We often think that successful weight loss has to do with discipline and willpower. That those who are able to lose the weight and keep it off are the ones with the tenacity to stick to a rigid diet plan. But this is not actually the case. In reality, weight loss has much more to do with how we view love than with our supposed level of willpower – here’s how.
Love is unconditional.
Many of us who are trying to lose weight buy into the toxic belief of conditional love. We feel that we are only loveable when we are at the “right” weight. We often think, “I will love myself only once I’ve lost ‘X’ amount of weight.” We worry that if we start to accept ourselves before we’ve lost the weight, we’ll become “lazy” and never shed the pounds. We see weight loss as the one and only path to self-love, and we feel as if our “real lives” will only begin once we’ve reached a certain number on the scale. Our daily routine begins to feel like a dress rehearsal or a preamble to something greater (which will in fact never come until we learn to love ourselves unconditionally).
Emotional roller coaster.
When our sense of self-love is tied to our weight, we tend to love ourselves more once we’ve shed a few pounds, but the minute we gain any of it back, we love ourselves less. The way we feel about ourselves goes up and down constantly — this can create a great deal of emotional instability, which can interfere with other areas of our lives as well.
We shouldn’t have to earn love from others.
This is closely related to our perspective on self-love. Not only may we feel we’re unworthy of loving ourselves unless we have the “perfect” body, we often don’t feel we deserve love from others, either. We don’t believe that anyone can truly love us unless we maintain a certain weight. The result of this is that weight loss becomes a desperate attempt to make ourselves more lovable. This is a large part of the reason why many of us turn to crash diets and overly demanding workouts – because they offer the (often false) promise of fast weight loss – which we see as a quick ticket to true love.
We compare ourselves to others.
With today’s social media culture, it’s easier than ever to measure ourselves against others. This can be particularly insidious when it comes to weight. We see others who have the kind of body we want, and we imagine that they must also have more love and happiness than we do. When the media – and our own Facebook feeds – constantly bombard us with images of people with “perfect” bodies, it becomes easy to imagine that nearly everyone is happier and more loved than we are. We feel that our lives are inadequate, and the only way to remedy that is to lose weight.
What’s the solution?
So how do we create a healthier relationship between love and weight? By understanding that we are worthy, lovable human beings regardless of the number on the scale. We don’t need to earn the right to be loved – it is something that we all possess inherently. Despite the messages from the media, our value is not connected to our weight or physical appearance. We have so much more to offer the world than just the way we look.
We often believe that weight loss is necessary for us to love ourselves, but in fact, the reverse is actually the case. In order to create a healthy lifestyle that is sustainable, we have to approach weight loss as something we’re doing because we love ourselves and we know we deserve good health – not because we view it as the only path to love. When we love ourselves unconditionally, we make decisions that are truly healthy, rather than opting for unsustainable crash diets or punishing workouts. We find natural, whole foods and forms of physical activity that are genuinely enjoyable for us, and we stick with that lifestyle because we respect ourselves enough to do so.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
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