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I hear this from readers a LOT. “When I lose the weight, I’ll be_____________. Typically, that blank has something to do with being happier about themselves. I get why they think that, but unfortunately, that’s often not reality.
When I was about 210lbs, I lived with a lot of self-loathing. Because I didn’t like the way I looked (or felt), I lacked confidence and self-respect and therefore I made really bad decisions about my life. I dated men who treated me poorly and I gave way too much of myself in hopes that someone would love me.
The funny thing is that no matter what you look like if you can’t love yourself, no one else will either, but that’s a story for another day.
When I was at that point, I always assumed that when/if I finally lost the weight, I’d find a better boyfriend, quit smoking and become the woman I wanted to be. But all those positive ideas about myself were predicated on losing the weight, first. It didn’t occur to me to look for better quality relationships when I was still heavy because I didn’t think I deserved it. I also felt I needed to keep the smoking up to prevent gaining even more weight.
It was a never-ending downward spiral.
Fast forward many years and I did lose the weight, but you know what? I didn’t gain happiness or lose the crappy boyfriends or the cigarettes for many years after I reached my goal weight.
Because my bad habits and poor relationships were a reflection of how I felt about myself, not the number on the scale. And even though I had lost the weight, I had not yet gained the self-acceptance I needed to truly be happy with myself. When I went from 210lbs to 130lbs I still only saw the flaws. I just had a new standard to compare myself against, and I still came up short. What I didn’t realize was that chasing a smaller dress size in a hope to find happiness, was like looking for my keys in a different room than where I last had them only because the lighting is better to search there.
It took many years of maturity and therapy to truly understand that self-acceptance is the key to feeling happier, not being “skinny”. Today I have a very healthy body weight and I’ll be honest, it takes effort to stay in shape, especially as you get older. I work at it daily. But I don’t work out, eat well and sleep like a boss because I’m chasing a dress size. I take care of myself because I love myself and I know I’m worth the effort it takes to look and feel my absolute best.
Can you see the difference? My motivation is inspired by my love and respect for myself, not driven by a lack of it and a desire to be something other than what I am right now.
I wish it didn’t take me 40 years of life to figure that out, but it did. I hope by sharing my experience, I can help anyone else feeling stuck in the same place. I know these message might sound trite or obvious on the surface, but often we’re not aware of what’s driving our need for change – the pain of feeling unlovable or the desire to care for the body we love so much.
Moral of this story – love and accept yourself first, just the way you are, then use that energy to propel better decision-making because when you love yourself, you can’t help but want to take great care of the body you live in.