What if we didn’t hate ourselves?

What would happen?

Would it be so terrible and unrealistic to shift our focus away from our perceived flaws, and onto the fact that we are all completely amazing right this second?

I posted this on Facebook last week, and most of the responses-per usual on my page-were in sync with the vibe. In the current social climate we’re experiencing, permission to be who we are instead of who we’re “supposed to be” is both rare and crucial. We have more than enough forces in our lives telling us we aren’t good enough and we need to be better than our best; we don’t need to do it to ourselves.

We don’t always give ourselves permission to love ourselves, so I strive to be the kind of woman who uses her platform to offer that permission.

But, as is often the case when I talk about body-love and acceptance, I inevitably receive a few responses that condone a certain amount of body obsession and equate body-love to complacency. Many people think that loving your body is giving up on it, and obsessing over your flaws will help you change them.

I get that.

On the surface it makes sense. There’s something we perceive to be a “problem” so we attack it, by all means necessary. We obsess over our love handles, our cellulite, and our muffin tops. We obsess over our diet and our training schedule and every inch of our body to the extent that, yes, we might actually lose body fat and transform our bodies.

But is obsessing over our flaws an effective and sustainable means for change?

I argue firmly in opposition. 

Loving your body is not resignation. Accepting your body is not complacency. Choosing to focus on the things you love about your body is not, in any way, giving up on your fitness efforts.

nstead, I have found in my 15 years as a fitness professional, that approaching your fitness endeavors from a foundation of love, gratitude, and radical self-acceptance is actually a much more sustainable, and far less miserable experience.

Standing in front of the mirror and saying “I love my shoulders” or “I have killer quads” is not going to make you stop exercising, is it? Calling your attention to your strengths and super powers won’t make you decide to just give up and stop evolving, will it? Shifting your focus towards what you love about your body won’t suddenly prompt you to abandon your healthy lifestyle.

What this shift in focus will do is:

1) Allow you the latitude to treat your body with love and respect.

2) Give you the energy you need to be present in your life and approach fitness and nutrition with gratitude and enthusiasm.

3) Consistently improve in a sustainable manner that doesn’t question your self-worth.

4) Grant you the freedom to embody your fitness intentions in a way that does not challenge your value system.

Obsessing over your “flaws” in an effort to change them, on the other hand, will typically cause you to:

1) Yo-yo, rebound, binge, and restrict.

2) Never feel good enough.

3) Miss out on the beauty and magic of the process.

4) Regard fitness and nutrition as a means to an end rather than a way of life.

5) Encourage destructive perfectionist tendencies.

6) Make the entire fat loss process miserable.
 

So yes, while often times obsessing over the things you want to change about your body might give you the laser focus to do so, how is that going to affect your internal resources? Your quality of life? Your sense of self-worth?

Do you want to show up in the world energized, inspired, and grateful? Do you want to love the way you eat AND the way food makes you feel? Do you want to crave movement because of it’s many emotional and physical benefits? Do you want to believe that yes, while you may want to transform your body, you aren’t constantly obsessing over it, and as a result, missing out on the rest of your life?

That’s what shifting your focus towards love will allow you to do. That’s what it means to embody self-love. It doesn’t mean you become complacent and stop living a healthy lifestyle. It doesn’t mean you say eff it and start eating donuts every day for breakfast and frequently skip workouts.

It means that when you look in the mirror, instead of thinking “I’m so disgusting and I NEED to lose my belly fat,’ you think, “Damn. That’s a powerful, beautiful, capable body–and for that, my gratitude is overflowing.”