The mind is a powerful part of our bodies. Our thought life has the capacity to help us realize our potential, or ultimately hold us back from ever achieving it. It’s no different when it comes to weight loss. Of course being kind to yourself makes life more enjoyable, but did you know body image has a direct impact on how fast or slow weight loss happens? Or that part of your overall health hinges on how much you love yourself?
Consider these facts:
- In one study at Bucknell University1, women were asked questions about their level of body shame, and then about their general health. Those with a high level of body shame had significantly more infections and illness than women with less body shame.
- The journal Mindfulness did a study2 showing self compassion exercises decreased body shame and increased body satisfaction.
- Spanish researchers3 took a group of overweight women and gave half of them general information on nutrition, stress management, and self care. The other half received weekly group sessions where exercise, emotional eating, body image, and how to overcome obstacles were topics of conversation. They found the latter group lost 7% of their starting weight compared to only 2% in the first group.
- Glamour magazine did a survey4 that found 97% of the women who participated had at least one body-hating thought throughout a day. Of that 97%, 63% were more or less aware of how hateful their thoughts towards themselves were.
Your negative thoughts might center on your weight, shape, fitness level, or height. It could even be aimed at your level of overall health – with so many definitions of what a healthy lifestyle is “supposed” to look like, it can be easy to get caught up in the comparison game and hate ourselves for not living up to some else’s standard. Changing our inner thoughts about our bodies is a challenge – most of the time no one else is around to hear us and tell us to cut it out! Rewiring your thoughts towards yourself will take self-awareness and discipline, but these nine steps to loving yourself will help:
Rewrite the tape.
Instead of constantly repeating the same tape of mean things to yourself, write down a new list of the good things you like about your body. When the old tape starts, make a conscious effort to stop and replace the negative with your new, positive list.
Appreciate what your body can do.
Honestly, your body is pretty amazing. It does so much for you without you even having to think about it. It takes care of all the behind-the-scenes functions so you can spend time and energy thinking, dreaming, and becoming a better person.
Focus on what you can change.
There are some things about your body you simply cannot change. Your height, body type, natural hair and eye color, and skin tone are all things you’ll live with for the rest of your life. So stop trying to fight them and be something you’re not! Instead, focus on what you can control, like eating healthy food (for the sake of being healthy, not just to lose weight) and exercising.
When you start hating on yourself, literally say the word “stop” out loud to put an end to the negative self-talk.
Step back for a reality check.
Sometimes our negative self-image has more to do with some other issue than it does our body. Why all of a sudden are you obsessing over the size of your waist when two hours ago you thought you looked great? Maybe it was that comment your boss made about your job performance, and you’re taking the hurt out on your body instead of dealing with the real issue.
In Glamour magazine’s survey4, one common theme was women who worked out on a consistent basis had better overall body image than those who didn’t. Get moving, and you’re bound to start feeling better about yourself.
Spending inordinate amounts of time obsessing over ever calorie you eat and every step you take and every ounce you lose is counterproductive. Let the process of weight loss be just that – a process. Micromanaging it won’t make it happen any faster, and will only make you more impatient and life more miserable in the meantime.
Write your own definition.
Underneath it all, our negative self-talk comes down to comparison. Instead of letting society and culture define what you think beauty is, write your own manifesto of what true beauty is to you. Remind yourself beauty isn’t about your appearance and health isn’t about a number on a scale. Define what true health and beauty is to you, and every time you’re tempted to compare yourself to anything else, re-read your definition and use that as the standard you hold yourself to.
Look at the whole picture of who you are.
You are not the sum of your muscle tone or the organic food you eat. Yes, health, fitness, eating right, and looking good are important. But underneath all that, you’re still a human being with personality, talents, and dreams. Your real worth is in who you are, not what you look like.
Loving the body you’re in at whatever weight it’s at is the first step to being happy. Until you can learn to love yourself for who you are instead of what you aren’t, no weight or fitness level or healthy lifestyle will ever be enough to satisfy you.