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How to Love Your Body Just the Way It Is

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Ah December is here.  It’s officially the season of giving and also the season of eating!

We just wrapped up Thanksgiving and the next month will be filled with holiday parties and gatherings, which means lots of eating, drinking, and indulging in the decadence of the days leading up to Christmas and New Years.

I don’t know about you, but I often tend to overdo it this time of year.  I think it’s that I’m so used to restricting myself from eating what I want so much of the time that when the holiday season comes, I see it as a free pass to eat whatever and go nuts!

And I know, come every January, I’ll be resetting and starting a new diet. I swear I have been losing and gaining the same 10 lbs for the last twenty years, if not longer!  Sound familiar?

Now, I should mention that I am not what others might typically think of as “fat”.   Sure, I have been heavier at certain points of my life versus others, edging towards the higher end of my “healthy weight range”. Nevertheless, like a lot of women, I’ve always wanted to be smaller.

Diet Culture - photo of myself to show diet progress
Here is me documenting my progress for one of my various diets over the years.

Ever since I was a teenager I can remember being on some diet or another.  From limiting myself to only non-fat foods in my teen years, cutting carbs in my twenties, counting points in my thirties, and tracking calories off and on throughout.

I feel like I have tried them all!  And guess what I’ve learned?

All diets work until they don’t.

It has been proven that diets actually don’t work in the long term

For me, diets stop working when I get tired of controlling every morsel of food and liquid that I put in my mouth.  They stop working when I let myself indulge in “bad foods” and then convince myself that I’ve ruined it all and I might as well quit.

Diets stop working when I stop trying to control my body.

But why have I always felt the need to control my body through dieting in the first place?  

From a young age, I have always felt bigger than I “should” be.  I was never fat by any means, but I was taller and broader than a lot of other girls my age and I guess you could say that I was a little softer and rounder too.  

I was not an athletic child.   My parents were actually called into school to have a conference with my elementary school gym teacher because I refused to run during gym class.  Yep, I did.

But in my defense, all of the girls in my class decided that we didn’t want to run and get all sweaty and smelly for the rest of the day.  So we walked together around the track during gym when we were supposed to be running.

Anyway, my parents were never angry about this, but I did become known as the non-athlete of the family, the one who doesn’t like to move and break a sweat. Don’t be “a bump on a log” my dad used to say.  Yeah, that one has really stuck with me over the years…

My earliest memory of being uncomfortable with the size of my body was in fifth grade. 

In an effort to make myself look smaller and thinner, I had taken to sucking in my stomach whenever I had to walk to the front of the class or in the hallways between classes.  This resulted in me walking around looking like I was sticking my chest out, my newly developing chest.

Other kids noticed this and it led to a bunch of girls in the other 5th grade class starting to call me a “slut”.  I WAS TEN YEARS OLD.  I barely even talked to boys at the time! 

Later, in my early teen years, my mom, along with the mothers of my two closest friends, took us to Lean Line meetings.  This was like an off brand of Weight Watchers at the time when they still had in person meetings where you had to weigh in each week to measure your weight loss progress.  The Lean Line counselor weighed and measured us and gave us each a little booklet of foods we could eat with their point values.

I was a healthy teenager who still didn’t like to run, who enjoyed eating the snacks that all the other kids liked to eat, and who was still apparently “bigger” than she should be. 

I don’t recall going to more than a handful of those meetings, but I do remember that I lost 8 lbs from that diet.  That was my first official diet of many over the years.  

Why did our mothers feel the need to take us to a weight loss program at age 14?

As a mother now myself, I know that our priority is always to protect our children from hurt, pain, and danger.  Thus, I can only surmise that the diet culture in this country was so ingrained in them, that it must have created a significant amount of fear on their part that we might be teased or not accepted as we were for not fitting the ideal size – SIZE SMALL.  

But for a young teenager who was already self-conscious, it just reinforced that not only was I too big for the rest of the world to accept me, but my mom agreed. Thus, my path down the long revolving road of dieting, constant efforts to control my body to fit some ideal size began.

It was not until very recently, that I finally said enough is enough.  Yes, I admit that I still wish I was smaller, but it’s just not something I’m willing to expend any more energy on.  

I’ve decided that I don’t need to control my body any longer, rather I need to learn how to love my body.

I need to be good to my body, after all, it has always been good to me.

My body has given me the opportunity to do so many amazing things in my life.

How to love your body just the way it is

My body grew babies inside my womb, not once, but twice.  Then it birthed two beautiful little humans, protecting each of them as they came into this world.  It has nourished my babies with milk and comforted them with softness and warmth.

My body has given me the experience of tasting the most delicious pasta in Italy.  It has let me feel the warm waters of the Caribbean and jumped into a cenote in Mexico.  My legs took me hiking on a glacier in Iceland and my hands tightly gripped a zipline as I bounded over the trees in Costa Rica.

My body allows me to breathe the fresh air, see the beauty around me every day, hear the laughter of the people I love most.

My body is giving me the opportunity to type these words right now.

Yes, it is good to me and if I think about it like that, I do love my body. I just have to change how I think about it.

In order to break free of diet mentality and learn how to love your body, try these simple mindset shifts that I’ve made:

1.) I trust that my body knows when it needs to eat and how much food it needs to feel satiated.

I try to listen to my body and eat when I’m hungry, not when the clock tells me I should eat.  For example, I don’t particularly like breakfast food and I’m often not hungry until late morning, so I don’t eat breakfast until I actually feel hungry.

I also make an effort to acknowledge when I’m getting full and stop eating because I know overeating will usually result in me feeling bad.  Not necessarily feeling bad as in guilty, but actually feeling bad physically.  Gas, indigestion, being bloated – none of those physical feelings are enjoyable.

2.) My body knows what food it needs and wants.

I’ve been letting my body be my guide in the type of food I eat.  I love sweets, bread, and pasta and I let myself have these foods when I want them, but I’ve seen that when I get in a pattern of eating too much of one particular type of food, my body lets me know.  It tells me what it’s lacking and I start craving vegetables and fruit, colorful vibrant foods that offer vitamins and nutrients. 

Also, I go with the seasons.  During the warm months of the summer, I find myself craving fresh fruit, smoothies, and lots of salads, much more so than I do in the winter.  Right now, it’s cold out and I’ve been craving comforting foods like soup for lunch, oatmeal for breakfast, a hearty bolognese pasta for dinner and so I give my body the foods it wants.

3.) I’m “allowed” to eat whatever I want.

Basically, no foods are forbidden or restricted.  I’ve seen that having a diet mentality that creates a feeling of constant restriction and categories of good and bad foods actually leads me to eat more of the foods that are unhealthy for me.

We always want what we can’t have so if you are constantly telling yourself you can’t have something like ice cream or pizza, you will tend to over indulge on these foods and end up eating more of them than you would if you just allowed yourself to consistently eat what you want in the first place.

I know that by not restricting what I eat, I’m changing my mindset and this is what keeps me from bingeing on foods that are not healthy.  I think everything in moderation is perfectly fine.

4.) Exercise is for self-care, not burning calories.

Exercise is an integral part of how I practice self-care.  

Movement makes my body and mind feel good.  Therefore, I exercise not with the intention to burn calories, but mainly because physical movement improves my mental outlook.  And by default, I know I am also doing something that benefits my physical health.

Related: “The #1 Secret You Need to Commit to Fitness in the New Year (plus 4 bonus tips!)”

I also listen to the type of exercise my body is needing on a particular day.  I aim to start my morning routine with some type of exercise that varies based on how I am feeling.  Sometimes it is a low-impact walk outside and other times I’m craving a high-intensity cycling class, or some days simply some strength exercises and stretching.

Related: “How to Establish a Morning Routine That Will Make You Love Waking Up”

5.) Food will not cure my negative emotions.

I don’t use food to cope with my emotions.  I’ve seen that it just doesn’t work for me.  I’ve found other ways that help me when I’m feeling anxious, sad, or bored.  These include exercise, music, writing, or watching a show I enjoy.

This way of thinking hasn’t changed the size of my body or led to me losing weight, but that is not my goal at this time.  I just want to be healthy and treat my body well, loving it just the way it is.

These concepts are the antithesis of diet culture, and they’re also pretty simple and intuitive.  You just have to change how you think about your body and eating habits.

I recently looked up “the principles of intuitive eating” because I had heard the term but wasn’t sure exactly what it was.  And what do you know, I’m already following most of them!

Click here if you’d like to learn more about this way of eating and approaching your body.  I also ordered a copy of the latest book “Intuitive Eating:  A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach” because I’m truly hoping to ditch the diet mentality for good this time!

how to love your body just the way it is

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5 thoughts on “How to Love Your Body Just the Way It Is”

  1. Love this article, really inspire me to listen to my body and respect its needs, thank you for this as it sparked my motivation to keep 💜 my body as it is.

    1. Yes, you will be calories but default but doesn’t have to be the goal! Viewing exercise as a means of self-care has changed my whole perspective on it. I went from someone who HAD to exercise because she wanted to be thin to someone who WANTS to exercise because it makes me feel good

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