When we are relentlessly bombarded by images and messages that equate slimness with confidence and happiness, or promises of 'an ultra-fast diet to a flat tummy', it's hardly surprising that our expectations become warped and unrealistic: "I'll start liking myself when I lose the weight", "When I can fit into my jeans, I'll be happy with myself and feel much more confident".
I get that: I routinely told myself that if I could shed another 8lbs I'd feel lighter, happier and be in control of my life. And of course, I'd like myself so much more.
But years of beating myself up because I didn't fit into a size 8 eventually taught me a life lesson: If you do not feel good about yourself when you are overweight, then you will not feel good about yourself when you are slim either.
I see now that this is one reason why many people who lose weight regain it. They still feel bad about themselves, and changing their bodies physically has not made them like themselves any more. Learning to like and accept yourself as you are right now in you overweight body is vital.
The term 'self-acceptance' is guaranteed to make many of my Heyday clients want to run for cover. It brings resistance and disbelief, "If I accept myself, I'll never change. I'll just stay the same". Self-acceptance can be a scary idea. Some participants are afraid that accepting their bodies will lead to complacency, that they will stop caring about losing weight.
But acceptance does not mean complacency. Acceptance does not mean not changing how you look or not losing weight. It simply means looking at your body without feeling disgusted and annoyed with yourself, without cringing. It means befriending your body.
Acceptance is very much linked to awareness. Once you become aware of the negative effects of criticising and disliking your body and refusing to accept it, you are able to make a decision to change it. With awareness it is easier give it up something.
How do you know that acceptance will not change you and who you are if you do not give it a chance? You use your body every day. And so far you disliking or despising it has not changed it. Rejection and disgust do not lead to change. If they did, we would all have a very different body!
So perhaps you need to think about accepting your body. This is your body. It has carried you through rough and difficult times. Even when you lose weight, you'll still have the same life, same job, same kids and same everyday stresses.
This brings me to another point...
Are there certain things you are postponing or putting off doing until you have lost that extra weight? Are you waiting until you are slim before you buy yourself those new jeans? Are you waiting until you have the right body and figure before you start doing things you want to do? In other words, what are you waiting to get slim to do? This might include going to a social event, making new friends, buying new clothes.
This reminds me of a Heyday participant who explained that her boyfriend had promised to bring her on a shopping trip when she lost weight and dropped to a size 10. I wondered what this message from her someone so close gave her about herself- 'as you are right now, you're not good enough', 'when you lose weight and fit into a size 10, you will be deserving'.
By waiting you are giving yourself the message that you do not deserve these things in life right now. Being slim does not suddenly make you more deserving. You are deserving of good things in life just as you are right now. At some point, you have to decide that you are deserving, that you are good enough.