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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