By Heather Labbe
I knew I was about 75 pounds overweight, but coming face to face with it in the three-way mirrors of the Lord & Taylor dressing room 12 years ago still caught be by surprise.
At first, I honestly thought someone else had come into the dressing room by mistake. My mind had no real connection to the body in the mirror. The impossibility of meeting culturally held standards of feminine beauty perpetuated in the media, had resulted in a disconnect between my brain and my body. Feelings of disgust, ambivalence, and self-pity overwhelmed me as my shoulders shook and tears rolled down my cheeks.
Like someone perched at the precipice of cliff, I was tempted to simply throw myself into the vast despair of self-loathing, when inspiration struck. Something about the shape in the mirror caused my mind to make a primal connection between the birth of my children and the creative power of my body. While it was clear that my body was in no shape to run a marathon, play tennis, or climb a mountain, it had created, nurtured, birthed, and sustained three human babies in five years. I wasn’t feeling love for my seemingly misshapen form yet, but a small seed of gratitude had taken root at that moment, and it has made all the difference.
I knew instinctively how to hate myself into being skinny with vicious dieting and manic exercise routines. The question was, could I start with gratitude and make loving choices every day that would eventually lead to a healthy and fit body? I’ve always had a soft spot for being unconventional, so I decided then and there to “act as if” I loved myself, using the way I made choices for my children as the template for making food and exercise choices for myself.
Our culture tells us to diet and exercise in an effort to fit the cookie cutter mold of feminine beauty ideals, but I was determined to enjoy the process and see where my body naturally settled when treated like a precious child, loved unconditionally by a mature and well-adjusted parent! Totally radical!
After two years and changes that went far beyond diet and exercise, I lost 75 pounds and have maintained that weight loss for 10 years. Here are a few of the lessons I have learned along the way:
- Don’t exercise to lose weight – it doesn’t work that way! Exercise to undo damage made by poor health choices in the past, to feel energized in the present and to add years to your life in the future!
- It is worth taking the time and energy to find out what kind of exercises you like to engage in.
- Create accountability – use your family, friends, co-workers and social media tribe to create positive re-enforcement.
- Invest in counseling. Learning to love yourself unconditionally is NOT easy and often results in dredging up issues that need attention. Facing your demons head on will result in victories for your physical, emotional and social health over the long term.
- Find an eating style that works for you. Our bodies are all different and it will take time to discover if Paleo, Vegan, Carb-cycling etc…work for you.
- If the choices you are making don’t feel loving, it’s time investigate - Either change your behavior or change your attitude!
- No matter how many times you’ve tried, don’t give up and let LOVE, not loathing, lead the way!