Acceptance, Weight Loss, and Sanity: How to Have It All
Can you love your body, change your body, quantify your goals, and not lose your damn mind?
I’ll save you some time and tell you the answer to the question: YES.
But this would be a pretty crappy blog post if I just left it at that. So allow me to elaborate…
A few weeks ago I wrote this post on Crossfit Full Circle’s blog about the experience of losing 20+lbs to move down a weight class. I had NO idea that so many people would email, text, message, and contact me about it. And all because I said that it’s possible to lose weight (or achieve any physique goal really) while quantifying your nutrition and not turning yourself into a neurotic basketcase. From a personal standpoint, I didn’t think much of it - I’m a data geek who loves numbers and like quantifiable things. When I was writing said blog post, I was honestly stumped on what to say. All I wanted to say was “I made a plan based on sound principles and followed the plan.” And while I will say that losing weight was not insanely easy, it really wasn’t that hard. In my mind, it was a simple as “Set goal. Work the plan. Achieve the goal”. However, when I actually stopped to think about it, I realized that it really wasn’t that simple - I had adopted habits and thoughts and a perspective that allowed it feel that simple.
As I’ve mentioned before, there are a whole lot of feelings and emotions associated with women and body image. This has been a major reason why I wasn’t successful at losing weight or making physique changes in the past and I think it is a huge reason why so many women feel lost when it comes to making nutrition changes to reach a goal. Quite a few people have asked me how I’ve managed to take such a “detached” approach to this whole losing weight business. And while detached may not be the best word to describe the whole process, it is fairly accurate. What I’ve gathered from talking with others is that is women are curious about how to turn losing weight into a positive experience and how to leverage the feels we all have into something positive rather than negative. This isn’t something I had put a lot of thought into until recently and I realized that there were a few key changes that I’ve made over time that have made it easier for me to approach something like dropping a weight class in a much more sane and logical way:
1.Accepting physique change for what it is: Physique change is just that - changes made to your body. It doesn’t magically give you happiness or fulfillment. It doesn’t change the circumstances of your life. If you’re trying to lose weight because you believe that walking around at a certain body fat percentage is going to make everything better, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Accept physique change and the process of change for what it is - it’s changes made to your body and you are much, much more than your body. Changes made to your body do not equal changes made to yourself or your environment. Being a certain size will not give you the key to happiness, it will not make people love you more or less, and it certainly won’t give you a full life - YOU as a person can do all of those things, your body cannot.
2.Give a sh*t about something other than your abs: I’m not saying physique goals for the sake of physique goals are inherently bad. In my experience, having something else to focus on besides my body made losing weight much, much easier. This can be your gym performance, your performance in any sport, or just simply how much energy you have or how well you sleep. Having something else to use when measuring progress was incredibly helpful and I think it helps eliminate a lot of the neurosis that can be brought about by only tracking physical progress.
3.It’s not X or Y: There seems to be this underlying notion that if you love your body, you are not supposed to want to change it and if you do want to change it, then you don’t love it. To me, wanting to make changes and self acceptance are not incongruent thoughts. I think saying that someone either “loves” their body or wants to “change” their body is a falsely dichotomous statement that trips people up. You do not have to be forced into a box of either “loving” or “hating” your body. The desire to change your body, when it comes from the right place, is a great thing - it means you honor your body enough to want to make it the best damn body it can be.
4.Practice: People often forget that thoughts and outlooks are not fixed things - they are fluid, ever changing, and often times, they need a little bit of attention. Practicing things like reminding yourself that physical changes are only physical and measuring progress in unique ways is a skill. And like any other skill, if you want to get good, you have to practice. Eventually, these things become habit and having that solid foundation makes it much easier to achieve your goals.
Are all of these things necessary for you to achieve in order to reach physique goals? Absolutely not. Cultivating some awareness about the mental aspect of weight loss and all of those feels can be extremely helpful throughout the entire physique change process. Examining items like the ones mentioned above can help you get mentally prepped for a change you’re about to undergo. They also serve as good “checks” throughout the entire process to help keep you grounded when things start to get tough or you start to feel a little crazy. Again, weight loss or body change does not have to be a hateful, dreadful process; instead, it can be a time to cultivate new positive habits.