The big question I’ll be discussing today is this: How do I practice body acceptance if I still really want to lose weight?
It’s a great question because when you learn about intuitive eating, you read you are supposed to accept your body as it is right now. But what if you don’t feel good in your body right now? How can you accept that? And isn’t it easier to make change if you don’t just accept what is? These questions, and more, are common. So if you’ve been wondering about any of them, you’re not alone. Let’s talk about it!
Also, just a reminder that you can access my free training on demand: How to Ditch the Guilt and Body Shame to Gain Confidence and Feel Free! If you’re already dreading a new round of dieting, body shame, and weight loss guilt…this is perfect for you!
What Body Acceptance Really Means
What can you do about your desire to lose weight while you’re also learning to eat intuitively? Does body acceptance mean you can never want to change anything about your body ever again?
First off, I want you to know that accepting your body as it is right now does not mean that you are giving up on health. It’s also not about giving up on feeling better in your body! What body acceptance really means is that you are giving up the fixation or obsession you have with trying to change your weight.
You accept your current weight as it is. You accept that this is where you are at right now. And from that acceptance, you start on a journey to learn how to feel the best you possibly can in your body and mind. Body acceptance lets you embark on that journey from a place and self care, rather than from a place of shame and guilt that pushes you to “punish” yourself for not being the way you think you should be.
An Example of Acceptance
Let’s use accounting as an example. Maybe you never learned it in school, but now you’re a business owner (or just an adult trying to get your budget together!), and you’re frustrated because you feel like you don’t “get it”.
You want to be able to use accounting and understand your financials, but you’re clearly not fully equipped to do so. The best way to get started is to accept the fact that you don’t know what you need to do. Boom. No need to shame yourself for not knowing it all and being a pro. Instead, you just accept and understand that you don’t know it yet. You know you can find a way to learn, and being honest about your current lack is a good thing – it means you’re ready to get started!
Once you’ve identified the problem, you might decide that you’d like to learn how to do accounting for your business and personal needs. You could sign up for an accounting course to learn the skills you need. It will take practice, but eventually, accounting will become second nature to you. Once that happens, you can do your own accounting! You never had to feel ashamed or guilty. There was no need to put yourself down or shame yourself for not knowing something. You could accept where you were, and still start the journey towards growth.
The Acceptance of Your Body Weight
Now let’s go back to your body weight, and the idea of accepting it as it is right now. First, you have to gain some knowledge and understanding of what your body does for you (it’s amazing!). You’ll also want to consider what might not be working the best, since every body is unique. Then, you get to take action.
This action is a combination of accepting your weight for what it is and treating your body with love and kindness. This enables you to feel better in your body, as well as about your body. It also translates to positive outcomes physically, mentally, and emotionally. Nice!
Key Points of Body Acceptance
ONE: Your body has a set point in weight.
Just like you have a shoe size, just like you have an eye color, you were born with a weight that works well for your body. If you are constantly trying to be under that weight, you will forever be eating less than your body wants and needs. Your set point has a range that it likes to stay within. Think about the oven.
When you set the oven to 350 F, the temperature will fluctuate from 320-380 throughout the time that you are cooking. (Surprise! It doesn’t stay exactly at 350 the whole time, even though it’s filled with sensors and other tech.) When it hits 320, the heat turns back up again. When it hits 380, it stops adding heat to the oven so it can cool a bit. This is similar to your weight.
If you are regularly eating an amount of food that your body needs and you’re moving your body, scientists predict that your weight will most likely fluctuate 10-20 pounds. (Why isn’t this ever talked about?!)
This is a key point to understand so you can accept weight fluctuations as being a normal part of your body. Those weight fluctuations can be due to what you’ve eaten, water retention, menstruation, medications you may be on, and a whole slew of other reasons. What can you do? Throw out the scale and buy different size pants for different days, and just keep eating normally!
TWO: Fat is not “bad” and thin is not “good” (or vice versa).
Also, it’s important to understand that thin does not equal “happy”.
Is every thin person happy? No! Unfortunately our society has put being thin on a pedestal. But even this has fluctuated over time! A while back, being fat proved your wealth, which was a good thing.
Our expectations around weight have actually fluctuated and changed with every trend. Look around: thick eyebrows are in now, but thin eyebrows used to be popular. Permed hair was huge in the 80’s, and we’ve seen trends for straight hair, wavy hair, crimped hair, and everything else. Big butts are taking the place of big boobs, with a whole movement around removing breast implants.
How the heck are you supposed to keep up with it all? The point is, you can’t (and you shouldn’t feel like you have to)! Our body shape and size is the same way. Whether you fit whatever trend happens to be “in” right now or not….you shouldn’t be forcing your body to attain an ideal it wasn’t meant for. Especially when that ideal is based on nothing more than a passing fad!
You have to realize that your body wants to weigh what it wants to weigh – it has a natural set point. If you’re always trying to make it be something its not, you are going to forever be at war with your body. Learning to accept that your body has a certain size, just like you accept that you have a shoe size (and you buy shoes in that size) is key!
THREE: Fat does not automatically equate to being “unhealthy”.
A naturally thin person with unhealthy habits is definitely not as healthy as a naturally larger bodied person that has healthy habits. You literally cannot look at someone and know anything about the true state of their health just because you are observing their physical size.
Our culture is so focused on this lie that fat = unhealthy. In reality, the shame that fat people feel for being fat is worse for their health than the fat itself. The healthiest decision you can make about fat is to stop shaming yourself, and stop shaming other people.
FOUR: Body size does not define worth.
The last thing I want to remind you, because I know you know this is true, is that your body size does not define your worth. When you move this knowledge past the surface level and really feel it, it can change so much about how you perceive yourself!
You are worthy. No matter what you look like, how much you weigh, how much money you have, or how well you fit societies mold (or don’t) – you are worthy. So many of have a hard time with this one, because a part of ourselves is clinging to the idea that if we lost weight, or made more money, that we’d be more loved, seen, accepted, wanted, or worthy. It’s just not true. You are absolutely worthy just the way you are.
Take a moment to think about all the wonderful inner traits you possess that are so uniquely you. The way your mind works, the things you love to do, the way you treat others, the passion you hold, the abilities you have. There is SOOO much more to you than your weight or body shape!
Get to know yourself! Spend time with yourself. Ask yourself what you want to do on a regular basis. Ask yourself how you’d like to be treated. The more you can get to know, honor, and appreciate your true self, the easier it will be to treat yourself kindly and accept your body exactly as it is.
Body Acceptance Actions to Take Today
1. Stop weighing yourself.
You know now that this number means nothing, so why potentially trigger yourself with old thinking patterns by stepping on the scale? Just so you also know, you can usually refuse to be weighed at the doctors office (ask them why they need it), or turn around and not look at the scale if it’s a must.
2. Move your body in a way that feels joyful.
You’ve probably worked out as a form of punishment to make your body look a certain way. Most of us have at some point! Once you stop punishing your body, you can start moving her just because she is a body that likes some sort of movement! Turn on your favorite podcast and go for a walk. Turn on your favorite songs and dance. Go exploring your neighborhood on foot. Walk to the lake and get an ice cream cone on the way!
3. Start feeding your body what it wants and needs.
Allow yourself to have food that you desire. Feed your body food that provides nutrients and energy that will allow your body to function. Eat regularly and eat an amount that your body needs, depending on the day. I know this part is easier said than done, but it feels so good once it becomes a practice.
4. Stop making comments about your body or other people’s bodies.
You may not even notice the little comments you are making. Things like: “Ugh, I’ve gained so much weight.” Or, “Wow did you see how big she is now?”, and even “Sorry, don’t mind me and my pimply face/” On and on it goes! You don’t have to apologize for your body; if someone else is offended by something, it’s their own problem.
You also don’t need to compliment other people’s weight loss. Pointing it out might be detrimental to them in a way you don’t realize, and you’re just adding more weight stigma to the world. Any comments about weight are just unnecessary.
5. Start living exactly as you would if you were in your dream body.
If you’ve ever held back from dating, swimming, wearing a red dress, traveling the world, riding a roller coaster — if you held back from doing anything simply because you were waiting to be in the perfect body – go do it now! Find out if you are holding back, and if you are, go out and do the thing you’ve been withholding from yourself!
But What About the Desire to Lose Weight?
So what do you do with the desire to lose weight?
You can’t just drop a desire that has been engrained in you for years! So yes, the desire to lose weight can still be in your mind, even as you begin to practice body acceptance. Let it be in your mind, but, as one of my clients said, “Put it on a shelf”.
You have to power to take the desire and “shelve it”, rather than letting it sit front and center for you to think about every single day. When you put the desire to lose weight on a shelf, you allow yourself to focus on taking care of your whole self in a loving way, instead of punishing yourself to change.
In place of that obsession about losing weight, find something else to add in. Maybe more fun! Add in more self-care! Add in more vegetables! Try some formerly restricted foods! Add in more movement!
You CAN accept your body while still having the desire to lose weight. The only stipulation is that the desire to lose weight can no longer be top priority. It can’t be the “thing” that fuels you. After months or years of practicing body acceptance, the desire to lose weight will go away on its own. You won’t even have to force it out.
Think of it like a friendship that would be very difficult to cut off completely (for example, someone you may still have to see in a group setting). Instead of a big dramatic break up, you could just slowly turn down offers to hang out, and slowly stop answering their calls and texts. Eventually, they’ll just stop trying to remain in contact at all (except for maybe a few times a year, at which point you are free to politely decline).
The desire to lose weight might try to come back into your life, but once you know better, you can simply decline the invitation.
Instead, you can rest in the knowledge that your body has found its happy weight. Once your inner self has finally found peace, you’ll realize weight loss never meant what you thought it meant (acceptance, belonging, peace, contentment, happiness, self-love)
Are you ready to accept your body and stop prioritizing weight loss? I hope so! If you’re ready to take action now, you might head over to Episode #16 – 3 Tangible Ways to Love Your Body.