“Size-acceptance means focusing on the things you like about yourself while working to modify what needs change.”
If we let ourselves, we may start to believe that magazine cover girls (whose photos are air-brushed and trimmed in, mind you!) are the norm and that the rest of us are somehow deeply flawed. What we get then is the soundtrack “I hate myself” or “I hate what I see in the mirror” playing over and over again in our heads, fueling our endless dieting cycles and painful frustration.
“If you are caught up in not liking yourself because of your size, it quickly starts whittling away at your motivation,” says Marsha Hudnall, MS, RD, Green Mountain’s president and co-owner. “That inner voice makes you feel helpless and hopeless.”
Self-Acceptance: The Key to Achieving a Healthy Weight
If we are to have any measure of success, it is crucial that we permanently press stop on that soundtrack and work to genuinely accept our sizes and, by extension, ourselves. Hudnall, who has more than 30 years’ experience in the weight management field, knows this can be a tough sell for women with lifetime struggles with weight. But she’s not suggesting that size acceptance means denying the importance of healthy weights.
Denial is not acceptance. Rather, self-acceptance means adopting a non-judgmental attitude toward yourself. It’s the ability to see things as they are in the moment without harmful, self-critical voices interrupting your view of yourself. Hudnall has seen it again and again in women who come to Green Mountain: Self-acceptance is instrumental to reaching your healthy, natural weight. “Size-acceptance means focusing on the things you like about yourself while working to modify what may need changing,” she says.
”How well has not liking yourself worked so far?”
For women who have been listening to the self-disgust soundtrack forever, size acceptance is also pretty scary. Does accepting yourself the way you are imply that change may be impossible? Mimi Francis, a behavioral health therapist at Green Mountain, has a simple response to those doubts. It should resonate even with the most diet-savvy cynics. “How well has not liking yourself worked so far?” she asks. The truth is, it hasn’t. In fact, if you dislike your body, it’s that much easier to abuse it.
So the aim then is to get your attitude to work for you, not against you. Self-acceptance means acknowledging where you are now, and not repeating the mantra “I’ll like my body when…” or “If only I looked like….” One helpful definition comes from Annette Colby, RD, author of Eating Peacefully, an online newsletter. She suggests that self-acceptance means unconditional appreciation and support for who you are now, including all the elements that you want to change.
Silencing Your Inner Critic
This view of self-acceptance respects the diversity of healthy, beautiful bodies, rather than the pursuit of an idealized weight that may come at dangerously high physical and emotional costs. The pursuit of the impossible, all the while disparaging the actual, is one of the most formidable stumbling blocks we put in our way. The self-critical reflex is a difficult one to subdue. But silencing it is a crucial component to living a healthy, fulfilling life, and attaining healthy weight and fitness goals.
Here are a few questions — some from Colby’s newsletter, some from behavioral classes here at Green Mountain — to really think about on your way to increasing your own self and size acceptance.
Questions to Ask Yourself to Improve Size and Self Acceptance
- What are some of the feel-good things you can do now for your body? Make a list of what you enjoy. Walking, swimming, taking your kids to the park, getting a massage or manicure are all possibilities. By nurturing your body as it is now, you can begin to feel comfortable with yourself.
- What is the most positive reason for accepting your body? What is scariest?
- Where is your idea of the “perfect body” coming from? What does perfect mean to you?
- How would accepting your body right now affect your life? (Really imagine how your daily life would be different.)
- Try to make a list of all the things you’re going to do when you lose weight. You know you have that list — hiking, going out with friends dancing, meeting someone new, buying a fabulous outfit, really treating yourself well. What does it mean to you to put all this on hold? What would it mean to do these things now?
- If you accepted your eating style and body, what could you learn about yourself?
- Go to a local mall or park and indulge in a little people watching. Find people who don’t have cover girl looks but who you find attractive. What makes them look good? Is it their clothes, their attitude, smile or posture? Where does it seem like their beauty and confidence are coming from?
Start treating yourself well today.
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