes would best serve you. That you are awesome the way you are, but that by loving yourself you always want what's best for you and your body.
That might mean you do nothing. It might mean you work on loving yourself through good food, joyful music, good books, being generous towards others, or whatever supports you and your fantastic self in the long run.
In terms of weight, it's not so much self love vs. weight loss, but weight loss because of self love.
You are enough, just as you are right now
It's true that weight does not dictate worth. You can not lose a single gram and live a happy, healthy, sexy, gorgeous life.
But wanting to change your weight (or anything else) because it's impacting your quality of life or because you know it's coming from an unhealthy physical or mental place? Well, that change is coming from love and acceptance of yourself.
For example, if you don't like your job, find it's not challenging you, not helping you progress, or actually making you feel bad, no one is going to say that your desire to change jobs is because you don't love yourself.
A friend who sends you a link to a cool job search site isn't judging you or shaming your choices. Your desire to get a new job that fits with who you are and your goals in life is obviously coming from a place of self love and self worth. You love yourself enough to go through the grueling process of changing jobs in order to serve your higher goals.
Ok, but what about health changes?
But let's talk specifically about health and weight. Obviously we treat them differently than a job we dislike - at least from an emotional point of view.
For example, take my friend Laura. She very much wants to lose weight. She came to me knowing that her weight was an emotional issue - issues that were affecting way more than just how she ate or looked. These issues were impacting her ability to fulfill her life's dreams, and so was her weight. She loves and values herself enough to know that she's not her best while she still has these issues.
Is wanting to change them an indicator that she is ashamed, broken, or wrong?
She's feeling like she wants to live an awesome life and like she has some mind-body stuff in the way. Laura is loving herself into change.
You can also love yourself enough not to change. If you're happy, fulfilled, and feeling good, no matter what you do or what you look like - firstly huge congratulations for getting to that place! And secondly, never let anyone tell you that you're not good enough.
The only one who has the right to direct your life, your love, and your path is you.
Love yourself AND love what you want to change
Yes, that is possible.
And it's really the only way forward. Nothing and nobody responds well to force, hate, or coercion. So, if you're wanting to shift that weight or heal your eating behaviours, you've first got to learn to love them.
That doesn't mean give up. It means you have to truly love, thank, and understand why you have this thing you'd like to change in the first place. And from that place of understanding, you can begin to change this reason... and only then can you find real, lasting growth and success.
For example: you are a self-diagnosed stress eater. You hate the way it makes you feel, and have tried so many times to stop. Deep breathing, distraction, drinking glasses of water, chewing gum... nothing does it for you.
Until you realise that you're stress eating for a reason. You're stressed, right? And the food and eating helps you (even for just a second) to be less stressed. The stress eating is trying to help you! It's a bit misguided and not really working for you, but like ugly Christmas gifts from relatives: it's the thought that counts.
Now, instead of fighting with it, you can turn to those impulses with kindness. Compassion, even. And from that place you can love yourself, and your behaviours into change that suits you better because you're no longer fighting. You can look deeper instead of being distracted by the struggle, and focus on the deeper needs that need to be met.
To sum it all up...
The supposed 'choice' between self love vs weight loss (or change in general) is entirely false and totally damaging. You can have both - in fact, having both is the only way to get anywhere at all.
If you'd like some really practical and actionable tips on self love, then you can download this quick-guide for free. It's filled with self-love goodies that you can start working with right away.
There's also this morning routine to start your day off with some powerful body love.
And finally, I'd like to thank these bloggers for their incredibly inspiring articles that helped me develop my thoughts:
- Stefani Ruper at Paleo for Women and her amazing post Self-Love And Weight Loss: Enemies Or Bedfellows?
- John Fawkes on TinyBuddha for his great article What People Get Wrong About Self-Love and Happiness
I help women who struggle with unwanted eating, body image, and food. Together, we use dynamic eating psychology and positive mind-body nutrition to really understand what's going on, and heal in a real and lasting way. You'll love your food, your body, and your life!