Many of my clients struggle with excess weight, body dissatisfaction, and low self-esteem. They want to feel good in their skin, so they diet, they exercise, they struggle for the lower number on the scale, the thinner silhouette in the mirror. If they achieve their goals, they may feel a temporary boost of self-confidence, but eventually the junk food in the cupboard calls, their willpower wanes, their waistline expands, and their self-esteem plummets again. When weight loss is viewed as an act of self-depravation or punishment it is destined to fail sooner or later.
You only get one body for your whole life, and this incredible organism allows you to experience and interact with the world. Your eyes allow you to see the sunrise, your brain holds all your memories, your legs carry you through every adventure and journey you pursue, your arms allow you to hug the people you love, and your hands allow you to do work that makes the world a better place. No matter what the size, your body is a gift and a treasure. Treat it as such. Stop measuring it, weighing it, judging it, criticizing it, and hiding it. Value it.
John Mayor sings: “love is a verb”. What is he saying? Love is more than just feelings. It is care and generosity toward something that you value. Love is a steady stream of actions. Do you want to feel good about yourself? Do you want to love your body? Then start treating it like something you love. Care for your body. Let it sleep when it is exhausted. Fill it with foods that are nutritious and life giving. When your stomach is a cranky toddler screaming for more cookies, kindly offer it an apple instead. Go for a walk, a run, or a swim because your body is made to move and it feels best when used. Join a yoga class and help your poor body relieve some of that stress it is constantly carrying around. Get a massage. Drink more water. Your body will most likely thank you by looking and feeling better when you treat it well.
And as for your self-image, remember that feelings follow behavior. So, as you choose this path of healthy living (motivated by a spirit of compassion and kindness, rather than self-deprivation and shame), you will gradually grow in confidence self-respect. The simple truth is this: the way to love your body is to love your body. If this is a struggle for you, get some outside help. Find a friend or counselor who can encourage and support you along the way.
Carla Munger, MA LMHC