‘Beach Body’ Blues: The Surprising Reason You Can’t Lose Weight

With summer in full swing, millions of people are trying to hit the gym and lose weight. However, if you want to shed pounds, be aware that body-shaming yourself could end in tears…and even weight gain!

Yep, hating your body can actually make you heavier in the long run. A new study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders has found that people who believe themselves to be overweight (whether they were or not) were more likely to be obese in the coming years when the researchers checked back with them. They were also more likely to exhibit unhealthy eating behaviors such as crash dieting and less likely to engage in healthy behavior like exercise and eating clean.

Wow. Pretty shocking findings that testify to the power of our mind. As I often discuss, our thoughts create our reality. When we think hateful thoughts about ourselves or the world around us, we become powerless to change our environment, and we also attract more negative situations to us.

But, of course, changing your body image can be easier said than done…especially in a world that profits from our self-hatred and our desire for self-improvement. Every time we step out of the house or we switch on the television, there are triggers that can make us feel bad about our bodies. Thankfully, those triggers are also invitations. Invitations to love ourselves harder, care for ourselves better, and be more present in our lives on a moment-to-moment basis.

Here is how:

1. Accept that you currently do not like your body, but frame it in a temporary way. For example, you might say, ‘Right now I do not like my weight, but I believe that can change.’ Body acceptance is wonderful, but even more important is the willingness to be honest with yourself. If you don’t like your body, you can admit that to yourself…but don’t get stuck in that mindset. Realize that just as the moon has phases and the seasons change, your body too will morph and grow and shrink over the years. It’s a natural process and the goal is to learn to love yourself through each phase and bring observation (and not judgement) to those changing seasons.

2. Eat with awareness. I don’t just mean that you should be aware of what you eat, but that you should be aware of what is going on inside of you as you prepare your food. Try to connect with yourself before you eat anything, even if it is a snack. You might find out that you are snacking for all the wrong reasons. Are you actually hungry, or are you using food as a way to ‘numb’ emotional pain? Many times when life feels painful, we reach for a cookie or something similar, which is understandable as those sweet treats give our body a needed ‘zing’ of feel-good endorphins. But what if instead you just held yourself in that moment? What if you just stayed with yourself through that pain, instead of abandoning yourself and leaving Chips Ahoy to do your soul-tending? What if you said, “Ow, this really hurts right now. I am feeling so sad and scared. I want to eat cookies right now to make myself better. Saying ‘no’ to that urge is really hard. I am scared I can’t do it. I am scared but I am going to try. I am worth fighting for.”

3. Eat for the body you want, not the one you have. In the future, what would the ‘fit’ you eat for meal? Probably not a Big Mac. You have to make choices for the body you want, so you need to able to visualize that future self and believe that you can really get there. More simply put: Eat for the body you want, not the body you have.

4. Don’t spiral into self-hate when you make a mistake. Everything is a lesson. Okay, so you ate a bag of candy over the kitchen sink and gained a pound. Well, what did you learn from that? That you can’t have candy in the house? That you shouldn’t stress-eat after a bad day? Get into a place where you can not only find the lesson in the pain, but that you can actually feel gratitude for that experience. Yep, I want you to feel grateful for the things your self-control faltered and you over-ate. Why? Because until you do so, you will never be able to break that cycle. Your body is trying to tell you something when you engage in those behaviors. It’s saying “I need attention here” and “Put down that phone!” The pain is in invitation to get into your body, quiet your mind, and connect with your spirit. To find a way to nourish yourself from the inside out. What an incredible opportunity. Every time your body gets hungry or craves junk food, it’s an invitation to get quiet and shower your inner self with attention and loving-kindness. Pretty cool!

5. Meditate. When you take time every day to connect to your inner self, you are able to shut out the noise from the world and the noise inside your head. You will be better equipped to make healthy choices for yourself and you will be able to pursue your goals with clarity. The next time you are debating having ice cream or ordering a pizza, spend 10 minutes in quiet mediation. The goal isn’t to convince yourself not to eat. There is no goal at all. You are simply finding yourself and showing yourself the respect and observation you deserve. Perhaps when you are done meditating, you will decide to order the pizza or have that scoop of Ben and Jerry’s. Or maybe you will decide to go for a walk or make a plate of fruit instead. Either way, meditation is a way to ensure that your choices are actually CHOICES, and not mindless, destructive routines that are harming your body and spirit.