Acceptance lies at the heart of body goals and worry-free eating habits.

Before you can start the journey toward change, you have to realize that up until now you’ve been in a state of judgment. You judge yourself for being overweight, for not eating right, for lacking willpower or motivation. This keeps you from moving forward, because every time you try and fail at changing, it brings up feelings of judgment. And because none of us want to feel this way, we do two things:

  1. We distract ourselves with food, movies, shopping, whatever works. Ironically, we use food to punish/distract/soothe ourselves about our negative feelings about food and our bodies.
  2. We avoid the behavior that triggers the judgement in the first place. We stop trying to move or eat differently so we don’t feel the judgment when we let ourselves down.

But running away won’t help you change. It only keeps you captive in an unhealthy cycle. You need to learn stop and feel the feelings of judgment.  Reflect on how it feels and then work toward acceptance of whatever made you feel bad in the first place.

But I don’t have that kind of willpower, you say, I can’t accept that. The good news is you can. What we have is a definition problem.

Defining Acceptance Is The First Step to Loving Yourself

Chances are, you are defining “acceptance” wrong.  You don’t have to like or condone something in order to accept it. Acceptance doesn’t mean you deserve or have to suffer through your current state. Acceptance simply means: “It is what it is.” Period. End of story.  

Accepting something also doesn’t mean not working on changing or improving it.  Quite the contrary! Without accepting something as reality, you can’t effectively change it. Here is where the work is: the inner process of accepting judgement, learning from that acceptance, and then getting back up and trying again. You may even find yourself judging yourself for not being accepting enough. Embrace that too: it’s a circular process.

Tools For Self-Acceptance

There is no right or wrong way to find self-acceptance. However, some steps have been proven to work well for most people. Try these next time you are struggling to overcome the feelings of judgment and follow through on a goal:

Breathe.

I know it sounds corny, but this tool is really important. We all breathe too little, too shallow, and with too much effort. When confronted with anxiety regarding your food or body, the first thing you must do is take a slow, deep breath. Two breaths, three breaths—in through the nose, out through the mouth. An amazing reaction will occur in those few second: your “fight or flight” adrenal system is shut off, your brain is given the oxygen it needs to think more clearly, and you are better able to tackle the task at hand.

Become aware of self-talk.

We all are familiar with the tapes that play in our heads. Parents, friends, books, movies, our own subconscious all have something to say. But you can change those thoughts, and it works! This is your story after all, not theirs. Listen carefully to this internal script. Which parts do you want to keep? Which parts do you want to reject or rewrite? It’s okay to ignore the parts you don’t like!

Check in with your body.

You know how you get “gut feelings” about things? Your body has an intelligence all its own. Many body-based therapies work by getting us out of our heads and into our bodies. Your internal system is often smarter than your brain when it comes to what you need, so listen to it! What is that sensation you’re feeling in your belly, or your chest, or your head? What might these sensations be telling you? Don’t be afraid of these sensations, and don’t judge them. Just allow yourself to be aware of them.

Don’t overanalyze. 

Building on the above tool, make sure you aren’t overthinking things. Complex ideas are best handled by the intuition. Do what is necessary, pull the trigger, and move on.

Let go.

Once you make a decision, treat it as a done deal. Punishing yourself for a choice or its consequences serves no good purpose. This will allow you to free yourself from judgment and allow you to embrace change with no “shoulda”s, “woulda”s, or “coulda”s.

With practice, using these tools becomes more and more natural and takes less and less effort and time. With enough practice, it will eventually become how you operate. In the meantime, ways to improve your ability to gain control of your subconscious and find self-acceptance include:

Meditation

Prayer

Mindful eating

Journaling

Mindful movement like yoga or tai chi

How To Love Yourself Daily: Practice, Practice, Practice

Here’s a short assignment for you. Imagine you’re done with work and it’s been a hard day. Your coworker invites you out for drinks to blow off some steam. Answer the following questions to really delve into your subconscious reaction:

  1.  What would you normally do?
  2.  How do you usually feel about this decision?
  3.  What outcome are you hoping for when making this decision?
  4.  What outcome do you usually get?
  5.  What would you prefer the outcome to be?
  6.  What choice would bring you closer to that preferred outcome?
  7.  What keeps you from making that choice first?
  8.  How do you need to think to be able to do that differently?
  9.  What do you need to feel to be able to think that way?
  10. How much better would this scenario turn out if you pursued the preferred outcome instead of the predicted one?

Once you start realizing how and why you should love yourself, and once you start implementing a strategy of self-acceptance, you’re on the road to being happy with your body and eating without worry.  All the decisions about dietary plans, shopping, cooking, time management and exercise will start to take care of themselves.

Now that you are operating from a planned and prepared position, the journey will be less fraught with seemingly overwhelming hurdles. You have the insight and skills to succeed. The journey will be bumpy, but not impossible. Once you accept that, you’re halfway there!

Get additional help on your journey to loving yourself!

Written by: Ian Rubin, MA CPT, CHC
Owner & Founder, Wellness Success Coach
Ian is passionate about helping people find their most well selves. After struggling with his own wellness, Ian jumped from jobs in supplement sales to diet consulting to personal training. He eventually decided to use his knowledge to help people to achieve their best self in a whole way. This meant going beneath the surface to find the source of his clients’ struggles and supporting them in reaching their wellness goals.

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