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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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. Report
Exercise is the best part of my day! Report
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. Report
What a great article.....thank you for sharing. It matches my feelings. Report
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. Report
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). Report
Your accomplishments make your self esteem sky rocket, you stand taller with confidence and you just feel good Report
I needed to read this today. Was feeling pretty down but now I feel encouraged to just keep moving Report
This is definitely what I needed to read today. Thanks for the great blog. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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 .

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. Report
This inspires me to exercise right now. Great blog. Report
I find that exercise plays a big role in my self confidence as well. Thanks for the great blog! Report
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. Report
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. Report
The scale matters to me. The slimmer I am again, the less fat I have to haul around when I exercise. LOL Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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!!! Report
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. Report
That is a great way to think about it. Working out does make me happier thusly i take better care of myself. Report
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.
Well said! I think what is empowering is realizing all that you are capable of. Weigh loss is definitely a perk for me! Report
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. Report
Thanks Nicole, I think it boils down to this: you need to like yourself and be proud of the good things you've done for your body as well as for the world. We can't feel better for long because others tell us we look good, or we're so kind... we have to feel good about ourselves. Report
Thanks for your insightful comments. I really appreciate them. You speak the truth. Report
Thank you Coach Nicole for the reminder. For those who disagree, I think you may be missing the point. Coach isn't saying that if you exercise, you won't struggle with self-worth; what she is saying is that when you battle it out and succeed, you will gain some confidence from just doing it and that will result in further motivation. I have been working on losing some poundage for a while and had to take a break for a while because of gall bladder surgery, but what got me moving again is that fact that when I am exercising, I can handle whatever weight I am currently knowing that it will change soon! I haven't seen a lot on the scales, but that's ok because I am confident that will some little changes, I can acheive that last bit of toning I have left! If you struggle with confidence, find a friend to work out with or to meet with weekly for accountability and encouragement! That is helping me greatly! Report
One more thing .......
Sometimes those scales do not reveal the 'real story.' Perhaps how the clothes are fitting lets us know ......... Every time I do weight resistance of any kind, the scales reflect the next day w/ an extra pound. I know I did not gain a lb. of fat: is is bulked up muscle ........... and muscles are our friends: they burn fat and so much more. (I take those scales w/ a grain of salt) ........... :) Report
Each person has something 'valuable' to say. For me, I am 65 y/o now, have recently shed 17 pounds, lost several inches and dropped 2 sizes. It is no longer a matter of 'pride' as in my youth. Now it is absolute necessity to reach goal (5-6# away) ......... I made one of my health goals to lower high cholesterol, have dropped my blood pressure into an 'ideal' healthy range, and do not have knee pain any longer due to the excess pounds. I love myself enough to exercise, and do strength training, and keep the calories in the boundaries they need to be. I became MORE than tired of the excess pounds, and aches and pains. Besides looking and feeling good, two Doctors I have seen commented on myself looking 'years younger' than what the calendar says. I have a lot to say about my health. I want optimum. It's great. Report
Thanks for sharing. This was a very motivational blog . Exercise makes me feel good about myself. Thanks again for your motivation.... Report
I found that what I put in my mind was just as important as what I put in my body. When I started paying attention to both, I made some real changes. The Bible was a huge help (for me) but limiting TV, Radio & magazines helped a lot as well. We all know they're pretty negative, but probably don't realize how much until you stop it. I'm not a comfort eater, but I do eat out of boredom. I have a stressful job & my biggest challenge it doing something after work when I just want to veg out. I pray before I stretch (some people do other forms of meditation). God thinks I'm wonderful just the way I I'm trying to accept The Almighty God's opinion of me rather than my own - ha ha. I'm finally doing something positive. I've never worked out before in my life. I was thin, in fact underweight, for a large part of my life. I'm beginning to think that makes working out more challenging because it was never a part of my life before. I felt really intimidated. I tried a few different routines & so far I like P90 best (not P90x). It's for beginners & I feel it's something I can handle & hopefully stick to. I definitely feel stronger. About 3 years ago I started getting adult cyst acne. Never had an acne problem before. I figured it was hormonal.Now, I'm seeing improvements in my skin & I'm thinking it's the exercise and the fact that I'm getting better about drinking water. We'll see... Report
Great blog I do beleivethe secret to success is loving ones self I went through the same thing I wasn't ready or able to lose weight until I was happy & confidence with me at my heaviest weight i don't think I will ever see that super skinny person again but I'm happy with me now Report
I just wanted you to know that this blog inspired me to write one. Thanks for helping me open my eyes to some changes I hadn't paid attention to. Report
I do think that for many people, they think that when they lose weight they'll be a happier person with better self-esteem but I think that's a lie that we all buy into. I think that lie is partially promoted with our thin-obsessed culture but we ourselves, the individual, are also partially to blame. We put too much of our self-worth on our appearance. I know that I will be happier when I do finally shed these last couple of pounds, am no longer in the overweight category, return to my happy weight, and can fit into my old clothes again. But my overall level of happiness will not change. I do feel great now but that's because I'm exercising regularly. I feel good because I'm feeling fitter than I ever have been before. And when I'm overweight, and I don't feel so great about myself, it's usually because I know I've lost that feeling of "fitness" and I'm lethargic from not exercising regularly anymore. But in the end, MY self-esteem isn't tied to how skinny or fat I am or what size I can wear. I have a friend who is at the skinniest she has ever been and her self-esteem is still as low as it ever was. Skinny doesn't give you self-esteem but learning to love yourself does. Report
I appreciate reading your thoughts because lately I have been obsessed with the scale and it is frustrating and bringing me down because it is not moving. I to agree that exercise improves your attitude. I am envious of those people who feel good about themselves no matter their size. I do not have that confidence at this time and need to get back on a regular exercise routine. Thanks for motivating me!! Report
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