Making peace with your body is an essential element on the path to breaking out of the dieting cycle. When we practice body acceptance we can begin to let go of the backlog of shame, fatphobia, and willingness to do unhealthy things in pursuit of losing weight. But body acceptance is challenging for those who have long pursued weight loss.
I’m often asked if accepting your body means giving up on the desire to lose weight. It’s a question that I struggle with myself, as do other professionals in eating and body work.
On the one hand we know that regardless of how much we desire it, healthy long-term maintenance of weight loss is not attainable by many people. This is why intuitive, attuned eating focuses on habits rather than weight loss. When you’re back in touch with your natural appetite, and not responding to deprivation and restriction, you may or may not lose weight.
Intuitive eating challenges us to not attempt intentional weight loss even if we would welcome any that occurs. The idea is that it’s better to have healthy habits and stable weight, whatever that weight is, than unhealthy habits and weight cycling. It follows logically that it’s necessary to accept your body and weight as they are without any need for change.
On the other hand, with all the prejudice, phobia, and pain in the world around fatness, it is only reasonable to want to lose weight. It’s sadly the exception rather than the norm for any woman to be happy with her body size as it is. Even world recognized healers such as Mary O’Malley experience self-hate at times over minimal weight gain.
And despite the health danger of weight being overblown, there remain some legitimate health issues where weight loss could help.
That’s why I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s normal to want to lose weight while at the same time acknowledging that it may not be possible in a healthy way. The duality of this both/and can help us accept what we can’t change while still acknowledging the truth of our desires.
Acceptance doesn’t have to mean that we don’t wish change. After all we can accept that two year old children throw tantrums and at the same time wish they didn’t and hope they will soon change. This way of thinking opens the door to work on both ends – increasing acceptance of what is while challenging the desire for change.
Acceptance also means that we start where we are even if where we are is further toward desiring change than accepting what is. Over time, the more we move away from our attachment to change the more we will move toward accepting ourselves the way we are.
Whether you give up the desire to lose weight or not, nothing changes the reality. Diets still don’t work. Weight loss that can be maintained in a healthy way will only be achieved by following our inner wisdom rather than the external rules of a diet.
Regardless of whether you want to lose weight, want to accept your weight and body as is, or want both, all you can do is pursue healthy habits and trust your body to find the healthiest weight for you.
I’d love to discuss this issue or any other eating or body issue with you. To get on my schedule for an informal talk with no agenda other than understanding your struggles and helping you get unstuck click here. If you need other times, use the contact form linked below.
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This week I’m reading Beyond a Shadow of a Diet, 2nd edition, by Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel. This is a guide for treatment professionals, but is also a comprehensive resource for anyone with deep questions about the non-dieting approach. Matz and Frankel are also the authors of The Diet Survivor’s Handbook – 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance, and Self-Care, which is an excellent resource for everyone.
For more resources, check out our Resources page.