The Secret to Loving Your Body Isn't Losing Weight


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
4/10/2013 12:00 PM   :  204 comments   :  146,079 Views

I always used to think that if I was skinnier, I'd be happier—not just with my body but with my life in general. Many of us believe that weight loss is the answer to many of our problems and pitfalls. We think that when we lose weight we'll not just feel more confident, but we'll land a mate, improve our marriages, be more successful, have more friends, or just feel happier in general. For a lot of people weight loss—or, rather, being thin—is the golden ticket we've been waiting on.
But many people who have lost any significant amount of weight will probably be quick to tell you that even as a thinner person, life doesn't change that much.  You may have lost weight—and that's great for a lot of reasons—but you are likely the same person with the same outlook, same personality, same level of overall happiness. Weight loss alone won't cure you of your body hatred, your lack of confidence, your shy personality or your low self-esteem.
I battled body hatred for many years. It compelled me to diet and exercise until I lost too much weight. I liked the attention I received, but my life really didn't change in any significant way. I still didn't feel like I still was good enough.
On the flipside, I gained back all the weight I had lost and then some to reach my all-time heaviest weight. For a while, I felt worse about myself than ever. My confidence level and self-worth was very much wrapped up in my weight. Although I slowly (painstakingly!) lost the excess pounds over the course of several years, it wasn't weight loss that changed my outlook. In fact, I began to love myself at my heavier weight, which is something I never thought possible, and these days, I'm trimmer and fitter than my heavier self of year's past, but I'm nowhere near the ultra-thin body I once achieved. Still, I'm happier with my body than ever.
When it comes to loving—and accepting—your body, weight really has little to do with it. In fact, research shows that one key ingredient can help you improve your body image and confidence regardless of your size.
What has really helped me appreciate, accept and love my body is exercise. Working out regularly helps me feel strong and powerful. It makes me feel capable and accomplished in a way that almost nothing else in my life has ever affected me. It drives me to work harder, to be a better person, to always be improving myself—inside the gym and outside. It inspires me to reach new goals, which helps me build a work ethic and increased confidence as I reach more milestones. It has given me access to the exclusive club of "exercisers" who "get" each other. I love the simple look, head nod and small wave that runners exchange on the street, which to me always says, "I'm in the club, too. Thanks for showing up today. You rock."

And as I get stronger, faster, fitter, better…I stand taller, feel better about myself and appreciate all that my body has achieved. It propels me to take better care of it. I want this body to carry me through life stronger and healthier. I don't care what I weigh, but I do care how much weight I can lift and how many miles I can run. That says so much more about who I am and what I'm worth than any stupid scale can ever tell me. I don't care what I look like while I'm doing these things—just that I show up and try my hardest.

My experience with exercise has been an education is self-care and body awe. When you put the work in, you do see changes and improvements. It's a virtuous cycle that feeds on itself. You exercise. You feel good. You take better care of yourself. You appreciate your body. You lose weight, or maybe you don't, but either way, you feel good about yourself, so you keep on going. Eventually, the weight takes care of itself. For me, loving myself was the key to losing weight.
Some research shows that even without changing a person's weight, exercise alone can help people feel better about themselves and improve their confidence. That's a win in my book! Why? Because when you feel good, you take care of yourself, and you do more healthy things for your body that ultimately result in settling into your healthy weight.
Do you agree? Does exercise improve your confidence and body image or are you still stuck on the scale?

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  • 204
    Wow nice post like it and really will consider the information also... - 3/8/2015   11:57:15 PM
  • 203
    I thought this too, but I have discovered that even after a 95 lb loss that I still struggle with the same emotions. - 2/22/2015   3:48:11 PM
  • 202
    Acceptance doesn't mean "like". It just means "this is how I am right now". Seeing one's self for who you are. What can your body do right now? It really IS amazing.

    Acceptance is not easy. Some days, it evaporates. I am seeing more of it these days. The more I've practiced self-trust, self-compassion, boundaries and self-acceptance towards myself, I have seen that my life has improved overall.

    The definition of crazy: doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.

    I have negative thoughts. Our minds our wired for our survival. Our minds are on the lookout for threats. Negative thoughts may have some protective affects. Not all negative thoughts are bad either.

    It was deeply uncomfortable to be kind, to trust, to be compassionate towards my own self.

    Over time, practicing these things has made a very impactful difference in my own life. Sounds funny (actually sad) to say "being kind to myself" felt wrong. I realized that if beating myself up worked so well, then why was I having trouble with things? Why not try something different? - 2/2/2015   12:24:21 PM
  • 201
    Really true. Thanks for writing this. Exercise is the ultimate confidence and mood booster. Good reminder for me today. - 1/8/2015   12:33:11 PM
  • 200
    Great post. I've been going back and trying to remember what changed first for me....eating better, moving more, or loving my body? Truthfully I didn't hate my body when I weighed 80 pounds more - can't say I loved the way I looked, but never hated myself or my body. When I committed to eating healthy most of the time and moving every day though I did see the weight come off,. Over the three + years that I lost and then maintained weight I just feel better and better about me. And that means how I look and feel. And no matter what I don't say nasty things to myself: i would never say that to a friend. - 12/12/2014   7:53:51 AM
  • 199
    i also have learned to love my body more the way it is .. let's face it .. we will all still have things we don't like about our body .. like for me the sagging skin on my upper arms .. but i am happy with where i am and where i am still going and able to move forward regardless of those things i don't 'like' about my body but can appreciate that they represent a LOT of hard work and positive changes in my life.. - 9/8/2014   10:38:41 AM
  • 198
    I feel good when I have a good workout because that is something I know that I'm doing for myself and not to impress any other person. I have even gotten to the point of problem solving through meditations as I work on machines. I hope that you find your peace of mind before you decide to backside. Exercise can be different for different people. Maybe you've got to differentiate your routine.? Good luck Hinz! - 7/12/2014   6:50:36 PM
  • 197
    Am I the only person in the world that doesn't feel significantly better by exercising? I've been exercising off and on for the past 28 years and I do primarily to lose weight but also to stay healthy. All the years I've stayed active working out at the gym but it never gave me a boost of extra energy or feeling good over all about myself. I get a little jealous when I hear so many people feeling great when they exercise and can even cure mild to moderate depression? I wonder why exercising has no great effect on me? If I felt like everyone else, I would be addicted to working out! - 6/24/2014   6:22:29 PM
    I love my body most when I exercise. I like seeing what all it can do and how strong it is. I love to watch myself work out and see all my muscles. Then, the tummy pooch doesn't seem to matter. - 8/14/2013   6:04:22 AM
  • 195
    "Weight loss alone won't cure you of your body hatred, your lack of confidence, your shy personality or your low self-esteem." - why is "shy personality" lumped in with these negatives? I'm tired of hearing how being an introvert is some sort of personality flaw. It is okay.
    - 8/10/2013   9:36:35 AM
  • 194
    Great Blog! I also feel that it's being healthy with exercising and eating the foods that are best for your body is more important than the actual number on the scale. I lost 65 pounds. It took me a year and I developed some good habits for exercising regularly and eating healthy and in proportions. I put about 20 pounds back on when I started a job with a lot of sitting and didn't get to workout as much. I changed my patterns and found more time for exercise and got back on track for eating more healthy foods and watching my portions etc. And I'm back down to about 10 pounds over where I was after losing the 65 pounds. I could be upset that I'm not getting back down to the weight I was but I have also been doing more strength training with my workouts and being honest with myself I realized that I was probably down too much when I first lost the 65 pounds. So where I am right now I feel is a good healthy place for me and I just need to keep up my daily workouts and eating habits. I feel so much better and my clothes are fitting me better with wearing a smaller size. So my self esteem is up from completing my workouts - my energy level is up - and for me that's more important than the actual number on the scale. Thanks for writing the blog and motivating me. (By the way, most of my inside workouts are done with your dvd's and I really enjoy them. ) - 8/2/2013   9:37:51 AM
  • 193
    You have told my your words. Thank you. I struggle with low self-esteem every single day, in every aspect of my life. And I do put too much stock into what the scale says and how I look. I am my hardest critic, as they say. I have been up and down with my weight for the last 25 years, always feeling overweight, and just "less" even when I was underweight. So, yes, exercise does help with that feeling. Although I still have not found that ingredient to "love" myself. But I am trying every day. Thanks again for sharing. - 8/2/2013   8:34:45 AM
  • 192
    Exercise is the best part of my day! - 8/2/2013   8:33:27 AM
  • 191
    I'm so glad something concrete was put into here. I've always seen evidence that exercise drops your cortisol levels, but I've actually began to experience this when I was dealing with a lot of emotional stress. After a 30 minute workout, I felt like someone had swept the emotional drama from my brain.

    If anything, I should exercise for the immediate pay off, because that is what will keep me going back to it. - 7/3/2013   3:45:04 PM
    What a great article.....thank you for sharing. It matches my feelings. - 6/24/2013   11:38:07 AM
  • 189
    I feel much more confident on a day that I have exercised. It's as if I've taken control of something important in my life. - 5/19/2013   7:10:16 PM
  • 188
    I agree. My confidence is boosting thanks to the exercises I do. I take a boot camp class and never in a million years did I think that I would be doing what I'm doing now. I also ran my first 5K and it was the best thing for me and my confidence. I'm loving life and enjoying who I am without worrying about being skinny or what the scale says (although I am happier each week when the scale is down a couple of pounds). - 5/14/2013   5:15:05 PM
  • KAB7801
    Your accomplishments make your self esteem sky rocket, you stand taller with confidence and you just feel good - 5/9/2013   9:17:43 PM
    I needed to read this today. Was feeling pretty down but now I feel encouraged to just keep moving - 5/3/2013   3:19:07 PM
  • 185
    This is definitely what I needed to read today. Thanks for the great blog. - 4/23/2013   6:14:02 PM
  • 184
    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! I really needed to read this today. I started a new jogging interval program this week and I have felt great about it and so proud of doing it. I AM NOT A RUNNER. So this was a big milestone for me. I stepped on the scale today (tomorrow is my weigh in day) and I had gained. I was BUMMED. I needed this to help remind me of how good I felt while exercising and of completing the intervals. Again.....thank you. - 4/19/2013   8:55:31 AM
    I love your encouraging approach and honest appreciation of what is involved when learning how to take care of oneself while still being there for others. - 4/12/2013   8:19:05 AM
  • 182
    You really do need to love your body, and all of the great things it does for you. That way, you'll be more interested in making in the right choices. - 4/11/2013   7:06:35 PM
  • BETE2013
    My weight loss has been slow but regular exercise has helped boost my confidence. Though I'm still guilty of thinking how much better I'll feel about myself after I've dropped a significant amount of weight AND am still working out regularly. - 4/11/2013   5:21:34 PM
  • 180
    I so do very much agree that exercise does that for me. When I work out I feel so much better about my body....with lifting weights I like what I see in the mirror. It has helped so much. - 4/11/2013   5:00:00 PM
  • 179
    Great post..It is incredibly motivating. I still struggle with this slightly. I do have those thoughts about how much better things will be when I lose the weight. Recently, I have come to realize that the feeling of accomplishing weight loss, finally, would be the biggest reward to me and make me feel completely confident in myself. I have a great family and try to be a good mom, but the achieving weight loss is the one thing that still hangs over my head. - 4/11/2013   3:15:59 PM
  • 178
    I have to admit, one eye was stuck on the scale and the mirror until I at least got under the obese range and could shop off the rack instead of having to go to the plus-size store or section. I'll also admit that it was easier to lose weight when I focused more on getting healthy, fit, and strong instead of focusing on numbers. - 4/11/2013   1:10:47 PM
  • 177
    Exercise is the key for me too. I remember about twenty years ago I joined a gym and DH was upset that I had signed a two year contract. He thought I would be like most people and quit after a few months. Still going and still enthused each time. I will always do this as it is a very important part of my life. - 4/11/2013   9:37:16 AM
  • 176
    yep. I'm in that club and I love it! LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I love to dance, to walk, to lift weights. I love to see my body do things I didn't think it could do. I love feet as transportation. I love classes. I love solitary walks in the country. I love to walk and talk with my son. Yup.

    I wish I could encourage everyone on earth to get up and move. - 4/11/2013   5:52:35 AM
  • 175
    L-O-V-E this blog! Exercise is so so important to me and my life. I can relate so much to what you have said and helps me with my way of thinking at times. Thank you! - 4/11/2013   5:46:26 AM
  • 174
    Some of these thoughts are what I'm trying to keep in my head this time around. I had lost 60 pounds, but regained 25. Stopped being vigilant! But, my chloresterol meds went from 80 mg to 10 and the numbers are now fantastic. My blood pressure is also great. I have come to believe that exercise is more of a key than I thought. My weight may be going down extremely slowly (if at all, for weeks on end), but I feel my in control when I am consistent with exercise. - 4/11/2013   5:33:49 AM
  • 173
    Much that you said resonates with me. At 67, I've accepted that I'll probably never be a runner and that there are some things I can't (shouldn't) attempt. I do know that loving my body has been an extremely tedious process but an essential one. I am so grateful for Spark and for the keys it has provided. - 4/10/2013   7:47:21 PM
    Thanks for the blog. I would like to be at my ideal weight but i'm not there, yet. I did not like to exercise before. It was something that I forced myself to do. But now is a different story. Taking my 30 minute walk ( or more) everyday helped my legs feel stronger. I bought New Balance shoes for my plantar fasciitis and I haven 't complained of pain for a while now. I have lost 4 pounds just by walking and some cardio and I would be happier if I lose more. Of course my main goal is to be healthy .

    - 4/10/2013   5:25:38 PM
    When I was heavier, I was "okay" with my weight. Sure there were things about my body wanted to change - and still do - but I was ok with how I looked. And I generally felt good about myself and who I was. What I finally came to realize I wanted was to be healthier. When I made that mental change to be a healthier me was the moment everything clicked in my mind and led to weight loss. Knowing that I'm healthy (or at least healthier) is what makes me happy. Not how I look or what nasty stuff life may throw at me. - 4/10/2013   4:23:04 PM
  • 170
    This inspires me to exercise right now. Great blog. - 4/10/2013   4:18:10 PM
  • 169
    I find that exercise plays a big role in my self confidence as well. Thanks for the great blog! - 4/10/2013   4:10:22 PM
  • 168
    I once had a membership to a fitness club, and was intimidated by almost everyone.... I couldn't figure out why. What I concluded was they moved with a confidence I didn't feel simply because they were more fit. That fitness gave them confidence no matter what other part of their lives would NOT have given them that extra edge. Fitness was enough. - 4/10/2013   4:05:02 PM
  • 167
    My weight matters to me, but as I exercise more I feel exactly what this article says. Hence the headline on my page right now. When I run, I'm ok just being me. I hope that my weight takes care of itself, with the hard work I put in my exercise I don't want to mess it up by consuming a lot of sugar and cholesterol, so I am inspired to eat better. - 4/10/2013   3:44:32 PM
  • 166
    The scale matters to me. The slimmer I am again, the less fat I have to haul around when I exercise. LOL - 4/10/2013   2:29:25 PM
  • 165
    You described me perfectly:

    "Working out regularly helps me feel strong and powerful. It makes me feel capable and accomplished in a way that almost nothing else in my life has ever affected me."

    Thanks for a great blog! - 4/10/2013   2:22:30 PM
  • 164
    Exercise is the key to many things and happiness is definitely one of those things. If anyone is interested in finding more about the research that Nicole mentioned you should read 'Spark' The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey, MD It's a real eye-opener of just what exercise can do for us. - 4/10/2013   1:46:05 PM
    Great article. I am in the minority...I never want to be thin or smaller than a size 10. Exercise, however, is a serious confidence booster. I like watching my fitness levels increase and I love the extra energy I get. I don't like being a slave to the scale and having that number control me. - 4/10/2013   1:45:00 PM
  • 162
    Great blog! I have written similar blogs, I think. LOL I know some people had a really hard time believing that I was happy when I was 260lbs. I was. Truly. Why? Because I knew that I could be 113lbs and hate myself, so what was the point of tying my happiness to my size? No point. And when I made those connections I was able to start changing things in my life. You can be happy at any size. Just like you can be miserable at any size. It is your choice. - 4/10/2013   1:35:28 PM
  • 161
    I really related to this article. I also lost too much weight a few years back, was so pleased with the attention it brought. However, that weight loss did not change other factors in my life. I have regained plus and am now working on going back down to a SENSIBLE weight. - 4/10/2013   1:11:59 PM
  • 160
    I think a key point Coach Nicole made was "not feeling good enough". I struggle with that and often feel that I have failed if I have not accomplished something tangible that others will recognize. Weight is measurable at any given point - and weight loss/being thin is rewarded in our society. That said, her other key point is to find SOMETHING ELSE to measure. Whether it's how far you can run or walk, how much strength you've gained, or how much better you feel there are other equally-valid measures of health. I think we get caught up in shame, anxiety, and the perceptions of others. We see "perfect" people on magazine covers and weight loss contests on TV (or in our own workplaces) and feel like we have to accomplish something monumental to make up for the way we've neglected our health....and then set ourselves up for failure when we don't meet our unrealistic expectations. I've learned through 5 years of being a Sparkmember that EVERY LITTLE STEP adds up! 10 minutes of exercise IS better than 0. One decision to make dinner at home instead of hitting the fast food joint HAS made a difference. Walking instead of running so that I don't get shin splints allows me to do it again the next day. Don't give up on yourself! You're worth it!!! - 4/10/2013   12:33:49 PM
  • 159
    I agree. When I workout it provides me with such a positive outlook on things and I tend to eat better and take better care of myself. I want to be slender but I know that will come with healthier decisions. - 4/10/2013   12:33:00 PM
  • 158
    That is a great way to think about it. Working out does make me happier thusly i take better care of myself. - 2/16/2013   5:28:36 PM
    I completely agree with Coach Nicole. When I was at my thinnest, I still thought I was fat. Now I'm between 15 and 20 pounds heavier than that and I feel fantastic. My relationship with my body changed. It's not about the number for me - it's about how I feel about myself.
    - 11/30/2012   10:09:52 AM
  • 156
    Well said! I think what is empowering is realizing all that you are capable of. Weigh loss is definitely a perk for me! - 11/22/2012   11:49:57 AM
  • 155
    yep, understand exactly what you mean. My body image sucks big time and when I look in the mirror I really don't like myself :o), however, when I am able to walk longer, exercise longer or clothes are looser I suddenly enjoy my body. I really need to work on lovely myself no matter what :o)

    Although, my partner did say the best comment in the world today he said no matter what weight, colour or even if im wearing a bin bag he will love me just the way I am. It almost brought me to tears :o) I think that if you have love ones or even good friends in your darkest days just talk to them and you will feel better. - 6/7/2012   4:46:13 PM

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