I have been interested in eating healthy for most of my life, but it wasn’t to treat my body well or to feel good. It was to lose weight.
I can remember being in elementary school, portioning out crackers to pack in my school lunch, wanting to know how many calories I was eating, hoping that I would become a slimmer version of myself by restricting my food.
Just one size smaller, just a few pounds thinner. Then I would be comfortable and my life would be better.
Then I could focus on others things like hobbies and a career.
Then I would accept myself.
As I got older, I educated myself on nutrition, and was convicted to eat the purest and healthiest foods possible. I counted calories for a few years, was a vegetarian for a few, got rid of all processed foods, and later adapted a diet of real foods.
I wish I could say that my goal was for health, but it wasn’t. It was always to lose weight.
I finally did lose weight after college through very restricting dieting (too much which had very negative effects on my body and mind), and when I couldn’t afford to lose any more and I still wasn’t happy or accepting of myself, I became confused about why I tried to eat healthy at all.
It is not surprising that I cycled through periods of binge eating during my years of very restrictive dieting, It was very difficult to maintain a weight that was too low for me, and very uncomfortable to starve my body of the nutrients it needed.
It often bewildered me that I would cycle through periods of very healthy eating, then periods of self-sabotaging eating that left me feeling sick and gross. This opposing pattern proved to me that I wasn’t interested in health for actual health. I was interested in it to get thin. When getting thin was too hard, I wasn’t interested in it at all.
During this season, I had done quite a bit of reading on accepting myself, and eating to treat my body well, and quitting the diet/binge habit. It sounded really nice–accepting myself, but I couldn’t. I didn’t believe I was acceptable unless I was losing weight.
It was only a few years ago that I really gave some serious thought to accepting myself no matter what I weighed or looked like, and eating healthy to be kind to my body.
What if I only ate healthy because I cared about how nutritious foods made me feel? What if I chose to be happy and comfortable with myself no matter what I looked like or what I weighed?
I attempted to take this approach, but it did not come very easily. I did not decide to accept myself, and then became a natural at it overnight.
It required daily determination to stop letting my weight determine my value. When a thought entered my mind that tied my personal success with my weight, it had to be replaced with truth immediately. When disappointment surfaced after looking in the mirror, I had to remind myself that the self-hatred I was cultivating had gotten me nowhere, it felt unfortunate, was distracting me from more important issues, and was not helping me in any way.
It dawned on me one day that I might look the way I look today for the rest of my life. Sure, I will look older, get wrinkles, and age spots, and gray hair, but I might weigh what I do now until the day I die.
Would this be OK?
Would I choose to stress about something that may never change for the rest of my life? Would I let this obsession determine my happiness, comfortability, and confidence until I die? Would I fret about this more than important issues that are happening all around me? More than caring about other people? More than connecting with family and friends? More than making a positive contribution in the world?
We all have one life. We get to choose what we value and how we spend our time, and what we believe. We get to think what we want to think. We get to feel what we want to feel.
I chose self acceptance because the path of self-hatred was exhausting. It robbed me of happiness. It kept me from being present. It made my life small, and it didn’t even allow me to do what I wanted it to in the very beginning–eat healthy to lose weight.
Self acceptance is about so much more than being OK with what you weigh or what you look like, but for those who can’t even claim these things, it’s certainly a start in a positive direction.
What about you?
Do you consider yourself someone who accepts yourself? Who accepts your body how it is right now? If not, when will your body be good enough for you to accept it? When will you choose to be happy, comfortable, and confident? Do you really believe that a number on the scale or a size of clothing can provide you with the feeling you are looking for?
Image from Johanna Ost.