Posted by: Hil | September 5, 2008

Self-Acceptance

This blog is primarily about food, but nothing destroys a healthy relationship with food like an overly critical attitude toward your own body.  So today, I feel the need to address certain issues regarding body image and self-acceptance.  Today I had an exchange with a commenter on KERF that I wanted to repost here.  Here is the relevant part of the original comment:

I’ve always been a relatively petite person and thought I was a fine weight. About 5 months ago, however, due to a combination of exercise, eating right, and STRESS, I lost about 13 pounds. When I looked back at pictures of myself 13 pounds heavier, I thought – wow, i looked heavy and no one told me! Now the stress has subsided, and I’ve gained back about 4 pounds. I’m trying to just eat healthy, not obsessively, and exercise and see what happens, but the scale isn’t budging. Should I just accept that I’m at my body’s “happy weight” now? Just keep trucking along and see what happens and if the scale stays put, practice some serious acceptance?  How do all of you decide/know what your “happy weight” is?

My response:

I think it’s a good rule of thumb to say that if you have to obsess, restrict, or be miserable/stressed to maintain a certain weight, it is not your happy weight. This is all pretty subjective, but I define a happy weight as one where you feel good in your skin, you know that you are taking care of your body, and where you can maintain your weight within a small range without feeling guilty or deprived. I think you are doing the right thing.  Just keep taking care of yourself and see where you end up.  If you feel good and are healthy and happy, that is all that matters.

And practicing self-acceptance is a good idea under any circumstances, whether you are losing, gaining or in maintenance. It helped me to practice looking at old photos from when I was heavier without judging them. Rather than saying “Oh, look how heavy I was!” (my first reaction) I practiced saying “Look how happy I was in that picture. That was such a wonderful trip.” Believe me, it’s nice to be able to look at photos of fun times without being focused on your weight.

Although I didn’t explicitly make this tie-in in my comment, I honestly think that you need to practice self-acceptance before any weight will ever seem happy or comfortable to you.  If you constantly judge yourself based on arbitrary ideas of how you should look rather than listening to how your body feels, you can lose all the weight you want: it will never be enough.  I only started losing weight in earnest when I made it a personal project to be able to look at mirrors and pictures without flinching or experiencng knee-jerk negative reactions.  I don’t think that I would have felt any better after losing that weight if I hadn’t learned to accept my basic appearance and body type.

As I said in the comment, one of the things that was incredibly helpful for me was to force myself to look at pictures I had been hiding from.  In May 2007, I was faced with two batches of photos that deeply distressed me:  one from my bridal shower and one from a vacation I took with friends.  My gut reaction was a panicked “That can’t be right–do I really look like that?”  Both of those events were absolutely wonderful memories, yet it was months before I could stand to look at them for a second time.  Pulling out those photos was one of the best things I ever could have done for myself, because doing so destroyed their power over me.  Looking at them for a second and third time, I realized that I have a really great smile when I’m happy, and I was really happy in all of those pictures.  I don’t feel ashamed when I look at those pictures anymore.  I feel happy and nostalgic. 

My Shower/Picnic

Me and Jersey Girl

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Group shot with friends, including Jersey Girl and the Roommate.  The Roommate planned the whole thing.

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My wonderful friends flew up Blueberry Sis and Blueberry Mom as a special surprise.

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Vacation with friends

Me with Jersey Girl and the Lemonator.  (The recipe for what we are eating will be forthcoming…Jersey Girl calls it Amazing Berry Goodness.)

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Me and the Lemonator.  The air in our vacation locale did wonders for my hair.

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At this point, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit how much these pictures used to upset me.  Yes, I feel better at my current weight, but with all of the things that there are in life to feel upset about, I was feeling upset about these?  Pictures of a glowing, soon-to-be-married me having the time of my life with my friends and fiance?  Really? 

To bring this back to food, I promise that fear of what you look like (or will look like) is the world’s fastest way to spoil a meal.  Meals and life are worth enjoying.  So please, be kind to yourself and others.  Even in pictures.

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Responses

  1. Hi! I have been following your blog for a bit and have never commented before! I really do have to tell you that I really do appreciate and admire all of your posts. You are honest and very real in your approach/attitude towards food, body image, and so on. You have become a great example and role model for me. Thank you so much for that!
    alicia

  2. What a wonderful post – it’s DEFINITELY critical to accept yourself before trying to change yourself; and to LOVE yourself!

  3. This is such a wonderful post and you hit many different ideas/thoughts that i think many of us have on the nose. i know i have gone through phases like that, where i couldn’t look at pictures and see how happy i was, but after time and finding a new way of thinking…i’ve gotten better at it!

    kudos babe! and you look so smiley and beautiful in your pictures!

  4. What a powerful post, Hil. Thank you for being willing to share such personal and lovely photos with us. I’m glad you are no longer ashamed because you really do look so beautiful and happy in them.

    I also completely agree with what you said. Sometimes I feel as though self-acceptance is a lifelong “work in progress,” but I do believe it’s possible to get to a point where you are truly happy with yourself — and what a wonderful feeling that is. Thanks so much!

  5. This is a gorgeous post. I mean it. Thanks for sharing the pictures, your initial feelings about them and how you came to appreciate your inner happiness shining through in each photo. What is more beautiful than that?

    Self acceptance is hard. I think I am doing well, and then I do something, like see a “bad picture” and feel bad about myself and then feel worse because I feel bad about myself. Ya know when you feel like, “I should really be beyond feeling bad about my body.”

    Thanks for keeping it in perspective.

    Heather

  6. completely linking this post in my blog today. thank you!

  7. […] read this post from blueberryhil which somewhat made my […]

  8. Awesome post!

  9. Thank you so much to everyone for all of your kind words and support. The supportive atmosphere around here is one of the big reasons that I am able to work up the courage to publish posts like this. Knowing what a wonderful group of readers I have makes it much easier to be real and honest in my posts, and I thank you for that.

  10. Hil- what an amazing post. I spend half my life not accepting myself/my looks and it has done nothing but harm me. Thank you for reminding us that ruining your life because of what the scale says just isn’t worth it.

    You are the best!

  11. […] learned to listen to my body’s signals of hunger and satiety.  Most importantly, I began the hard task of learning to accept myself as I was.  And the weight started to come off…about 2 or 3 pounds every […]


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