The Secret to Loving Your Body Isn't Losing Weight


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
4/10/2013 12:00 PM   :  220 comments   :  180,846 Views

I always used to think that if I was skinnier, I'd be happier—not just with my body but with my life in general. Many of us believe that weight loss is the answer to many of our problems and pitfalls. We think that when we lose weight we'll not just feel more confident, but we'll land a mate, improve our marriages, be more successful, have more friends, or just feel happier in general. For a lot of people weight loss—or, rather, being thin—is the golden ticket we've been waiting on.
But many people who have lost any significant amount of weight will probably be quick to tell you that even as a thinner person, life doesn't change that much.  You may have lost weight—and that's great for a lot of reasons—but you are likely the same person with the same outlook, same personality, same level of overall happiness. Weight loss alone won't cure you of your body hatred, your lack of confidence, your shy personality or your low self-esteem.
I battled body hatred for many years. It compelled me to diet and exercise until I lost too much weight. I liked the attention I received, but my life really didn't change in any significant way. I still didn't feel like I still was good enough.
On the flipside, I gained back all the weight I had lost and then some to reach my all-time heaviest weight. For a while, I felt worse about myself than ever. My confidence level and self-worth was very much wrapped up in my weight. Although I slowly (painstakingly!) lost the excess pounds over the course of several years, it wasn't weight loss that changed my outlook. In fact, I began to love myself at my heavier weight, which is something I never thought possible, and these days, I'm trimmer and fitter than my heavier self of year's past, but I'm nowhere near the ultra-thin body I once achieved. Still, I'm happier with my body than ever.
When it comes to loving—and accepting—your body, weight really has little to do with it. In fact, research shows that one key ingredient can help you improve your body image and confidence regardless of your size.
What has really helped me appreciate, accept and love my body is exercise. Working out regularly helps me feel strong and powerful. It makes me feel capable and accomplished in a way that almost nothing else in my life has ever affected me. It drives me to work harder, to be a better person, to always be improving myself—inside the gym and outside. It inspires me to reach new goals, which helps me build a work ethic and increased confidence as I reach more milestones. It has given me access to the exclusive club of "exercisers" who "get" each other. I love the simple look, head nod and small wave that runners exchange on the street, which to me always says, "I'm in the club, too. Thanks for showing up today. You rock."

And as I get stronger, faster, fitter, better…I stand taller, feel better about myself and appreciate all that my body has achieved. It propels me to take better care of it. I want this body to carry me through life stronger and healthier. I don't care what I weigh, but I do care how much weight I can lift and how many miles I can run. That says so much more about who I am and what I'm worth than any stupid scale can ever tell me. I don't care what I look like while I'm doing these things—just that I show up and try my hardest.

My experience with exercise has been an education is self-care and body awe. When you put the work in, you do see changes and improvements. It's a virtuous cycle that feeds on itself. You exercise. You feel good. You take better care of yourself. You appreciate your body. You lose weight, or maybe you don't, but either way, you feel good about yourself, so you keep on going. Eventually, the weight takes care of itself. For me, loving myself was the key to losing weight.
Some research shows that even without changing a person's weight, exercise alone can help people feel better about themselves and improve their confidence. That's a win in my book! Why? Because when you feel good, you take care of yourself, and you do more healthy things for your body that ultimately result in settling into your healthy weight.
Do you agree? Does exercise improve your confidence and body image or are you still stuck on the scale?

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  • 220
    No, exercise does not, repeat NOT, give me confidence and make me feel good about my body! It's ridiculous to even assume that. I'm 66 years old, have back problems, and look like I'm 6-8 months pregnant. (And I've never been pregnant!) So I'm supposed to feel good about my body. Are you out of your mind!!!!!! - 5/16/2016   10:39:51 AM
  • 219
    When I see picture of when I was heaviest, I want to cry. I still have a long way to go, but I feel a sense of accomplishment. As an older member, with limited movement, I am grateful for every pound I leave behind. And Nicole, you look great! - 5/15/2016   11:10:51 PM
  • 218
    Great article. - 5/15/2016   10:55:44 AM
  • 217
    I don't totally agree with this. Thin doesn't make you happy, taking control makes you happy. Being happy with yourself makes you happy, HENCE, getting HEALTHY makes you happy. The exercise component also does a lot for happiness.

    Spark on. - 5/15/2016   9:38:13 AM
  • 216
    Exercise definitely makes me feel better in all ways: it increases my energy, I love the way my body moves, the tone, the way my clothes fit. When I decided to lose weight this last time (and it will be the last) I wasn't under the impression that I'd be happier, rather I knew it would improve my overall health. - 5/15/2016   9:14:07 AM
  • 215
    This hits home with me in so many ways. I have become so obsessed with losing weight, and I am in a rut at the moment, that I get frustrated and depressed because I'm not seeing results or I won't participate in an activity because there is going to be high-calorie foods involved. I miss out on enjoying life in some ways because of my obsession. I do work out regularly and I do know about the "runner's nod," and it does create a sense of belonging and of accomplishment. Thanks for sharing! - 5/15/2016   8:28:20 AM
  • 214
    I'm prone to the societal messages that say thin is better, but I've fought them. Yet I have to admit it's easier to be pleased by the mirror after having lost weight. I do agree that when I'm exercising regularly, I tend to feel more peppy and feisty in my body. And eating moderately and sometimes lightly can have the same effect. This was true when I weighed 40 lbs. more, too. - 3/24/2016   1:04:45 PM
  • 213
    I never really hated my body when it was fat; my body was my body. And now that I'm thin I don't necessarily love my body. My body has always been good to me. I will say that now that I regularly exercise I love what my body can do; it can workout hard, it is stronger and more flexible. And yes, I love the comments I get at the gym. - 3/2/2016   7:40:25 AM
  • 212
    Both. I feel good when I exercise, but I still know where the scale should be. Im about 6 lbs off. - 12/8/2015   12:06:26 PM
  • 211
    At age 69, remarkably, this article really is true!! When I was younger, I would not have believed it, though. - 11/28/2015   7:18:08 AM
  • 210
    Thank you for sharing this. It is a wonderful article. I do agree. I'm working away at my weight but when I run, I'm empowered and feel as if I'm tiny:-) - 11/27/2015   11:54:12 PM
  • 209
    Working on the "self-talk" in your head really helped me. I used methods to stop negative thoughts, like "you're fat and ugly," "you're a loser and no one loves you." I replaced these thoughts with positive comments I'd had from friends and family, gradually eliminating the negative self-talk and replacing it with positive. I also thanked my body for the many wonderful things it had accomplished, bearing, birthing and nourishing 4 beautiful babies, getting me through a work day, workout, whatever. And SMILE! - 11/27/2015   3:04:22 PM
  • 208
    You nailed it. Thanks for this blog. I agree with you, and also realize that I am so much better with exercise, no matter what my capabilities are. - 11/27/2015   1:55:06 PM
  • 207
    As I got older I came to grips with my body and started loving it - or at least not hating it. It was my body and it carried me through life. So what if I was heavy? My body was my body. When I lost weight and started to exercise I started to really love my body. Love how I feel after a good workout. Love getting stronger and more flexible. Love how I look in skinny jeans. - 4/20/2015   8:44:02 PM
  • 206
    I've lost well over 80 pounds and I am definitely still the same person, but that person is a confident and happy wife and mom with a great career and an active social life. That hasn't changed, but I do feel better. I believe my opinions are given more credibility (I'm in healthcare), that I'm better respected and that I'm no longer subject to "fat discrimination", which I realize in retrospect was probably happening on occasion.
    For me, one of the biggest advantages of my workout is the sense of accomplishment I have before I've even had my morning shower. I start my day feeling strong and knowing I can get things done. - 4/16/2015   1:59:32 PM
  • 205
    I agree with the comments here mostly. Looking at a number on the scale only gets you down. I know it makes me depressed every time I get weighed at the doctors. I know I am not the weight they say I am. I know because I fit into smaller clothes now. I know because other people say it about me. I know it because at my heaviest I could not run very far. It gives me a boost when I can do kick boxing or Turbo Jam and pretend I am kicking away someone. It is empowering. I admit I have sloughed off here on exercise and have to get back on track. My last point is that exercising takes your mind off of you or your problems for a while and gives you more energy. - 4/9/2015   6:55:37 PM
  • AA3405
    I agree with the idea of feeling better when you are fit, but I still get depressed not being able to fit in my clothes from when I was thinner. When I exercise a lot my muscles get bigger which makes it less likely that my clothes will fit. I try very hard to not criticize my image when I look in the mirror. I don't know how to stop the negative attitude and self talk in regards to my body image. - 4/1/2015   7:26:32 PM
  • 203
    Wow nice post like it and really will consider the information also... - 3/8/2015   11:57:15 PM
  • 202
    I thought this too, but I have discovered that even after a 95 lb loss that I still struggle with the same emotions. - 2/22/2015   3:48:11 PM
  • 201
    Acceptance doesn't mean "like". It just means "this is how I am right now". Seeing one's self for who you are. What can your body do right now? It really IS amazing.

    Acceptance is not easy. Some days, it evaporates. I am seeing more of it these days. The more I've practiced self-trust, self-compassion, boundaries and self-acceptance towards myself, I have seen that my life has improved overall.

    The definition of crazy: doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.

    I have negative thoughts. Our minds our wired for our survival. Our minds are on the lookout for threats. Negative thoughts may have some protective affects. Not all negative thoughts are bad either.

    It was deeply uncomfortable to be kind, to trust, to be compassionate towards my own self.

    Over time, practicing these things has made a very impactful difference in my own life. Sounds funny (actually sad) to say "being kind to myself" felt wrong. I realized that if beating myself up worked so well, then why was I having trouble with things? Why not try something different? - 2/2/2015   12:24:21 PM
  • 200
    Really true. Thanks for writing this. Exercise is the ultimate confidence and mood booster. Good reminder for me today. - 1/8/2015   12:33:11 PM
  • 199
    Great post. I've been going back and trying to remember what changed first for me....eating better, moving more, or loving my body? Truthfully I didn't hate my body when I weighed 80 pounds more - can't say I loved the way I looked, but never hated myself or my body. When I committed to eating healthy most of the time and moving every day though I did see the weight come off,. Over the three + years that I lost and then maintained weight I just feel better and better about me. And that means how I look and feel. And no matter what I don't say nasty things to myself: i would never say that to a friend. - 12/12/2014   7:53:51 AM
  • 198
    i also have learned to love my body more the way it is .. let's face it .. we will all still have things we don't like about our body .. like for me the sagging skin on my upper arms .. but i am happy with where i am and where i am still going and able to move forward regardless of those things i don't 'like' about my body but can appreciate that they represent a LOT of hard work and positive changes in my life.. - 9/8/2014   10:38:41 AM
  • 197
    I feel good when I have a good workout because that is something I know that I'm doing for myself and not to impress any other person. I have even gotten to the point of problem solving through meditations as I work on machines. I hope that you find your peace of mind before you decide to backside. Exercise can be different for different people. Maybe you've got to differentiate your routine.? Good luck Hinz! - 7/12/2014   6:50:36 PM
  • 196
    Am I the only person in the world that doesn't feel significantly better by exercising? I've been exercising off and on for the past 28 years and I do primarily to lose weight but also to stay healthy. All the years I've stayed active working out at the gym but it never gave me a boost of extra energy or feeling good over all about myself. I get a little jealous when I hear so many people feeling great when they exercise and can even cure mild to moderate depression? I wonder why exercising has no great effect on me? If I felt like everyone else, I would be addicted to working out! - 6/24/2014   6:22:29 PM
    I love my body most when I exercise. I like seeing what all it can do and how strong it is. I love to watch myself work out and see all my muscles. Then, the tummy pooch doesn't seem to matter. - 8/14/2013   6:04:22 AM
  • 194
    "Weight loss alone won't cure you of your body hatred, your lack of confidence, your shy personality or your low self-esteem." - why is "shy personality" lumped in with these negatives? I'm tired of hearing how being an introvert is some sort of personality flaw. It is okay.
    - 8/10/2013   9:36:35 AM
  • 193
    Great Blog! I also feel that it's being healthy with exercising and eating the foods that are best for your body is more important than the actual number on the scale. I lost 65 pounds. It took me a year and I developed some good habits for exercising regularly and eating healthy and in proportions. I put about 20 pounds back on when I started a job with a lot of sitting and didn't get to workout as much. I changed my patterns and found more time for exercise and got back on track for eating more healthy foods and watching my portions etc. And I'm back down to about 10 pounds over where I was after losing the 65 pounds. I could be upset that I'm not getting back down to the weight I was but I have also been doing more strength training with my workouts and being honest with myself I realized that I was probably down too much when I first lost the 65 pounds. So where I am right now I feel is a good healthy place for me and I just need to keep up my daily workouts and eating habits. I feel so much better and my clothes are fitting me better with wearing a smaller size. So my self esteem is up from completing my workouts - my energy level is up - and for me that's more important than the actual number on the scale. Thanks for writing the blog and motivating me. (By the way, most of my inside workouts are done with your dvd's and I really enjoy them. ) - 8/2/2013   9:37:51 AM
  • 192
    You have told my your words. Thank you. I struggle with low self-esteem every single day, in every aspect of my life. And I do put too much stock into what the scale says and how I look. I am my hardest critic, as they say. I have been up and down with my weight for the last 25 years, always feeling overweight, and just "less" even when I was underweight. So, yes, exercise does help with that feeling. Although I still have not found that ingredient to "love" myself. But I am trying every day. Thanks again for sharing. - 8/2/2013   8:34:45 AM
  • 191
    Exercise is the best part of my day! - 8/2/2013   8:33:27 AM
  • 190
    I'm so glad something concrete was put into here. I've always seen evidence that exercise drops your cortisol levels, but I've actually began to experience this when I was dealing with a lot of emotional stress. After a 30 minute workout, I felt like someone had swept the emotional drama from my brain.

    If anything, I should exercise for the immediate pay off, because that is what will keep me going back to it. - 7/3/2013   3:45:04 PM
    What a great article.....thank you for sharing. It matches my feelings. - 6/24/2013   11:38:07 AM
  • 188
    I feel much more confident on a day that I have exercised. It's as if I've taken control of something important in my life. - 5/19/2013   7:10:16 PM
  • 187
    I agree. My confidence is boosting thanks to the exercises I do. I take a boot camp class and never in a million years did I think that I would be doing what I'm doing now. I also ran my first 5K and it was the best thing for me and my confidence. I'm loving life and enjoying who I am without worrying about being skinny or what the scale says (although I am happier each week when the scale is down a couple of pounds). - 5/14/2013   5:15:05 PM
  • KAB7801
    Your accomplishments make your self esteem sky rocket, you stand taller with confidence and you just feel good - 5/9/2013   9:17:43 PM
    I needed to read this today. Was feeling pretty down but now I feel encouraged to just keep moving - 5/3/2013   3:19:07 PM
  • 184
    This is definitely what I needed to read today. Thanks for the great blog. - 4/23/2013   6:14:02 PM
  • 183
    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! I really needed to read this today. I started a new jogging interval program this week and I have felt great about it and so proud of doing it. I AM NOT A RUNNER. So this was a big milestone for me. I stepped on the scale today (tomorrow is my weigh in day) and I had gained. I was BUMMED. I needed this to help remind me of how good I felt while exercising and of completing the intervals. Again.....thank you. - 4/19/2013   8:55:31 AM
    I love your encouraging approach and honest appreciation of what is involved when learning how to take care of oneself while still being there for others. - 4/12/2013   8:19:05 AM
  • 181
    You really do need to love your body, and all of the great things it does for you. That way, you'll be more interested in making in the right choices. - 4/11/2013   7:06:35 PM
  • BETE2013
    My weight loss has been slow but regular exercise has helped boost my confidence. Though I'm still guilty of thinking how much better I'll feel about myself after I've dropped a significant amount of weight AND am still working out regularly. - 4/11/2013   5:21:34 PM
  • 179
    I so do very much agree that exercise does that for me. When I work out I feel so much better about my body....with lifting weights I like what I see in the mirror. It has helped so much. - 4/11/2013   5:00:00 PM
  • 178
    Great post..It is incredibly motivating. I still struggle with this slightly. I do have those thoughts about how much better things will be when I lose the weight. Recently, I have come to realize that the feeling of accomplishing weight loss, finally, would be the biggest reward to me and make me feel completely confident in myself. I have a great family and try to be a good mom, but the achieving weight loss is the one thing that still hangs over my head. - 4/11/2013   3:15:59 PM
  • 177
    I have to admit, one eye was stuck on the scale and the mirror until I at least got under the obese range and could shop off the rack instead of having to go to the plus-size store or section. I'll also admit that it was easier to lose weight when I focused more on getting healthy, fit, and strong instead of focusing on numbers. - 4/11/2013   1:10:47 PM
  • 176
    Exercise is the key for me too. I remember about twenty years ago I joined a gym and DH was upset that I had signed a two year contract. He thought I would be like most people and quit after a few months. Still going and still enthused each time. I will always do this as it is a very important part of my life. - 4/11/2013   9:37:16 AM
  • 175
    yep. I'm in that club and I love it! LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I love to dance, to walk, to lift weights. I love to see my body do things I didn't think it could do. I love feet as transportation. I love classes. I love solitary walks in the country. I love to walk and talk with my son. Yup.

    I wish I could encourage everyone on earth to get up and move. - 4/11/2013   5:52:35 AM
  • 174
    L-O-V-E this blog! Exercise is so so important to me and my life. I can relate so much to what you have said and helps me with my way of thinking at times. Thank you! - 4/11/2013   5:46:26 AM
  • 173
    Some of these thoughts are what I'm trying to keep in my head this time around. I had lost 60 pounds, but regained 25. Stopped being vigilant! But, my chloresterol meds went from 80 mg to 10 and the numbers are now fantastic. My blood pressure is also great. I have come to believe that exercise is more of a key than I thought. My weight may be going down extremely slowly (if at all, for weeks on end), but I feel my in control when I am consistent with exercise. - 4/11/2013   5:33:49 AM
  • 172
    Much that you said resonates with me. At 67, I've accepted that I'll probably never be a runner and that there are some things I can't (shouldn't) attempt. I do know that loving my body has been an extremely tedious process but an essential one. I am so grateful for Spark and for the keys it has provided. - 4/10/2013   7:47:21 PM
    Thanks for the blog. I would like to be at my ideal weight but i'm not there, yet. I did not like to exercise before. It was something that I forced myself to do. But now is a different story. Taking my 30 minute walk ( or more) everyday helped my legs feel stronger. I bought New Balance shoes for my plantar fasciitis and I haven 't complained of pain for a while now. I have lost 4 pounds just by walking and some cardio and I would be happier if I lose more. Of course my main goal is to be healthy .

    - 4/10/2013   5:25:38 PM

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