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Some of my clients want to lose weight but feel ambivalent about that desire. In this body-positive moment, to diet feels retrograde: a failure of self-love, a triumph of patriarchal conditioning, and fat-shaming masquerading as “health.” Is it possible to love yourself unconditionally and want to change your body?

I’ve thought a lot about this since I’ve been a coach. Not only because almost every woman I have ever worked with has expressed unhappiness with her weight or her relationship to food or exercise at some point. But because I have, too. 

In this post, I will share – 

  • Questions to help you think through this question of whether self-love and weight loss go together. 
  • My favorite resource for losing weight with self-love.
  • What I’ve learned about food, body, and self-love.

Think It Through

If you are ambivalent about losing weight, take it seriously. Investigate the feelings and beliefs that are keeping you stuck, in a journal or with a friend or a coach. 

Here are some questions to consider. Notice how your answers feel in your body. Which ones feel unloving (tense, heavy)? Which feel loving (peaceful, spacious)?
– Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you not want to? Do you like those reasons? 
– What are you afraid of?
– What does it cost you to lose weight? What does it cost you not to?
– What will weight loss give you? What will not losing weight give you? 

What’s your takeaway?

Favorite Resource

I experienced my weight as a problem from the age of 10. Only a small percentage of the time from then was I happy with my body. Mostly, I was uneasy, toggling between resignation, contemplation of another diet, wondering why it meant so much to me, and why I hadn’t solved it yet.

And then I did solve it – with a group of friends and Martha Beck’s book The Four Day Win. After a year and a half of weekly Zoom meetings and daily practice of the Wins, I realized I was in the promised land: enjoying a slender, energetic body and a peaceful, friendly relationship to food and exercise.

The Four Day Win isn’t a diet and exercise book. Instead, it helps you look closely and compassionately at everything that contributes to the state of your body and your relationship to food and exercise. From that awareness, you make small changes that are in alignment with who you want to be. 

It’s a self-love book, really. Combine it with a diet and exercise program, and you can lose weight, self-lovingly!

What I’ve Learned

About the Eat Less, Move More Myth

Food and body are not simple. Food is fuel, yes. It is also celebratory and social. Your body is a machine that gets you from A to B. It is also something you feel. Your body is private and something you share with (present to) the world. It’s complicated! No wonder that most people struggle with it.

About self-love

It’s not the same thing as self-indulgence. Self-love is a commitment to what’s good for me and to what I really want for myself. How much self-love will I generate when I know I can trust myself to act in my own best interests and create the results I desire?

About diets

It’s much more than calorie restriction. From “Peace, Love, and Dieting”: “A diet pushes you to confront your urges regularly and methodically and is thus an opportunity to learn how to detach from them kindly. That’s the work. Losing weight… cannot be done and maintained without changing your relationship to urges.” 

About restrictions

They are not always a bad thing! I’ve come to love my bedtime boundaries, because they protect my sleep, and my early alarm, because it protects my morning read-and-journal time. What restrictions (boundaries) do you experience as liberating? 

On effort

Some resist a program of weight loss because of the effort it requires. Investigate this thinking. Is your current way of eating and truly effortless? (Does your angst over it count as effort?) Is effort always a bad thing? (When do you like effort?) If effort is a barrier, break it down until the step is small enough to take but still meaningful to you. Then celebrate your effort!

How about you? How do you answer the question of whether (or how) self-love and weight loss go together? If you’ve struggled, what have you learned about food and body?

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