What The Heck Is Self-Acceptance

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Last summer Karen C.L. Anderson of the blog Why Weight: A Real Life “Before” and After Story shared on A Weight Lifted a story of her personal journey towards self-acceptance.  Her post today looks at how things have changed in a little less than a year.  What a difference a year makes….

We’re excited for Karen because she has moved beyond weight to look at her health, which is what our new Food as Medicine program is all about.  Her story is a good example of the kinds of explorations that go on with a food as medicine/functional medicine approach.  And we love her “mindstyle” change.

What The Heck Is Self-Acceptance…

…and why does it look so different today than it did a year ago?

So last summer Marsha Hudnall asked me to write a guest blog post about self-acceptance for A Weight Lifted. At the time, I was in the midst of finding my way from “struggle” (because I had lost 55 pounds only to regain 20)  to “acceptance” on my own blog.

Recently I came across what I had written back then. As I read it, I smiled, nodded my head and thought, “gee, I thought I had it all figured out.” Here’s an excerpt:

“…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, 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.”

What I see in those words now is not actual self-acceptance but a desperate attempt to feel it in order to lose weight. I see a woman who is trying hard to feel something she doesn’t in order to follow rules that lead her back to feeling unacceptable. Do you see that?

Since then a lot has happened.

Out of curiosity, and at the suggestion of my chiropractor, I decided to see a naturopathic physician in November. I didn’t have any specific or serious concerns at the time, but thought it would be neat to take a different approach to my health, especially considering that I am entering “that” time of my life (I am 47).

I came off birth control pills after having been on them for 25 years, was diagnosed with Lyme Disease, discovered that my hormones are out of whack (along with my thyroid and adrenal functions), and that I have a few other relatively minor but impactful health issues (like Epstein-Barr virus).

Now, above, I wrote that I went into this without specific or serious concerns, but in hindsight, I realize that I was, indeed, not feeling my best. And, of course, at the back of my mind was the thought that, perhaps, the naturopath might uncover the reason I am fat (not much self-acceptance there, eh?).

And so in many ways, all of these diagnoses were a relief because it explained why I wasn’t feeling my best, physically or emotionally. In other ways, however, it was scary and I wondered if I’d be able to heal and feel normal again.

On a related note, though, over the past few months I have noticed that I feel peace, balance, and sense of control around food. I have no desire to binge and “false hunger” seems to be a thing of the past. I eat more slowly and I sense fullness appropriately. I don’t say this with an “it-will-never-happen-again-I-am-cured-hallelujah” sense of finality. It’s an acknowledgment that I have reached what feels like a new “normal.”

More than anything, I think this has to do with the overall balance my body has achieved through the holistic and homeopathic approach of naturopathic medicine.

But it also involves developing what I now call a “mindstyle change”…yeah, like a lifestyle change but for the mind. In many ways, big and small, I’ve changed my mind about a lot of things that were weighing me down. I’ve exposed myself to new people, new thoughts, new ways of being. I’ve tweaked the way I think and feel about myself, my family, friends and other aspects of my life. I’ve had opportunities to reach out, reach in, reach over, reach under…and I’ve been taking advantage of them.

I’ve filled my heart and mind with so much awareness and love that many of the behaviors I tend to fall back on to distract me from “what is” seem to have taken a back seat…lately. None is this is brand new to me…it’s been a long time coming. It’s something I’ve been experimenting with and practicing consistently. It’s something that I knew needed to be done. It’s something I know I have to continue to do.

This isn’t about being perfect in either lifestyle or mindstyle. It’s not about saying, “I’ll never eat cheese and crackers again” or “I’ll never be pissed off at X again.” It doesn’t require making huge sweeping changes all at once. It suggests being open, accepting, forgiving, and willing. It suggests understanding that I may not always feel like being open, accepting, forgiving, and willing.

And so acceptance has taken on a whole new meaning.

The big difference between me then and me now is that I am happy to feel my feelings for their own sake and not for any other reason. The “sweet spot” has changed too. It’s not about weight, but plain old health and feeling well.

This shift has given me the ability to accept what is, most importantly my self. When I lost those 55 pounds I thought I was as much in love with myself as I could ever be. Who knew that regaining some of that weight would help me love myself even more?

And in being more compassionate and forgiving of myself, I am now able to be more compassionate and forgiving with others. My relationships are richer as a result.

It has given me patience and the understanding that two steps forward and one step back is part of the process. And sometimes it two steps forward and two or three steps back. I recognize that nothing is permanent. And that’s okay.

photo by bcnunnery via stock.xchng


5 responses to “What The Heck Is Self-Acceptance”

  1. Heather says:

    Your post was beautiful to read! Thank you for sharing your story 🙂

    Unrelated, but something that catches my attention: if you ever have unexplained itchiness, night sweats, prolonged low-grade fever, or notice swollen-and-not-going-down lymph nodes, please get checked for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. EBV is connected to it, and Hodgkin’s can be hard to diagnose (just because the symptoms, as seen above, are pretty vague).

    Not that I think you WILL have that problem. Just if you ever do, keep it in mind.

  2. Jess says:

    Holy crap. This hit me: “Who knew that gaining some of it back would help me love myself even more?”

    I didn’t realize that until I was a month into blogging. Before, I only focused on weight, the scale, the numbers. It was always a freaking number. It was never finding true happiness because my success was tied in with a number. Now, I feel more at peace with my food choices because there’s no more “NO YOU CAN’T HAVE THAT” or “That’s BAD!” I’ve come to terms with food and found/tried so many new things that I really am enjoying this process of discovering more of my personality, expanding my limits.

    I think our self acceptance definitely stems from a mindstyle change, and I think we need that more than just a weight change.

    Thanks for the awesome post, as usual 🙂

  3. Kat says:

    This is a wonderful post. It has been a very powerful year for you Karen!

  4. love2eatinpa says:

    great and inspiring story!!! i really enjoyed reading it.

    i could relate to a lot of what you wrote, karen, as i too have been on a long journey in recovering from 30+ years of compulsive overeating, gained a lot of new awareness from therapy, OA, as well taking an estrogen supplement. all of these things have contributed to a new mindset, trust, confidence and a sense of normalcy in myself.

  5. Thanks everyone…this life thing is certainly interesting 🙂
    .-= KCLAnderson (Karen)’s last blog post..No excuses! =-.

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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

Marsha has been a guiding force at Green Mountain at Fox Run since 1986. In addition to overseeing a professional program that helps women establish sustainable approaches to healthy living, she is a respected thought leader when it comes to managing eating, emotions and weight. She has been a voice of reason for the last three decades in helping people move away from diets, an area in which she is personally as well as professionally versed. An accomplished writer and speaker, Marsha is the author of six books, including the online course Disordered Eating in Active and Sedentary Individuals (co-authored by Karin Kratina, PhD, RD, Human Kinetics), What You Need to Know about Carbohydrates (Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics [The Academy]), What You Need to Know about Vitamin and Mineral Supplements (The Academy), and The Pregnancy Cookbook (co-authored by Donna Shields, RD, Berkeley Publishing). She has worked extensively on a national basis to educate the public about nutrition and the impact of dieting on eating behaviors, including binge eating and emotional eating. Active in many organizations helping to further the cause of health and wellness, Marsha currently serves as vice chair of the Binge Eating Disorder Association and vice president of The Center for Mindful Eating and has been active in the Association for Size Diversity and Health in support of Health at Every Size(R) principles.

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