When I look in the mirror I sometimes only see how much work I need to do instead of how much work I’ve already done.
It’s hard to feel like you have SO FAR TO GO.
I think this is why rapid weight-loss programs are so popular. Why do we want to lose weight so fast? Because we look in the mirror, see something we don’t like, and it’s painful. When someone promises they can make that go away in thirty days, it’s an appealing offer.
Having patience with the weight loss process is one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced. It’s caused me get off track and endlessly switch gears, looking for the next magic solution. It’s been easy to think I’ll never reach my goal.
We hear we have to love ourselves the way we are. For years, I found that to be one of the most frustrating pieces of advice — total BS. If you’re supposed to love yourself in order to lose weight, how do you do that when you hate the way you look? How do you even like — let alone love — your overweight body?
Even with 70 pounds gone, I still catch myself thinking my butt could be smaller (and smoother) or my belly could be flatter. I still have weight I would like to lose.
I’m not convinced there’s a way to never have these thoughts again. Old habits die hard and we never know what might trigger our feelings on a given day.
I developed a plan for how to have patience with myself when these thoughts pop by for a visit. It’s my Body Gratitude Practice.
We’ve heard of gratitude practices — the process of thinking of about things for which you’re grateful on a regular basis. Daily gratitude practices are shown in research to increase happiness and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which moves us out of fight-or-flight mode and sets the stage for healing.
It’s actually a scientifically proven way to make yourself feel happier and calmer. These are exactly the types of feelings you need to create mental conditions that increase your chances of making healthy food choices. And it’s a way to remind yourself of how far you’ve come, which is a patience builder.
Think of this as a gratitude practice specifically for your body image. It’s three steps that don’t take a lot of time, but make a big impact.
Step 1: Cut yourself a break
If you’re like me, you’ve probably got a lot on your plate. I’ve got motherhood, being a wife, my career and everything else I might want to do in life constantly swirling in my mind. I’m always asking what’s been taken care of, what’s next, and whether I’m doing a good enough job.
When I look in the mirror and see something I don’t like, it adds to my stress and makes me feel like there’s one more thing I’m not on top of. And that’s usually the kindest thought I have.
I combat this exhausting state of mind by cutting myself a break.
I take a breath and tell myself several things:
- My body is doing the best it can.
- My body will come through for me.
- My body has already done a lot for me.
- Things will come together.
Affirmations like these can be very powerful when repeated often. We become what we think, and we can use this principle to our advantage.
Step 2: Recall when your body has come through for you
One of the things that makes it hard to cut ourselves a break is that it’s common to believe that no matter what we do, our body simply can’t be skinny. Whether you think it’s genetics stacked against you or that something is wrong with you, there’s a way to push back on these thoughts.
When I doubt the affirmations I use to cut myself a break, I look for proof points, or evidence, of where my body has come through for me in the past. It can also be helpful to think of actions you’ve taken that have brought you closer to your goals, but I’m trying to address deep-seated beliefs that no matter what I do my body is not capable of responding.
Here’s a snapshot of what this has looked like for me:
- My body grew two beautiful, healthy children from tiny little specs to 8-pound babies.
- My body breastfed both of my children for six months each.
- My body is capable of losing weight because I have lost weight before.
- I think I can’t do this, but I have been doing it.
Chances are very low that there’s NOTHING your body does well. Write down the ways your body has come through for you in a journal or a quick note on your phone. No one else is going to read it, so be honest with yourself. Don’t get caught up in whether it’s hokey or if others would agree with you. That doesn’t matter. This is for your eyes only.
If you’re still struggling to come up with proof points, think about how you would help a friend with this exercise. We tend to be much nicer to other people than we are to ourselves. When I recount the negative body-image thoughts I’ve had over the years, I wouldn’t dream of saying those things to another person. Thinking of how you would help a friend can jump-start your brainstorming process so you can help yourself.
Pictures can be another source of evidence. My weight has yo-yoed quite a bit over the years. Though old photos can bring up painful feelings, I am able to see a history of when I have been at a more comfortable weight. And for the pictures in which I’m heavier, I can see how far I’ve come. Both of types of pictures can be helpful as you look for proof points of where your body has come through for you.
Step 3: Revisit your affirmations and proof points regularly
Once you’ve got your affirmations and proof points written down, they’re going to come in handy during moments when you lose patience with yourself. One benefit of having these noted on your phone is that we usually always have our phones with us. Mine sits on my bathroom counter while I’m getting ready each morning, so it’s only a few steps away when my closet mirror shows me something I don’t like.
I have also noticed that I recover more quickly from being upset about how I look when I revisit my affirmations and proof points regularly. This doesn’t need to take over your life or occupy every waking moment. And you don’t need to totally revamp your morning or evening routines to accommodate this.
Set a recurring reminder on your calendar or task-managing app to revisit your body gratitude notes on a specific day and time each week. When the reminder pops up, take a few minutes to read through what you wrote. Pause and be happy with what you’ve accomplished. Have faith that you can accomplish more.
Over time, you will collect additional proof points and you may even change or strengthen your affirmations. Go with this and add to your list whenever you feel compelled.
When I follow my Body Gratitude Practice, I am generally happier, calmer and more patient with myself and others. These benefits affect multiple areas of my life, even though it’s something I do primarily with my weight in mind. I notice it’s not as hard to avoid foods or portion sizes that don’t support my goals. And importantly, I’ve had more patience with sustainable, slower weight loss.