How Well Has Not Liking Yourself Worked So Far?


Today’s post is another from a blog I wrote for a couple of years ago.  It addresses the subject of size acceptance, and it’s a subject that confounds many of our best efforts. 

I often ask women to imagine that after successfully putting a healthy lifestyle in place, they found their weight remained the same. How would they feel?  Would they be okay with that, or would they feel like they have failed once again?

Their responses vary widely.  One commonality, however, appears to correlate with how long they have been struggling with weight.  It seems to come down to how much their weight defines who they are.  Those who have struggled the longest are generally the most defined by it.

Their stories have been heard repeatedly:

  • The woman who was singled out as a child because she was larger than the other kids, often due to developmental weight gain (that which can precede growth spurts).
  • The daughter of the weight-worried mother who didn’t want her child to “suffer the same problems” and subsequently faced a focus on size and restrictions in her eating.
  • The woman who was and is larger than the societal ideal (distorted as it is) and has faced discrimination her whole life.
  • And many more variations on the theme.

The journey to self-acceptance for those of us with these kinds of stories often revolves around the struggle to believe in ourselves, that we are okay as we are, that we don’t have to change our bodies to be valuable, to be loved.  Our struggle to accept ourselves often hangs on our core belief that we aren’t acceptable because of our bodies, something that was planted in our psyche as children, and grew there as we maneuvered through our fat-phobic society.

In contrast, women who grew up without the unfair burden of size difference may not feel deep dismay about themselves as worthy people when weight gain occurs.  But the end point is usually the same if a struggle begins – not liking ourselves because of our weight, or because we can’t successfully achieve what is seldom a realistic goal.  We start recording a tape of negative self-talk that, although maybe shorter in length than women who started theirs years before, delivers the same crushing blows each time it plays.

The way out for both groups is the same, too.  One question that’s often posed in our classes at Green Mountain is:

“How well has not liking yourself worked so far?”

The truth is, it doesn’t work.  When we define ourselves by our bodies, and we dislike those bodies, then it’s much easier to abuse ourselves.

The dream that weight loss solves all problems complicates it even further.   Because thinness is pictured as inseparable from health, happiness and wealth, it’s difficult to realize that a smaller body size doesn’t automatically equate with success.

The fat acceptance movement, I believe, is a movement that can help us all move away from these misguided thoughts, feelings and behaviors.   In my book, it’s not about a dichotomy between those who want to lose weight and those who don’t. It’s about helping us all understand that weight isn’t the real problem, if one exists at all when we let go of weight worries.

If we could all realize that, we’d be much better able to discover what the real problems are, and likely see our success rates at solving them skyrocket.

Is your belief in yourself affected by your body size?

6 responses to “How Well Has Not Liking Yourself Worked So Far?”

  1. noel from Hypoglycemia says:

    Very interesting article, however, one musn’t become complacent about excess weight as that can lead to health problems later. Surely it is coming to terms with body structure?

  2. Debra says:

    An interesting and thought provoking article.
    I absolutely agree that if we define ‘ourselves by our bodies, and we dislike those bodies, then it’s much easier to abuse ourselves’.
    However I feel the answer lies not in ‘Fat acceptance’ but in acceptance enough of our core personalities as valuable unique individuals, aside from the size and shape of the body that we live in. From my personal experience of being obese this was the starting point that enabled me to begin to lose weight. In short I appreciated myself enough Not to Accept being trapped in a body that was not serving me well and that was causing me or would do in the future, considerable health problems.
    Thanks for the post, cheers.

  3. Laura (minddance) says:

    Interesting article. I hadn’t thought of “not liking myself” in this way before, but it is like another form of denial. It is difficult to change anything that you are constantly pushing away or attempting to dream away. You might be able to put a bandaid on it for a while, but eventually, you have to fully accept it to truly change it. Strange dichotomy, but I think you are absolutely right!


  4. J. Muir says:

    Thank you so much for this. The question “How well has not liking yourself worked so far?” is a pointed one. And it shows how much women struggle in this patriarchal society when they’re the ones constantly fighting issues of self-esteem related to their body. I.e. if you don’t have a ‘good’ enough body as a woman, you’re not a worthwhile person. It’s poison.

    I was one of those types you mentioned – developed a bit more quickly than my peers in childhood. Children are merciless! I grew up with extreme hang-ups about my body and self and it took many years to work through them as an adult. Finally I learned to accept myself.

    After that, I got an offer for private coaching, and I started to work out in the privacy of my living room. I learned that I could push my body and use it in ways that I thought were closed to me. Now I’m almost 30 and in better shape than I was at 20. It’s been an extraordinary and empowering experience. (Because I was chubby and uncoordinated as a kid, I thought I could never be a ‘sporty’ type or good at anything physical. I’m not the best at anything at all, but it’s extraordinary just to feel myself capable of so much more than I thought possible). The weight is gone, but that’s just one aspect of my transformation, and not the sole reason I feel better about myself.

    I take pains to stand up to sexism in everyday conversation, at work especially. We need to stop this shit so young girls don’t have to grow up this way anymore and grown women don’t have to hate themselves.

  5. Kevin says:

    Overweight is not good for your health. It can lead to many health problems.

  6. Marsha says:

    I think it works better to think of “overweight” as another symptom of health problems rather than the cause. Unless, of course, a person is naturally “overweight,” e.g., perfectly healthy at that weight because that’s how they were made. I also think the way to address it if it’s a problem is by focusing on health, not by trying to lose weight. The focus on weight loss leads many people to ill health.

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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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