Self Love After Weight Gain: How To Change Your Mindset, Not Your Dress Size
Self love after weight gain is tough, it requires a deep mindset shift and today I am sharing four mindset shifts that I hope will inspire you to learn to show yourself love no matter what. We are more than half way through February, the month after January otherwise known as Diet-uary. Uhhhmmm, did I just make that up, yes, yes I did. But you know how it goes, January is the month where many attempt to start new healthy habits, diet and of course lose weight. The obsession with weight loss is so real which is why the weight loss industry is a billion dollar business. They work because they prey on your emotions, your fears and society's unbelievable and unattainable standards of beauty. If January is national diet month, then February is love month, with Valentine's Day and all. But, what if instead of focusing all our love on things, we turned that inwards and focused on self love. Learning how to show yourself love after weight gain is one of the hardest but most rewarding things I learned how to do. I want to share some mindset shifts that really made self love after weight gain possible.
At 34 years old, I can finally say I know how to love myself and I do. But it took me a really long time to get here. Nothing happened overnight and it was a longggg journey full of all kinds of twists and turns that finally got me to where I am now. So I also am well aware of how hard it is to accept and love yourself as is, never mind self love after weight gain.
What Weight Gain Meant to Me:
I have previously struggled with disordered eating and orthorexia. How I perceived my body and in turn how I treated myself were inextricably tied to each other. If I gained weight, I punished myself by restricting my food intake, followed of course by subsequent bingeing. If I lost weight, I got an immediate "high" and felt on top of the world. The thing is, that feeling never lasted very long. That is exactly what dieting for so many years did to me. It made me feel inadequate in every way possible, I was never smart enough, pretty enough or skinny enough. I focused solely on my appearance and thought, if I could just get down to XXX weight, I would feel better about myself, I would love myself. But then I did get to this goal weight and nothing happened. For a fleeting moment I felt happy, but it was all superficial, in fact I really didn't know myself at all. I certainly didn't know a thing about self love, never mind self love after weight gain. You can read more about why I don't promote weight loss as a health goal over here.
Self Love After Weight Gain: Changing my Mindset
So how did I get here? It took a lot of mindset shifts and that shit is HARD AF. Sorry, but this isn't called personal development for nothing. How long does it take to develop anything of significant worth and reward? I mean, some of the best cheeses (and wines) take a long ass time, soooo.... why would you expect you to be any different?!
I know what it feels like to jump on the scale in the morning to see that number come down 1/2 to 1 pound and get that high. I know what it feels like to restrict foods because you fear they are making you fat. I also know what it feels like to feel so out of control around food that you end up bingeing on chocolate cake in the middle of the night with the lights off.
But I also know what it is like to leave weight off the table altogether and embrace my body and its changes. When you learn to let go of the weight and it's hold on you, or stop chasing after the next perfect diet, weight loss pill or supplement you create space for something else. That something else is self love, self care and self respect, and ultimately self love after weight gain doesn't seem so hard. Your thoughts are no longer preoccupied with how you look all the time and you can learn to accept your body as it is, yes even if you gained weight.
Becoming an intuitive eater and teaching other women how to do the same has been truly game changing. Learning to have a neutral relationship to food and realizing that food is just food and leaving it at that has been at the very forefront of my relationship to myself. Letting go of the "good" and "bad" labels on food has been super important as well.
Self Love After Weight Gain is Possible with these Four mindset shifts
Here are four powerful mindset shifts that really helped me discover self love after weight gain, while embracing intuitive eating.
Say Goodbye to That Which Doesn't Serve You:
Whether this is friends, family or anyone else, sometimes letting go is the best thing you can do for you. It doesn't have to be a person either, it can be a thing- a job, a relationship (of any kind), self limiting beliefs and doubts or anything else. If it doesn't light you up inside or makes you feel less than, it could be time to say goodbye. For me, I had to unfollow some accounts on social media as they were not in line with my own beliefs and values. When I spend my time scrolling through Instagram, I want to feel inspired in some way and if I am left feeling less than in some way, then it's time to say goodbye. Social media can be a tool to connect with people, I have met some amazing friends online, but it can also lead to a sense of unworthiness and inferiority. If you find that you are starting to feel that way, take a break online (social media detoxes are very rewarding!) or just unfollow people that don't serve your best interests. It is not selfish to practice this, this is a form of self care.
Bye Bye "skinny" jeans:
Are you holding onto a pair of clothing that used to fit? I did this for SO LONG!! And you know what, it never made me feel better about myself, instead it left me feeling sad, anxious, depressed and ugly. It did not make self love after weight gain possible, because it held me back, as it was not motivating to have these items lying around. You deserve to be and feel comfortable in your skin and in your clothing. When I gained some weight after letting go of restriction and embracing intuitive eating, I felt uncomfortable at first. Things didn't fit, but rather than going shopping for new clothes, I still tried to squeeze myself in my old jeans. It was not fun and most important- I was not honouring my body. So after a few weeks of wearing nothing but leggings (because that was all that fit me), I went out and bought a few new pieces of clothing. I picked out and wore what was comfortable to me in that moment and made me feel good. Wearing things that are too tight are not going to make you feel good, trust me! It is a much better idea to buy something new that makes you feel good than suffer in too tight and uncomfortable clothing.
Prioritize Your Health, Not Your Weight:
This is primarily what the Health At Every Size (HAES) movement is all about. It is prioritizing your health over your weight or your appearance. Your health is so much more than just the food you eat, it is also a lot about what you are thinking. Your thoughts throughout the day impact your health in a very important way and shape how you see yourself and the world. Rather than thinking about exercise as a form of punishment, I started viewing it as a form of pleasure. I no longer exercised to "work off" the food I ate, but rather because of how strong it made me feel. When I embarked on my 30-day yoga challenge, I learned a lot about what I like and don't like and chose to embrace the word movement over exercise because it helped me remember why I move my body. If I was doing it solely just to lose weight, it wouldn't have lasted very long and I am happy to say that I am still practicing moving my body (through yoga and Pilates) weekly. When you learn to take the weight out of something and focus instead on your overall health and prioritizing self care, you will notice a difference mind, body and soul. Identifying what is important for your health is a big part of learning self love after weight gain. Read more about weight loss and intuitive eating over here!
Don't Engage in Diet Talk:
This is one of the harder things to do in our culture and once you're more aware of how pervasive diet culture is, you'll start to notice how much diet talk exists in everyday life. As women, we are especially prone to negative self talk and body bashing and for some strange reason, we like to talk about it with other women a lot of the time. Misery loves company, I guess? The best advice I have and one of the biggest shifts I made was to not engage in the body comparison/bashing and diet talk anymore. Yes, sometimes, I still find myself occasionally getting sucked in, but the key thing is I am aware of it. That awareness allows me a moment of clarity and to rephrase what I am saying into something more positive. When I am out with friends or talking to others (co-workers for example) and diet talk gets brought in. I simply don't engage in it. Occasionally I will try and steer the conversation to something else or offer up an alternative viewpoint, but for the most part I don't engage. My hope is that by not engaging in it, I can help shut down the notion that we are only as good as our appearances. I also plan on doing more in-person workshops, panel discussions and speaking engagements to really help spread the word about self love and ditching diets. When we all learn to share our voices and speak our truths, we can truly make a big difference. Ending the diet talk was key in learning about self love after weight gain and helped me re-think how I viewed my body.
Final Thoughts + Body Positivity
With all of that being said, I know how hard it is (for women especially) to look in the mirror and hate what they see. I know how hard it is to get discouraged along the way. Weight gain may represent the process but not the destination. Or maybe it is the destination and that is what your natural weight is supposed to be. Fighting your body along the way is not the answer though.
I also recognize how easy I had it in comparison to others. That is the very definition of thin privilege and I get that my body type is still in the "ideal" category that society deems acceptable. That doesn't mean that my struggle wasn't any less real than anyone else's, but I do understand that many others have a far different experience with their weight, weight gain and their physical appearance. I cannot speak for them and don't want to try, I can only share my own experience and also keep sharing others as well. I get that the body positivity movement was not created for thin white women with a little roll on their tummies to feel empowered for sharing their story or a picture. But at the same time, that is their story and their truth and I think that should also be respected. There is space for all of us at the table and when we share our stories and connect with each other in meaningful ways we are showing our support. Rather than bicker back and forth about who body positivity is meant for, lets instead listen with compassion and join together to share the same message.
That wraps up this post all about self love after weight gain or just how to love yourself no matter what life throws at you. The weight is never the issue to me, it is always deeper than that. Health looks different on everyone and to try and pigeon-hole what it means to be healthy as one thing is not the way to go.
I would love to continue this conversation in the comments, so share with me what resonated with you the most and what can you do to show yourself a little more self love regardless of weight gain?