The Secret to Loving Your Body Isn't Losing Weight

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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SPARKLINGME176 10/9/2018
Exercise is my form of PLAYING!!!! I LOVE it & keep it varied, ALWAYS! Report
KHALIA2 9/7/2018
Great article, Coach Nicole! Report
DEE107 8/28/2018
thank for sharing Report
DWROBERGE 8/27/2018
Well said Report
TCOMETTE 8/4/2018
Absolutely agree. If you're not happy with yourself, you are unknowingly sabotaging your weight loss efforts. Report
PAULA3420 6/30/2018
Exercise has and DOES help me feel better about myself. As I become stronger and able to do things that have been out of reach, I find myself feeling a sense of accomplishment and a renewed spirit for my future. GREAT ARTICLE!! Report
I love my body. It takes me where I want to go and do what I want to do. Report
ANNKETCH 5/27/2018
I agree with the blog......but I find it SO difficult!! :( Report
NANAW12001 5/27/2018
Thanks. Very informative. Report
JEWELZEE- 5/27/2018
Totally agree. Thanks for the reminder! Report
JANET552 5/26/2018
I definitely agree. Report
PAMBROWN62 5/26/2018
I feel that if I don’t love myself now, there is very little chance that being at a smaller weight will make any difference. I love how much healthier and stronger I am getting but my weight does not now, and never did, determine my self worth. Report
JANIEWWJD 5/26/2018
I totally agreej!!! Report
CHRIS3874 5/26/2018
For me its sort of I can see both sides of the argument as I am not totally convinced being "thin" again would solve all my problems and I would be "happy" on the other hand I think that poor self esteem, bad influences and stress and not enough ME time (at least devoted to fitness) as an adult did NOT help me stay thin. Its very intertwined for me. Report
Great article. I know when I exercise I feel better and happier. Report
ALUKOWSKY 10/26/2017
"The secret to loving your body isn't losing weight." Um, well yes it IS, at least for me. And I can say that the effects of the weight loss have been far-reaching throughout ALL parts of my life. It makes me feel younger and more attractive...which in turn has made me feel more confident... so that I am more outgoing, resulting in more positive social interactions...which make me I have more enthusiasm for life...which gives me energy to tackle I get more I feel more successful......You get the picture; it's a ripple effect.

And it's ALL because something happened this past spring that motivated me to LOSE WEIGHT. Report
Thanks for this! Report
Thank you for the reminder. It is comforting to know that many of us go through the same thing! Report
Good info! Report
Self-love IS crucial to making progress. Report
I have always loved exercise, but there were times I was laid up due to multiple surgeries and disease flare ups. Then it became frustrating and I hated the body that was constantly betraying me and giving me so much pain and suffering, right from the age of 6.5! I wish I had known about meditation back then. The way to body love at any weight is to treat yourself like you would your best friend. In other words lovingly take care of yourself until it becomes true. This means good nutrition, exercise and release of stress however that takes form.. Report
Excellent article. Some of the comments! Report
My friend lost a lot of weight and started getting attention when we went out dancing. All those guys complimented her on her new body. there was one guy though that had admired and liked her before she lost weight. I told her she should give him a chance and they have been married for over 30 years. Her weight has fluctuated throughout their marriage and he loved her just the same. I have been lucky to find a guy like that too. i have been every size from 14 to 22 and my husband is my biggest fan. Having a man like that can really make the difference in loving yourself. I might not be happy with my weight now, I am working on my plan and I will lose weight. My husband will be happy for me but it doesn't matter to him what size I wear. Report
I've never had issues with disliking/hating my body. I understand the point of the article and exercise definitely helps me in all areas of my life - spiritually, physically, emotionally. I just have trouble trying to address the effects of exercise in terms of just body or whatever - it's a whole package for me. Report
Exercise does release endorphins and make you feel happier. But I feel that living your purpose is more important. Since you teach fitness, fitness feels like living your purpose to you. For me, my purpose is to be love. I can be that at any weight, since it is a quality of the soul, not the body. However, I want to love this body and take care of it so that I can be of service, and embody love in action. I am glad you found a way to your best body and to live your purpose. Everyone's purpose is different.

I don't think exercise alone is the trick, but it certainly doesn't hurt! I love knowing that I can move and push myself a bit further each time. But I also get a good feeling from eating well and - here's a phrase I learned from one of my favorite books - dressing like I love myself. Basically, I take care of me. If I don't, who will? Report
As a 64-year-old woman, I see this as women finally coming to equality with men. We can now see that just looking good (like it was when I was young) isn't enough to bring you out of the shadow. Strength and brains are more important. Unfortunately, women usually have to look good while having the strength and the brains but that is starting to fade too, but why do we still earn less than men most of the time? Report
Yes. Exercise builds my confidence and m Report
No, exercise does not, repeat NOT, give me confidence and make me feel good about my body! It's ridiculous to even assume that. I'm 66 years old, have back problems, and look like I'm 6-8 months pregnant. (And I've never been pregnant!) So I'm supposed to feel good about my body. Are you out of your mind!!!!!! Report
When I see picture of when I was heaviest, I want to cry. I still have a long way to go, but I feel a sense of accomplishment. As an older member, with limited movement, I am grateful for every pound I leave behind. And Nicole, you look great! Report
Great article. Report
I don't totally agree with this. Thin doesn't make you happy, taking control makes you happy. Being happy with yourself makes you happy, HENCE, getting HEALTHY makes you happy. The exercise component also does a lot for happiness.

Spark on. Report
Exercise definitely makes me feel better in all ways: it increases my energy, I love the way my body moves, the tone, the way my clothes fit. When I decided to lose weight this last time (and it will be the last) I wasn't under the impression that I'd be happier, rather I knew it would improve my overall health. Report
This hits home with me in so many ways. I have become so obsessed with losing weight, and I am in a rut at the moment, that I get frustrated and depressed because I'm not seeing results or I won't participate in an activity because there is going to be high-calorie foods involved. I miss out on enjoying life in some ways because of my obsession. I do work out regularly and I do know about the "runner's nod," and it does create a sense of belonging and of accomplishment. Thanks for sharing! Report
I'm prone to the societal messages that say thin is better, but I've fought them. Yet I have to admit it's easier to be pleased by the mirror after having lost weight. I do agree that when I'm exercising regularly, I tend to feel more peppy and feisty in my body. And eating moderately and sometimes lightly can have the same effect. This was true when I weighed 40 lbs. more, too. Report
I never really hated my body when it was fat; my body was my body. And now that I'm thin I don't necessarily love my body. My body has always been good to me. I will say that now that I regularly exercise I love what my body can do; it can workout hard, it is stronger and more flexible. And yes, I love the comments I get at the gym. Report
Both. I feel good when I exercise, but I still know where the scale should be. Im about 6 lbs off. Report
At age 69, remarkably, this article really is true!! When I was younger, I would not have believed it, though. Report
Thank you for sharing this. It is a wonderful article. I do agree. I'm working away at my weight but when I run, I'm empowered and feel as if I'm tiny:-) Report
Working on the "self-talk" in your head really helped me. I used methods to stop negative thoughts, like "you're fat and ugly," "you're a loser and no one loves you." I replaced these thoughts with positive comments I'd had from friends and family, gradually eliminating the negative self-talk and replacing it with positive. I also thanked my body for the many wonderful things it had accomplished, bearing, birthing and nourishing 4 beautiful babies, getting me through a work day, workout, whatever. And SMILE! Report
You nailed it. Thanks for this blog. I agree with you, and also realize that I am so much better with exercise, no matter what my capabilities are. Report
As I got older I came to grips with my body and started loving it - or at least not hating it. It was my body and it carried me through life. So what if I was heavy? My body was my body. When I lost weight and started to exercise I started to really love my body. Love how I feel after a good workout. Love getting stronger and more flexible. Love how I look in skinny jeans. Report
I've lost well over 80 pounds and I am definitely still the same person, but that person is a confident and happy wife and mom with a great career and an active social life. That hasn't changed, but I do feel better. I believe my opinions are given more credibility (I'm in healthcare), that I'm better respected and that I'm no longer subject to "fat discrimination", which I realize in retrospect was probably happening on occasion.
For me, one of the biggest advantages of my workout is the sense of accomplishment I have before I've even had my morning shower. I start my day feeling strong and knowing I can get things done. Report
I agree with the comments here mostly. Looking at a number on the scale only gets you down. I know it makes me depressed every time I get weighed at the doctors. I know I am not the weight they say I am. I know because I fit into smaller clothes now. I know because other people say it about me. I know it because at my heaviest I could not run very far. It gives me a boost when I can do kick boxing or Turbo Jam and pretend I am kicking away someone. It is empowering. I admit I have sloughed off here on exercise and have to get back on track. My last point is that exercising takes your mind off of you or your problems for a while and gives you more energy. Report
I agree with the idea of feeling better when you are fit, but I still get depressed not being able to fit in my clothes from when I was thinner. When I exercise a lot my muscles get bigger which makes it less likely that my clothes will fit. I try very hard to not criticize my image when I look in the mirror. I don't know how to stop the negative attitude and self talk in regards to my body image. Report
Wow nice post like it and really will consider the information also... Report
I thought this too, but I have discovered that even after a 95 lb loss that I still struggle with the same emotions. Report
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? Report
Really true. Thanks for writing this. Exercise is the ultimate confidence and mood booster. Good reminder for me today. Report
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. Report