The experience of weight loss can be filled with misery, and often, as a result, failure. If your journey is currently being run by feelings of fear, disgust and frustration, today I’m inviting you to try love instead.
4 ways you can inject more love into the weight loss process
1. Set loving goals
For most of us, the goal is to look a certain way. This can be based on being the weight number that we think is acceptable, according to a chart or other source, or maybe it’s a number we used to be that we thought was better than the number we currently see.
Either way, the goal is based on dislike and dissatisfaction with where we currently are.
It’s not a goal driven by love, it’s a goal driven by the current unacceptability of our bodies. It’s a goal that comes from all we lack, and a sincere hope that we will be able to overcome all of it and finally be okay or enough.
It’s often a punishment for the body we have, based on the choices we have made to this point. It’s underwritten by all the negative self-talk about our bodies, the constant criticism of how we gain or carry weight, or our inability to successfully lose weight.
All of this makes it nearly impossible to achieve our goal. In the cases where the hate and disgust work temporarily, it is completely impossible to sustain.
How can we inject some love into the setting of the goal?
We need to recognize what’s driving the goal itself.
Usually the goal and our vision for the future only consider how we want to look, and very rarely consider how we want to actually feel.
We’ve been cultured to see our bodies as things to look at and to be seen, rather than the vessels that carry us around our lives — miracles, gifts to be cherished, appreciated, and experienced.
In their amazing book, More Than a Body, Lexie and Lindsay Kite wrote: “Focusing on how you feel, and what you can do will get you so much further than simply focusing on decreasing fatness.”
Think about your goal: Is it simply a number you want to see on the scale? If the answer is yes, I want you to investigate why that is.
- What does that end number mean to you?
- What will it mean about you when you get there?
- What will you get to think and feel about you then, that you don’t think and feel now?
Notice if what comes up is appearance based. Try to expand your vision beyond the scale. How do you want to feel, be, and move around in the world in your goal body?
When I ask this, many of my clients start to list all the things they don’t want anymore, like “I don’t want to feel uncomfortable in my clothes, I don’t want to be obsessing over food, I don’t want to see my stomach sticking out farther than my chest, or I don’t want to have a hard time getting in and out of my car anymore.”
When we think and frame our goal in this problem-focused way, we’re not setting it from love.
Goals that sound like this come from fear, dislike, or frustration. It’s really difficult to feel amazing about it and have any sort of fun along the way if we are coming from this place.
Challenge yourself to think about what you DO want
How would you love to experience life in your body someday? Be specific. If your goal is to be healthy, quantify that. Make it measurable with specifics about how your life will be and be different when you are at that healthy place you want to be.
I wanted to bend over and pick something up with ease. I wanted to be able to run pain-free. I wanted to have the energy to sustain me throughout the day. I wanted to be able to walk into my closet and put on anything and know it would fit and it would be comfortable. I wanted, most of all, to live into old age and be active with my kids and my grandkids.
What would you love to feel? Not just what would you love to see in the mirror.
As Lindsay and Lexie say in More Than A Body, “Your body is an instrument, not an ornament. It is a gift for you to experience, not just to look at or have other people look at.”
I love that they use the word instrument. I think of an instrument as a tool of utility. Our bodies allow us to get stuff done — to work, to care for our families, friends and loved ones, to clean, organize, rest, and all the other things.
Our bodies are also instruments of pleasure and creativity, not unlike a musical instrument. Our bodies allow us to experience joy and pleasure, have fun, and create amazing things, including humans.
Focusing on how it feels to be in our bodies rather than how we look in our bodies allows us to approach our goal with love, and that’s when the magic happens.
2. Love the body you have NOW
Another place we can inject some more love into this process of weight loss is into our view of our bodies NOW, not just at our goal.
The more love we can feel for ourselves and our bodies now, the easier it will be to take care of ourselves the way we want to.
If you are loving and appreciating your body, it’s going to be nearly impossible to stuff it full of Oreos after dinner. Love begets more love, and less overeating, I promise you.
The best way I know to find some love and gratitude for your body is to get present with it and ask some simple questions. Focus on function and feeling and not shape or size.
When I notice my brain complaining about something on the outside, I like to stop and take a deep breath and turn my focus inside. I try to get really present and aware of my body in the moment. I think about my heart beating, my lungs breathing in and out and my blood pumping all around my body.
I like to think about what my eyes have seen today, what smells I’ve experienced, where my legs have taken me, what my hands have done or touched or created.
Today alone, my body allowed me to give my kids hugs, feed my dogs, walk outside, coach my clients and teach my students. I saw an amazing sunset and my husband’s cute smile.
What was it like to be in your body today?
What did you love?
What about your body are grateful for?
Stretch yourself to come up with something and then keep stretching to expand your list every day.
3. Listen to your body with love
Another place I think love is transformative is in planning and eating.
I have my clients plan their meals 24 hours in advance, so that the food decisions are made ahead of time and out of the moment. This way they are made with their adult brain, instead of their toddler brain.
Quite often, even though the adult brain is in charge, the plan that is created is void of any love for the future self of tomorrow that has to carry the plan out.
It’s often planned with unrealistic expectations, with disregard for what they actually like and want to eat, and sometimes even as a punishment for what they ate today.
If this sounds familiar, ask yourself as you are planning:
- What would feel like love for my future self tomorrow?
- What foods would feel like love?
- What amount would feel like love?
It’s so much more important that we plan what we like, what we are willing to eat, and what feels like love for our future self. Love for your future self probably won’t look like a dozen donuts, but it might look like planning in one for after lunch.
Sometimes love looks like loving limits and saying no.
Sometimes it looks like planning for the things you like and then eating them on your terms, with full permission and enjoyment, rather than shoving it in your mouth while you have the chance, not tasting it at all, and feeling terrible in your body afterwards.
Love, when it comes to eating, looks like listening.
Listening to your true hunger cues and honoring them. Differentiating between true physical hunger and brain hunger.
Listening to your satiety cues and honoring them. Paying close attention to what fullness feels like in your body. How much food creates that feeling?
Love looks like paying attention to how certain foods make you feel and accepting your body’s response, even if you really enjoy eating them.
4. Love “after”
The last place I think we need more love injected into this process is after we do something we view as a mistake/
Yes, the dreaded “after” — after we eat things that weren’t on the plan or after we eat things that aren’t aligned with our ultimate goals.
We can berate ourselves for choosing food as a solution to whatever we were feeling, but that hate just drives more hate and hate eating.
Compassion is the real solution here. What’s done is done, and judgment over what we have eaten never leads to learning.
As Lexie and Lindsay say, “We can change and grow and react differently because we respect and care for ourselves, not because we hate who we are and are trying to punish ourselves.”
Serve yourself with love
I want to leave you with some wisdom from Lizzo. She shared this on a piece for NBC News.
“I don’t think loving yourself is a choice. I think that it’s a decision that has to be made for survival; it was in my case. Loving myself was the result of answering two things: Do you want to live? Because this is who you are going to be for the rest of your life. Or are you going to just have a life of emptiness, hatred and self-loathing? And I chose to live, so I had to accept myself.”
She goes on to say, and this is my favorite part:
“Self-care is really rooted in self-preservation, just like self-love is rooted in honesty. We have to start being more honest with what we need, and what we deserve, and start serving that to ourselves.”
If you were honest about what you really need, what would it be? Would it be rest? Would it be compassion and understanding? Would it be a long walk?
If you are being honest and you are coming from love, the answer to what you really need is probably not cake. It’s also probably not an extra serving of dinner, even though you’re full.
And, what you really need is not a beatdown after eating off your plan.
What do you really need and how could you serve that to yourself? If you were honest about what you really deserve, what would it be?
Oftentimes we think we deserve a treat or a reward, right? We’ve been so good. But what does that actually get you? Do you feel rewarded in your body when your reward is food? Especially the kind of foods that we usually choose to reward ourselves with.
What you really deserve is love, kindness, respect, understanding. You deserve to feel amazing in your body, and to feel free to move about the world the way that you want to. You deserve to be taken care of, nourished, valued. How could you serve that to yourself?
This kind of thought work is invaluable on your journey to losing weight for life. If you’re ready to get started, watch my free video on how to lose the first five pounds — and keep going.