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Mindful Bytes: Self Love

Updated: Jul 24, 2021

Took a week off and went camping north of Sudbury!! We had one day of monsoon-like rain and the rest of it was awesome.

The before pic was the last time we went summer camping. The after was a pic from this trip. We know that Nick and Jean Luc love camping too. I loved their glamping pics last month!!

Managing your mindset through this journey can be complex and I think it’s easy to mis-categorize emotions and reactions to changing situations.

One of the more complex topics that we all have to navigate at some point is self love / self esteem. Now, my biggest issue by far has been my relationship with food. It will be a lifelong struggle for me. It’s gotten easier to deal with (sometimes not), but this difficult relationship is never going away. But one thing I’m lucky I haven’t had to deal with is self esteem issues. I don’t know why, but even at 361 lbs I have always liked myself. I didn’t like my appearance for sure, but I’ve never connected my self esteem to my appearance.

Through virtual connections as well as in person discussions (pre-Covid) I’ve talked to hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people trying to improve their health and dealing with a lack of self love at the same time. If you’re a regular reader of this blog or my posts on Connect, then you’ve read “you don’t have a weight problem, your weight is an outcome of your problem”. It’s also really common that people tie their self worth to those same outcomes. When you start trying to get healthy I think we all (to some extent) connect how we feel about ourselves to outcomes. But in my humble opinion that is a toxic dead end. And most people who have massively changed their outcomes know that hitting your goal weight doesn’t make you love yourself. It’s only natural to think that how you feel about yourself and the outcome of your habits are connected. If you routinely say horrible things to yourself, it seems reasonable to think that if you improve your appearance and health that you’ll at least like yourself a little more. The trouble is if you’ve made a habit of tearing yourself down at your heaviest weight, you’ll still be tearing yourself down at your goal weight. Even with my healthy self esteem I do this. I see my loose skin “moobs”, and that my belly isn’t as flat as I thought it would be, and my flying squirrel arms, and wonder “all of this change, losing 150+ lbs, reinventing my entire structure of behaviours, my entire way of life, after all of that I still have to live with moobs? Really?” You can easily get into this cycle of never feeling good enough, which is like a massive hole in your motivational gas tank.

Improving your health and appearance can actually make this even harder if you’re misinterpreting feedback. When you start improving your health your clothes get looser, your energy level goes up, your confidence starts to improve, you sleep better, you just feel better overall. It doesn’t have to be drastic, but it’s improvement. I think that “feel good” is typically misconstrued as starting to love yourself a little more. In reality those changes are actually improvements to your quality of life, but they feel like we love ourselves a little more for accomplishing it. And maybe we do, but those “feel goods” won’t be consistent. Improvement stalls regularly on this journey even when you’re killing it. If you’re dependent on outcomes to feel better about yourself, as soon as noticeable improvement stalls (even though you’re building amazing habits in the process) that negative cycle of destructive self talk coupled with eating to feel better because of it can take over.

Allowing yourself to tie your self esteem to outcomes is as misaligned as thinking losing weight is the same thing as changing habits. It’s a temporary fix that will take you part way to your goal and (typically) leave you stranded.

So, how do you feel better about yourself? Well, that’s the rub isn’t it?

If you have a hard time loving yourself, the first step is to acknowledge that someone(s) from your life has put that thought in your head. It’s not naturally occurring. Fingering our where it started is a big help.

Next is trying to gauge severity. There’s no black and white answer. When someone has a very intense relationship with food (based on my personal experience) trying to “ease” into a better lifestyle has a low probability of success. For decades my relationship with food was more intense than the mindset or solutions I tried using to change it. Food always won. Matching intensity of my mindset to the intensity of my love of food has been key to my success. And I think it’s the same thing with self esteem. If you’re really hard on yourself, then practicing better self love probably means affirming things you like about yourself multiple times a day. Understanding we are a collection of habits is really powerful. Who you are and how you feel about yourself can feel like it’s chiseled in stone. Understanding that who you are and how you feel is entirely fluid and based on your existing habits let’s you feel like another you is possible.

I’m also a big fan of changing how problems are approached. When our confidence is low, our natural reaction to a difficult problem is “how am I going to do this?”. That’s an emotional response. But there’s nothing strategic or positive about that response. A much more effective question is “what do I need to do this?” Now we’re planning success, it’s more tactical than emotional. What daily habits do you need? What resources do you need? When I couldn’t change my health habits I reached out to WW. Don’t be afraid of outside professional help with this issue. That step outside your comfort zone and not trying to solve every problem by yourself can change your life.

Finally, celebrate the quality of life improvements that comes with losing weight and getting healthier! A lot! While attaching how you feel about yourself to your weight, or thinking you’ll be easier to love if you’re thinner is an emotional dead end, you absolutely need to talk and dwell on how much better being healthy feels. We’re so good at finding every little thing about ourselves we don’t like, or being focused daily on how hard this journey is, we actually have to put in time and thought into recognizing how our lives are getting better when we’re eating healthy, exercising, and changing the tone of our internal self talk. Too many little life improvements can slip by unnoticed and that’s the stuff that fills our motivational gas tank when things get tough.

One word of caution and maybe this is only relatable to myself, but I want to share it anyway. People that are really brutal to themselves start the process of trying to love themselves just the way they are, faults and all, and that’s both noble and very effective from what I’ve seen. Just be cautious that trying to love yourself doesn’t twist and morph into removing the tension we put on ourselves to achieve goals. It’s counter productive if you eviscerate yourself every time you over eat on the weekend, but it doesn’t help if in the process of learning to love yourself you inadvertently convince yourself that goals no longer matter. Part of happiness and fulfillment as humans is the dream and the pursuit of the better. Of knowing we’re capable of achieving really hard things and reaching for it. I was lucky to have a mom who taught me that being truly grateful for what you already have in life is essential, so long as that gratitude doesn’t stop you from pushing yourself to be better.

Attaching self love to outcomes is so tempting, some people have been doing it for decades. But ask anyone who’s achieved a goal weight or significant health milestone if thats eliminated the internal hate speech and they’ll tell you it doesn’t. Improving your self esteem is usually the key to removing the barrier that’s held you back from achieving the other things you want from life. Treat it independently of the other things you’re working on, and then the world better get ready for the new you!

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