How to love yourself in 8 really hard steps

Love Yourself

Body image has always been something I’ve been interested in and at uni it took the guise of identity and styling, or the ways in which individuals dress themselves in order to assume an identity. In my last 10 years as a fat woman who has never felt ashamed of being fat, I have thought a lot about how anyone who isn’t slim manages to style themselves. It isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible, and I’ve found it a kind of delightful challenge to style myself as a woman who fits into anything between an Australian size 20-24. I’ve had a particularly privileged journey to body acceptance, because I’ve had loving family, friends and partners along the way as well as access to incredible resources online. For many people, it’s not only difficult but upsetting, and when I’m asked how I can love myself or how I can help them love themselves… I’m often at a loss.

I figure though, that I’m in some kind of special position to help guide people to a place of contentment and, gasp, love when it comes to their bodies. In the past few weeks I’ve even begun to think that I could be some kind of coach – so this post is my first draft: A guide to loving yourself in 8 challenging but rewarding steps!

1. Talk about your body.

I think one of the reasons why so many people are ashamed of their bodies is because they aren’t really sharing what actually goes on. It’s all about normalisation – share all the fun stuff, the scary stuff and the downright weird stuff with your friends, family and children so we don’t treat ourselves like alien entities.

2. When someone compliments you, just say thank you.

Don’t have a ready-prepared quip specifically designed to disarm the compliment giver. A compliment will not hurt!

3. Question the things you used to take for granted.

When you hear a report on tv or the radio about the obesity epidemic, question where they got their information from. The American study that is so oft quoted figured the number of deaths from obesity at 400,000 but unfortunately none of the media agencies pulled their flailing arms out of the air when that figure was brought down to 25,814. That’s a huge revision, and while the CDC released the revised number, the media and marketing people clung to the hype (interesting article from the Skeptical Inquirer). Turns out, reducing the “Obesity Epidemic” to a load of bunkum doesn’t make anyone money. Question every thing you see and hear about the Obesity Epidemic OOGA BOOGA – you usually find that the people funding these studies have fingers in a few interesting puddings (eg: those nutrient devoid Weight Watchers desserts!)

4. Don’t assign good or bad values to food and exercise.

When you eat something because it’s “good” or exercise because it’s “good” you’re just punishing yourself. Do things that you actually factually ENJOY and the reward will be twofold. Listen to your body and it’ll tell you the things it needs to eat, and the activities it needs to partake in. This is one of the key parts of Health At Every Size – by “honouring your body” you’ll consume things that you’re absolutely besotted with, and move because it moves you.

5. Wear clothes that fit you and make you feel good.

Shame is the worst way to motivate yourself, and it will work against you by letting you down AND making you feel bad. And feeling bad is not the objective here – feeling fabulous is! Clean out your wardrobe and dump every single item of clothing that makes you feel bad about yourself. Do not keep items aside because you think you’re going to fit into them one day – give them to someone who can actually wear them! Hold a swap party like I did, donate to your favourite organisation or give special things away to special friends.

6. Think about activities you’ve always wanted to do but have been too scared to try – and do them.

Take joy from moving your body in ways that you actually take pleasure in, and get out of the rut of thinking that you only need to go to a gym or use home equipment. This is not about “having to” it’s about “wanting to”. By doing what you want, you’ve got an inbuilt motivational mechanism right there. So many people wonder why they end up wasting their gym memberships – it’s probably because they don’t actually enjoy it. So find something you absolutely love! Join a roller derby team or a synchronised swimming group, learn how to ice skate, or go rock climbing. Move in ways that make sense to you!

7. Don’t weigh yourself.

In Screw Inner Beauty, the authors sum it up perfectly: if your clothes fit the way they did yesterday, you don’t need to freak out. Throw out your scales – they are just little electronic demons squatting in your bathroom, making you feel rotten.

8. No negative self talk.

This is a hard habit to break, but once you tell yourself that you’re going to be on the watch for negative self talk, you’ll notice that you can usually flag yourself as you’re thinking terrible things. Tell your friends and family that you are a “negative self talk free zone” – and you won’t put up with negative self talk from yourself or from them! I extend this to “no diet or weight loss talk” but it depends how far you want to go. I consider weight loss talk to be incredibly harmful, and forbid it from my conversations.

9. Bonus (and compulsory) step: Tell yourself you are awesome.

Look in the mirror, do a little dance, and congratulate yourself for being fricking brilliant.

Never think that those who accept their bodies never have a moment of doubt, because it’s only human to have those low moments. What gets easier is bouncing out of those low times. I’m not even going to begin to kid you on this: changing the way you perceive your body is incredibly hard work. The alternative is the status quo, so you may as well start today because you’re just wasting time! I strongly believe that every person is capable of loving and honouring themselves and that we all have the right to at least give it a burl!

69 comments

  1. Awesome post!!
    I agree 100% with everything you said. And I want you to know that my verification word was pretzels. Thanks for the snack suggestion, too!

  2. You are amazing and you make so much sense. You’ve made it very clear that there really is no reason to not start trying to love your body more.

    Awesome stuff.

  3. This is some of the stuff I’ve been trying to tell you, but probably failing :P I just had to write a blog post to figure it all out!

  4. You lady, are awesome. And I fully believe you SHOULD be doing some work around life coaching with body positivity etc. Because it is all around you. You glow with it!

  5. This is awesome and so true. It’s those things that take the negative value out of our body, regardless of size.

    I think you could do something with this body image thing :p

  6. there is so much truth in these points. i’m at a point in life where i’m at the tail end of fiercely following all these for about 10 months now and it’s been the biggest transformation ever.

    i feel better about myself than i ever have, look and feel better and healthier than i ever have.

    good post.

  7. Great post. Says everything that I have been telling myself over the past couple of years. Once I started respecting myself and demanding that others treat me with the respect i deserve everything got easier.

    Pat yourself on the back!

  8. Great post! At Christmas I received a bunch of gift certificates to buy some new clothes, and, as always, I told myself I’d buy something new when I lost weight. Three months later, despite working out and eating sensibly, I hadn’t lost anything so I figured I’d buy myself some new clothes with one rule : no black. I’ve stopped weighing myself and I’m sitting here today in a new hot pink dress. So my tummy is still flabbier than I’d like and I’m still a few pounds heavier than ideal, but I look and feel great. And I’m not hiding in dull, baggy black.

  9. This = awesome.
    I DO like my shape, my body, and yet I’ve been letting myself be shamed into feeling bad about the “freshman 15” (ok, try 40) I’ve put on. NO MORE!

    Thank you for saying this! I think everyone needs to hear it. :)

  10. I love this post! You’re doing a great job and teaching a lot of people some really good stuff. Keep up the good work!

  11. Ahh you are such a breath of fresh air girl. You could make this your job, and I think you would be marvellous at it. =D Thanks for all the happy self image thoughts, they go a long way in a negative mind x

  12. Yes – I was just thinking today that I’d like to see you do a mythbusters post, kind of exploring the sort of stuff that #3 talks about. Like that teh diabeetus comes directly from teh fat. There are so many myths out there, I think you could put a great list together and clear some shiz up.

  13. i totally agree with all your points. the image from ConsumerFreedom, though, isn’t super empowering. that organization is a front for a bunch of corporations that aren’t concerned about our body image or busting pseudoscience. it’s protecting the business interests of big restaurant and food corporations who don’t want to think about the negative consequences of overprocessed, undernutritious food products. they fear regulation and positive change. (change which shouldn’t have to come, on the other hand, through demonizing fat people, but that’s another issue!)

    i found that out because i checked out the site a few years ago after seeing the “obesity hype” ad. the story behind the graphic isn’t as cool.

    thanks for the amazing blog!!

  14. I really think the Love Yourself image would do very well on Redbubble. Have you ever considered posting it? It’s beautiful. I may be a starving artist but I know for sure simple and beautiful art is always wanted by those with a few nickles to spare.

    F. Magdalene Austin (on RB too)

  15. Someone put this link in stumbleupon, and I can’t be happier for it.

    This is awesome. It’s something I think everyone should see. Thank you for writing it. :)

    Your art is amazing too.

  16. I’m a new reader…Ijust “stumbled” on your stuff and I’m officially a NEW FAN! Sister-girl, I like your style and I’m going to keep reading (maybe while munching on a few chips).

    Keep up the great work!

    Nando

  17. Thanks Linda, that means a lot coming from you. I pledged “my voice” in the HAES movement a few weeks ago now, and I was going to get around to popping a HAES banner on my sidebar one of these days to plug the site and the movement!

  18. I have actually had an overwhelming amount of SU traffic in the last two days, and I am feeling so humbled right now! I’m glad you like my style, I just read a few of your blog entries and quietly giggled to myself :D

  19. Thank you for thinking so! I actually dashed this lettering out in a few minutes, and I’m pretty amazed at the response the post has received so I feel a bit embarrassed that it isn’t really my best work. I might redo it and then post it on Red Bubble!

  20. Oh that is embarrassing to read, I might remove it from the entry. Or shall I keep it up and post a disclaimer? Thanks for letting me know, I obviously hadn’t dug deep enough!

  21. Not hiding is such fabulous advice. While I was working in an office, I got sucked into the black and muted tones for corporate wear, because that’s basically all that’s available here in plus size. After I left my office job, I started buying more clothes online and found a world of colour again! I had some great fatshion role models who inspired me to be more visible, and I haven’t looked back!

  22. I have been absolutely OVERWHELMED with responses to “How to love yourself in 8 really hard steps”, so I want to maintain some of the body image vibe in my blog from now on. In this post, I want to share one of my secrets to feeling confident and lovi

  23. I just found you on SU and after reading all the posts, I am not familiar with Red Bubble(yet), as I was reading about your art work I was thinking about your saying I might take it down and re do it and then submit.

    I believe you may want to write about falling into the perfectionist trap, this was one I also had to over come, as a teenage seamstress I had to take things apart because they were just not right and redo them , some times over and over, I could always make it better, I had to come to a point where what ever it was, it was alright and move on. I have been much happier since then.

    It’s the letting go and moving on.

    I’m sure you will find much more to talk about with your straight forward attitude, Lola;~}

  24. I did a vlog version of the “How to love yourself in 8 really hard steps” today because I thought it might be good practice to get into the swing of talking and making videos. I actually surprised myself – I think I had about 20 minutes of babbling th

  25. I did a vlog version of the “How to love yourself in 8 really hard steps” today because I thought it might be good practice to get into the swing of talking and making videos. I actually surprised myself – I think I had about 20 minutes of babbling th

  26. I was looking for some information on “Yours Clothing” when I came across your site. I know this is a fairly old post compared to some recent ones but it struck me as most poignant.
    I’ve just turned 18, I’ve been a bigger girl all my life and I’ve just started to realised that big women can be – and are – sexy. I’ve worn nothing but t-shirts and jeans for the last 2 years – seriously, nothing. I love my t-shirts, they’re comfy, but I recently got a tattoo done on my collarbone/left breast and have started trying to show it off.
    I had no idea how good it could feel.
    You’re doing a wonderful thing for big women around the world whether you realise it or not. I’ll be watching your blog as often as I can as of now, and without trying to sound to cliche, you’re quite the inspiration.
    I’ll keep my t-shirts for unhappy ice cream-days, but from now on I’m going to focus on being the big, beautiful woman I am. You’ve helped me understand that.

  27. I found your blog via The Fat Nutritionist's site and girl, I have to say – I want to fly down there and give you a big old hug for being so bloody awesome. The advice you give in these not-so-little 8 steps is well-thought-out, truthful, and inspired. You rock. :)

  28. No matter how we look, we must love our body because because it allows us to do all the wonderful things that we do. For most overweight people it's not even their fault, genetics has a lot to do with that. But with loving our body comes the responsibility of taking care of it. Don't give up diet and exercise just because you no longer hate the way you look. This thinks will keep your body healthy.
    ________________
    weight loss Los Angeles consultant

  29. I'd like to add one thing to all this great advice- an option to “give clothes away.”

    Learn to sew!

    1)Take a beginners class.
    2)Buy a cheap sewing machine.
    3)Practice a bit on stuff you don't care so much about- like what would have gone in the drop off box or into a yard sale.
    4) Make a customized dressmaker's dummy of yourself with plasic wrap and duct-tape for next to nothing (there's a Youtube vid to show you how.)
    5)You can find other great tips, tricks, and tutorials on Youtube and elsewhere.

    When you feel confident (which won't take long! ) bring new life to your old once beloved garments. You can make your old favorites new again and even more unique and beautiful. You can look wonderful wearing them again and feel great about your accomplishment. People ask me where I bought this or that constantly and have tried to pay me to make them clothes- which I won't do. I tell them the same thing I'm telling you. Teach someone to fish is the way I look at it.

    You'll also realize how easy and fun it is to make clothes in general. Your imagination is your only limit. You'll never spend big money on inferior cloth, poor design, bad fit or shoddy workmanship again. You'll keep that money to pamper yourself in other ways or start up some of those dream projects you have on hold. Before you say “I don't have time to sew!” You do have time. I spend less time making a new dress/top/skirt/pants that I love than I used to spend shopping for stuff that I sort of liked that sort of fit me. My biggest regret is that I waited so long in life to learn. How I wish I'd known how in school. I made sure my daughter and son didn't make my mistake. They both learned early and both LOVE to sew. We now have three sewing machines in the house and might need a fourth one soon since my husband has taken an interest. No I don't sew for him either. I did teach him how to thread a machine.

    Favorite healthy snacks?
    1)Raw or home roasted almonds
    2)Celery sticks with hummus
    Desserts?
    1)No fat yoghurt with fresh fruit mixed in and/or drizzled with honey.
    2)Tofu maple chocolate mousse- Silk textured tofu, dry cocoa powder to taste, a couple drops to a dash of vanilla extract. Food processor or blender. Sweeten with maple syrup to taste. Spoon into fancy glasses, cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate. Garnish top or side of glass with fresh mint, strawberries etc. Delicious and perfect for dinner parties or special occasions.

  30. I'd like to add one thing to all this great advice- an option to “give clothes away.”

    Learn to sew!

    1)Take a beginners class.
    2)Buy a cheap sewing machine.
    3)Practice a bit on stuff you don't care so much about- like what would have gone in the drop off box or into a yard sale.
    4) Make a customized dressmaker's dummy of yourself with plasic wrap and duct-tape for next to nothing (there's a Youtube vid to show you how.)
    5)You can find other great tips, tricks, and tutorials on Youtube and elsewhere.

    When you feel confident (which won't take long! ) bring new life to your old once beloved garments. You can make your old favorites new again and even more unique and beautiful. You can look wonderful wearing them again and feel great about your accomplishment. People ask me where I bought this or that constantly and have tried to pay me to make them clothes- which I won't do. I tell them the same thing I'm telling you. Teach someone to fish is the way I look at it.

    You'll also realize how easy and fun it is to make clothes in general. Your imagination is your only limit. You'll never spend big money on inferior cloth, poor design, bad fit or shoddy workmanship again. You'll keep that money to pamper yourself in other ways or start up some of those dream projects you have on hold. Before you say “I don't have time to sew!” You do have time. I spend less time making a new dress/top/skirt/pants that I love than I used to spend shopping for stuff that I sort of liked that sort of fit me. My biggest regret is that I waited so long in life to learn. How I wish I'd known how in school. I made sure my daughter and son didn't make my mistake. They both learned early and both LOVE to sew. We now have three sewing machines in the house and might need a fourth one soon since my husband has taken an interest. No I don't sew for him either. I did teach him how to thread a machine.

    Favorite healthy snacks?
    1)Raw or home roasted almonds
    2)Celery sticks with hummus
    Desserts?
    1)No fat yoghurt with fresh fruit mixed in and/or drizzled with honey.
    2)Tofu maple chocolate mousse- Silk textured tofu, dry cocoa powder to taste, a couple drops to a dash of vanilla extract. Food processor or blender. Sweeten with maple syrup to taste. Spoon into fancy glasses, cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate. Garnish top or side of glass with fresh mint, strawberries etc. Delicious and perfect for dinner parties or special occasions.

  31. I just watched your video in youtube and looked up your blog because I just wanted to say to you: congratulations and thanks a lot! You just summed up a lot of things that I always try to say – even if I can't still fully believe in them – just to try to question people and feel better about myself. I'm brazilian and – I don't know if you know that – we are the country with the highest numbers of cosmetic surgeries and diet pills consumption, so it's kind of crazy over here to be fat and proud. So, I totally agree with you when you say that the media sell you everyday that being fat equals being unhealthy, and here it's everywhere. Your story about running is really inspiring, since I am one of those people who think that are ashamed to go exercise – I often feel (even though I don't admit) that I have to lose weight before I join a gym (hahaha). Also, I wanted to add something to your list: I always say that the stores never have plus size clothes because thin people want us to dress horribly just because they are so jealous that we can eat whatever makes us happy. So, thanks a lot because your video is REALLY inspiring!

  32. I came on your site via a Flickr, and I think I'm going to watch you from now :)

    I'm french, and here in France we don't have any “Health at every size” or “Fat acceptance” movements. So it's really hard to explain to people that you can be fat and feel fine (well in fact I do not feel fine personnally, but I know that getting thin won't make feel better either…)

    North American websites like yours are my only sources of support.

  33. #s 1, 4, & 8 have been really hard for me lately! I’ve caught myself a in a lot of negative self-talk, especially when I stay dormant while my beloved boyfriend succeeds in his new diet&exercise regimen losing inches and pounds like crazy. It’s hard to talk about my body in a way that doesn’t include sarcasm, self-deprecating humor, or shrugging off the subject.

    Thanks for the encouragement, though, and I’m sure I can get through those three trouble spots… because I’m SO TOTALLY AWESOME.

  34. Wish i could just to that .. believing would be so easy… but i have a lot of people day in and day out telling me that no matter what i do or think im always going to be fat and ugly how do you fix that?

    and believe me i have tried everything and nothing seems to work i can accept myself but no one els wants to……

    Love from size 44…

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