In Quest for Health, Self-Acceptance Comes First

By Emily on 06/29/2009
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picture-1Today’s post comes from Karen C.L. Anderson, who we met on Twitter. We started reading her blog (Why Weight: One Woman’s Journey From Struggle To Acceptance) and thought she was doing great work on self acceptance. Apparently, we’re not the only ones who think so — she’s currently writing a book with the same title. We hope that by having her share her experience and insight on our blog, it might help others going through similar struggles.

“We nurture and care for the things we love and feel connected to. We neglect and destroy the things we do not.” –Unknown

I used this quote at the beginning of an essay I wrote in 2006 after having lost 55 pounds. It resonated with how I felt at the time. It made sense to me.

Fast forward to mid-2008. I had re-gained 23 of the 55 pounds. Obviously, it didn’t happen overnight. For a while, I maintained my 55-pound weight loss, give or take five pounds. Then it was 10 pounds. Then my clothes didn’t fit, and so on. You know how it goes.

The experts tell us we have to make a lifestyle change. And well, I thought I had made such a change. My eating and exercise habits were certainly much better than they had been prior to losing the 55 pounds. I wasn’t “perfect” but I also didn’t expect myself to be, or did I?

And so the self-loathing crept back. I wallowed in self-pity a bit, I punished myself a lot, and I was desperate, searching for the magic pill I once thought I’d never want.

Had I stopped caring about myself? Had I stopped nurturing myself? In hindsight I can now see that I had definitely stopped accepting myself. I think the shift occurred when I went from being happy about having lost 55 pounds, to being disappointed that I hadn’t lost 75 pounds, which was my original goal. I lost sight of what I had accomplished, and was focused only on what I hadn’t.

So as 2008 came to a close, I was in a pretty bad place. Deep down inside I knew that more than anything, more than a diet or a magic pill, what I needed was to love and accept myself.

Then I heard about a class being offered by a local registered nurse and holistic health counselor. Called “Living Lighter: A Holistic Approach to Weight Loss,” the 12-week class was described this way: “get motivated and find inspiration to keep you on track; leave with tools to help you through your week, including menus, logs, and reminders; learn how to keep your metabolism on all day; let go of the emotional blocks that stand in your way; learn self hypnosis techniques to get your subconscious mind in line with, and supportive of, what you really want; and get started on some physical movement, including isotonic exercises, tai chi, hula-hooping and more.”

My first reaction was, “But I know all of that already! I know how to count calories. I know what healthy food is. I don’t need menus, and I exercise at least five times a week.”

My second reaction was, “yeah, I know all that, but I don’t want to do it.” So the idea of being able to let go of emotional blocks and get my subconscious mind in line with what I really want, attracted me.

I signed up for the class, but many of my old fears surfaced: I was afraid to set a goal and I was afraid it wouldn’t work. I was, at the same time, accepting of practical advice, but also resistant to it. I was not, however, afraid of doing the emotional work. In fact, doing the emotional work resulted in my blog – Why Weight: One Woman’s Journey From Struggle To Acceptance.

I didn’t lose any weight but as the weeks went by I learned that, just like healthy eating and exercise, loving and accepting myself is something I need to practice consistently. It has to be part of the overall lifestyle change. It has to be forever, no matter what – no matter the number on the scale or the number on my clothing tags. No matter if I am happy or sad, angry or excited.

And here’s the interesting part: now that I have the self-acceptance thing going, I have found myself much more willing to do the things I know are good for my body. My eyes are opened and I find myself embracing what used to seem like drudgery: counting calories, making sure I eat enough protein and fiber, avoiding “white” foods. These are all the things that support healthy weight loss for me, but for some reason, I had been unwilling to do them consistently. Could it be that my lack of self-acceptance made me unwilling?

Earlier this year, in one of my darker moments, I wrote “I am on a quest for the sweet spot – that balance between a healthy body weight (and image) and self acceptance right now.” Add to that the idea that if I view this (“this” being that quest) as a struggle…as a fight to be fought, then that’s exactly what I’ll get.

It’s been slow going but I think I have finally hit that sweet spot. First came self-acceptance, even though my body is still heavier than I would like it to be. From that came a real desire to discover what drives the carb cravings and “false hunger” that seem to derail me every time, that create that “struggle” and make me feel like a failure.

Having done some research, I am now able to joyfully embrace a healthy eating plan that does not feel like a struggle. And if the scale is any indication, my body is releasing weight once again.

If there’s anything to take away from what I’ve written here, it’s this:

  • There’s a big difference between being overweight and in denial about it, and being overweight and accepting yourself
  • Accepting yourself right now is not counterproductive to achieving a healthy body weight
  • You can’t hate yourself to health
  • You can’t hate yourself AND lose weight permanently
  • When you are full of self-loathing, your don’t treat yourself very well
  • You must start from a place of self-love and self-acceptance

Photo by k_hargrav via flickr.

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