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  • Elaine Denton

The key to losing 'weight'- self acceptance?

Want to lose 'weight'? Stuck in a cycle of 'weight loss' where you achieve and regain? Or want to lose bodyfat and get healthy but not sure where to start?

First of all, let me add here that I use the word 'weight' as that what everyone associates with wanting to lose. It's actually fat you want to lose and muscle you want to gain, so weight becomes irrelevant. It's actually inches that matter.

So, back on track. Its. a. fucking. minefield!!! Where do you start? What should you eat? What about exercise? Here's some advice and a few of my personal recommendations that I have for all of you stuck in the self hatred cycle.

I've been where you might be right now. For me, it actually started through obsessive 'dieting'. I always felt ok with my body. I was a fitness instructor, a good one at that. All I wanted was for people to have a great experience in my classes. I didn't care that I wasn't a size 8 with rippling abs. And then I was recommended a 'Cleanse' to help me sort out my health issues (gut health mainly). I signed up. The box arrived. there was a tape measure and a log book to help me record me inch loss an food intake. Cut to 9 days later, 1/2 stone lighter. Participants started to comment on my abs. I started to link my ability to keep people fit to the size I presented them with. I. was. hooked! What I didn't realise then that I had always been an emotional eater, and this was just another way of controlling emotion, and living off people liking 'me'. At my lowest I was a size 6, at 5ft 8 with a curvy frame I was way too slim. A few people asked if I was 'ok'. But alarmingly, even though I looked ill, people, mainly women still wanted to know how I did it. I remember being in a work meeting and a guy mentioned I had lost a lot of weight, and was concerned. A female responded 'I think you look great- you can never be too thin'. SERIOUSLY. 

Long story short, my self hatred issues built back up as I slipped off the '2 shakes and a meal plan with regular 'cleanses' in between. I not only gained weight (muscle and fat), but I gained more. My body was starving and unloved. Which emotionally was exactly how I felt! I used food to find emotional fullness. 2 years ago I reached my peak of unhappiness mentally- which appeared in the physical...which is usually how it works. My day job had taken over my life, I had stopped teaching classes and Personal Training and felt so far removed from an industry I got into to help people. I was still unloved because I hated myself.

The great thing is, I recovered and now have all this insight to share with you! To have a healthy body you need a healthy relationship with it. You've got to sort your head out before you sort your body out, otherwise you will continue to go through the cycles of punishment/ reward/ regain. Your brain likes dopamine. Its a reward mechanism gained through many things, but can lead to addiction/ obsessive behaviours. You get hooked on the dopamine response in the absence of being hooked on liking yourself. Does the following sound familiar?

''Hate myself. Overweight. Need to get fit and go on a diet. Hate doing both. Check Instagram to reinforce how much better everyone else is. Start a diet and go to the gym to lose weight because I am so disgusting. People tell me how well I look. I get a few more likes on my social media posts. The scales are going in the right direction. Go Me! I can do this! Scales stop. Feel like a failure. Stop dieting and going to the gym. Check Instagram and everyone looks better than me. Hate myself''

The dopamine response here is the 'likes' you get for losing 'weight', the scale figure reducing and the 'overeating' to fill the void of being disliked (by yourself primarily). You cannot lose fat and magically love yourself. You might love your body but there was a reason you overate in the first place. A reason you didn't exercise. If you don't address that, your old habits will come back. Or you get addicted to dieting, the scales, your appearance and exercise and the second you can't do any of it you hit a block as you can't get your fix. You immediately think that you are fat, miserable and incapable.

So. you gotta dig deep and find out why you don't like yourself and you are using food as a reward to make you feel better or as a way of using a punishment cycle (see below).

Does FOOD = REWARD = FEELING GOOD?

OR

Does DEPRIVATION = PUNISHMENT= REINFORCING HOW HORRIBLE YOU ARE= FAILURE= REINFORCING HOW HORRIBLE YOU ARE= DEPRIVATION= PUNISHMENT...

Either of these mindsets are unhealthy. I have been on the deprivation cycle (down to a very skinny size 8) come out the others side and overeaten to feel good. I was only a size 12, but very unhappy and unhealthy. I had no love for myself, no balance in my exercise and eating and it consumed me. It reflected how worthless I felt inside.I have been a PT and Instructor for 18 years. I am not immune to getting trapped in the mind. Nobody is.

How did I overcome it? I got a life coach. I accepted myself fully as I was, and understood I was not worthless because I was carrying some extra body fat. I understood that I had to be logical about the situation, but also kind. Was I living unhealthy? Yes. Did that make me a 'bad' person? No. Did it make me an unhealthy person. Yes. Is that being kind to myself? No. So what did I do to change it? I realised what was making me unhappy in life an contributed to my creating an unhealthy life:

-Stress- this is my biggest contribution to storing bodyfat. It is for most people. Yoga and meditation helped hugely. So did changing my job.

-Lack of movement- a desk job and travel meant I was sitting for long periods of time. The change means I can be more active.

-Unhealthy eating and alcohol drinking patterns- none of my eating and drinking had any meaning. I was eating and drinking mindlessly and gave zero fucks to what went in to my body. I now enjoy the moments!

-Lack of consistency with exercise- time, type and intensity. I am now consistent but work with how I feel 

-Hammering my body with exercise and using it as punishment. There wasn't joy! I found joy in Yoga, the balancer to my HIIT.

By fully accepting myself as I was, as I am, without judgement, and very slowly being kind to myself, I started to treat my body with love. I exercise daily- the type depends on how I feel, so maybe a walk, a boxing session, weights or yoga. I started to eat healthy food as it made me feel good. I eat lovely things like Feta, Halloumi, avocado...all in abundance! I have nights out (with alcohol), meals out and I finally have balance. This started when I realised I had to treat myself with TLC. This changed the choices I made.

So what know? You need to start being honest with yourself. Do some digging to find out what is really causing you to overeat and not exercise. And then find and work with a professional that UNDERSTANDS your emotional and physical needs. Make sure you ask around and meet them first, and if it doesn't feel 'right' find someone else.

I finally reached my happy stage with my body. And I got my abs back at 41. But this to me means I am healthy. It doesn't make me want to hang onto them at all costs. Life is far too short and sweet.

LYF- Love | Yourself | First 


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