It came to me this morning as I was awake in bed after having slept in late for the first time this summer. I was just laying there, not really thinking about anything except maybe about how I was going to convince myself to get up and start the day. Then suddenly, my mind drifted and I was thinking about my weight (this often happens in the morning because nearly every day when I wake up I promise myself that this will be the day I get back on track permanently). Out of nowhere it seemed though, a thought popped into my mind and it seemed so clear and made so much sense, that I could hardly believe I hadn’t realized it before. This is what came to me:
The reason I can’t get back on track to losing weight this time is because I don’t hate myself enough.
I know, I know. It sounds all wrong and probably is, but frankly this is how I sometimes feel and I promise you if you keep reading, you’ll understand more where I am coming from. Sometimes I believe that to really want to make a change, and to actually follow through with that change, you have to be displeased with yourself. You have to be unhappy, grossed out, angry at yourself, maybe even disgusted. You take all these negative feelings and you build yourself into a warrior promising yourself that you will win. You will battle this negativity and make all the right changes until you can love yourself again.
But then I think, what happens when you aren’t really that unhappy/grossed out/angry at yourself/disgusted? What do you have to fight against then? Okay, I’m not saying I have totally and completely learned to accept my body at its current size. In fact, I always question myself – is this way of thinking just another sneaky excuse to get out of doing what I know I really should do? Am I just trying to convince myself that I’m okay like this, at this size, at this weight? Or am I slowly and truly learning to accept myself the way I currently am?
It’s a contradiction that constantly bounces back in my head like a tennis ball in a dizzying tennis game. Some days, I just want to love myself. I want to be okay with my body, my weight gain, with being heavy. I tell myself I’m older now and it’s more acceptable to be heavier. I tell myself that this lifestyle is easier, more enjoyable, that I’ve got new and more important things to focus on. But just as I tell myself these things, I start to consider how ridiculous they sound. After all, what could be more important than focussing on my own health? And then just as soon as I’ve thought those words, the tennis balls leaps to the other side. You’re not happy. You were happier when you were thinner and fitter. You look in the mirror, see how much weight you’ve gained and you’re angry with yourself.
And these contradictions don’t only exist in my head. All around us, we are bombarded with messages about body image – love your body but follow this diet (cleansing/juicing/carb-free, gluten-free, high-protein, counting points, the list goes on) – learn to accept what you’ve got, but here’s how to get washboard abs in two weeks – you’re beautiful the way you are, but eating clean will give you the body you dream of. The cycle of conflicting messages is never-ending and it’s ingrained in me so much that I never know which side to believe – should I love my body, or hate it?
So now, I am thinking again about that message that came to me this morning. About how I can’t find the motivation to stay on track if I don’t hate myself enough. Maybe I think this because that’s how it always been in the past. Years of negative body image finally led to a 60-lb weight loss for me about five years ago. But then, after only a few years of maintaining my weight loss, I have gained all the weight back. Although I thought I had finally “solved the puzzle” something obviously went wrong and needs to be different this time.
And I think I know what it is. I have to drastically change my frame of my mind. Motivation based out of self-disgust, anger, and hatred is only temporary. It may fuel the fire long enough to get the results you’re looking for (or alternatively could send you into a long, downward spiral of depression and self-loathing) but then suddenly your fight is over. There’s nothing more to fight against because suddenly you love yourself. And when the fight is over what do you do? You stop fighting. You get comfortable and you forget how to fight for yourself – slowly the changes and habits you used to fuel your fight are gone and before you know it, you’re right back where you started.
So now I think I know what I need to do. I need to learn how to accept and love my current body while at the same time taking steps to improve it. My workouts and diet can’t be based on self-loathing, they need to be formed around self-love. I read a quote once that said something like “I don’t work out because I hate my body, I work out because I love it”. This is the new mentality that I need to adopt. I need to know that loving my body is not going to send me into some eating-frenzy comfort zone that I’ll never find my way out of. I need to know that it’s okay to accept my body all while being aware that, like anything, there’s always room for improvement. I need to work hard and stay relaxed. I need to be gentle with myself and at the same time dedicated and determined. I need to understand that, like life itself, there will be ups and downs, good feelings and bad feelings, and wonderful days and terrible days. But above it all, I need to know that it’s okay – it’s okay to love myself along the journey – and that only with self-love will the true change that I want really come along … and stay.