Many women who seek help to create a relationship with food and themselves that they love, start out not liking themselves very much. In fact, sadly, it’s not unusual for women to share that they feel utterly disgusted with themselves.
Sometimes women feel disgust because of what they think about their physical body. Other times it’s because they've not managed to lose the weight or maintain a previous weight loss, and they judge themselves for that.
You see, being mean to yourself is not useful in driving you to lose weight. Nor is it useful in driving you to improve any aspect of yourself. Mean girl thinking isn’t just a behaviour reserved for those with a weight problem. Mean girl thinking sits in the recesses of the brains of most females.
And women, don't start this cycle of critical thinking intentionally. In fact, they don't even realise they're doing it. And then even when we do discover our mean girl thinking patterns, we can be fearful of letting go of them, in case we accept ourselves as we are. We want to escape our own unhappiness of who we are being by believing it’s possible to be better or slimmer or fitter, and when we’ve been trying to get there through being mean, we’re reluctant to let go because we don’t believe there is another way.
Again, these patterns, these behaviours of mean girl thinking and using self-crisitsm to drive us to be more (or less) of who and want we want to be are not reserved for those of women that want to lose weight. It's a trait that commonly associated with all desires for self-improvement.
Most of us grow up thinking we're not enough. Not slim enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, not funny enough, or not confident enough. We believe that if only we could fix ourselves, we would be better, slimmer, more accomplished, and subsequently happier.
And we are wrong about this on so many levels.
When you think kind loving thoughts about yourself you feel self-love and self acceptance. You know you're worthy of your own love without conditions, achievement or validation from others. When you approach weight loss with this mindset it's far easier to make yourself a priority, to eat in a way that is healthy and nourishing, and to cut yourself some slack and not judge yourself when you fall into old patterns of overeating.
When you're not judging yourself for overeating, you can be curious about why you're doing it. And when you're curious you're learning and discovering new things about yourself. Things that will make it easier for you to not overeat next time that you are in the same situation.
Many of us humans think we’re not good enough. Being self-critical is a part of being human. And when we are overweight or obese, often we link our thoughts about not being good enough to our weight and our inability to lose it, or our inability to lose it and maintain that loss.
The problem with doing this, with thinking negative thoughts about ourselves when we tend to use food to help us to feel better, is that we are making the situation worse. We are adding fuel to the fire.
When we tell our selves things that mean we’re not good enough, or think thoughts that leave us feeling inadequate, worthless, lazy, unconfident, frustrated or uncertain. We then eat to avoid feeling those feelings.
The truth is, if you have a tendency, a pattern of being self-critical or thinking that you’re not good enough, you will find evidence of that and create truths from that evidence via your thoughts, no matter what the circumstances of your life.
If you don’t learn how to think differently about yourself when you’re overweight, you’ll just find different reasons to be self-critical and to think you’re not good enough when you’re slim.
Helping clients overcome their feelings of frustration, inadequacy, shame, and sometimes almost pure hatred for themselves, in relation to their weight, is a very important part of their weight loss journey.
Sometimes clients don’t want to like themselves more. They don’t want to accept themselves as they are because they think that if they do, then they will be less likely to lose weight. They think, ‘if I accept myself as I am then I won’t feel driven, compelled, or motivated to do what I need to do, to be slimmer’. They’ve got into a pattern of motivating themselves from a place of discomfort. They’re using their negative thoughts and feelings about themselves, which feel terrible, as a fire that they want to move away from, to drive themselves to be slimmer, so that they can feel more accepting of themselves and less discomfort.
And so, so many women lose weight this way.
The problem is, when you’re motivated to eat a certain way to escape the discomfort of self-loathing you become stuck when you lose your weight, or get close to your weight goal, because you’re unable to use those same thoughts about your weight, to feel bad enough, to motivate you to continue.
When I am coaching people on relationships, I encourage them to think about how love is always an option. I ask them ‘what would love do in this situation’?
And I encourage you to think the same way about self-love. Self-love is always an option to you in any given moment. You can always ask yourself ‘what would self-love do in this situation? And trust in your gut that you know the answer. You don’t need to be perfect to love yourself 100%.
Think of your children, your pets, your life partner, your parents, your best friend. Who in your life do you love 100%? Are they perfect? I very much doubt it, they’re human.
There is no such thing as perfection. When you love someone and see their imperfections it’s because you love them unconditionally. You can love yourself without condition too. You can love yourself for being the Mum that you want to be and know that there are times you could have handled things differently. You can love yourself for the way in which you support your partner, even when that support may sometimes be withheld.
I was working with one of my private clients on self-acceptance and self-love, and as is ‘normal’ (and I say that in air quotes) she was having a tough time feeling self-acceptance and self-love because her brain was so used to pointing out her flaws. She thought that she couldn’t feel 100% self-love and self-acceptance whilst she could see her flaws. And of course, those flaws felt very truthful for her. They felt factual. But she was willing to see that it was possible and then she found her own way to resolve her inner dilemma of how she would both accept herself 100% and be flawed. And she came across Kintsugi.
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum.
As a philosophy, it appreciates breakage and the subsequent repair as part of the history of an object, rather than as something to make that object unworthy of appreciation.
When you can learn to appreciate yourself as you are, because of who you are on the inside, before or whilst you're losing the weight - not only will losing the weight be easier, maintaining your weight loss will be too.
Take action towards ‘loving yourself first’. Decide what loving thoughts you want to think about you and practice thinking them until the become your new truth, your new reality.