Tips + Ways to Love Yourself When You've Gained Weight
by Tiffany Walking Eagle | 9-minute read
Please note, I’m not a therapist or nutritionist. I simply share what I’ve learned from my own struggles with the hope it will help others. As you should with everything you hear and read, take what I write with a grain of salt. If you suffer from depression, an eating disorder, or any other mental health struggle, please seek professional help. You’re worth it. <3
Gaining weight can be a tricky thing. Just like losing weight and getting fit, it doesn’t happen overnight, but steady weight gain over a period of time can leave you feeling frustrated or even depressed. People deal with weight gain differently; some people shrug their shoulders and move on most of the time, but I think most of us still have hard days and struggle with our body image on some level. I know for myself, I’ve struggled with depression about the weight I’ve gained over the past year, and accepting myself as I am right now is a daily battle. Can you relate?
I’ve purposely avoided the harsh lighting of dressing rooms, knowing I always leave them feeling down.
I’ve cried through workouts, frustrated with the extra jiggle I felt as I moved.
I’ve tried on dozens of outfits only to feel like nothing looks good on me, then I return to my go-to leggings and giant shirt that hides my body.
I’ve avoided having pictures taken of me.
I’ve obsessively scrolled through social media accounts of beautiful, fit women, unable to look away or stop comparing myself to them.
Can you relate?
This post is a little difficult for me to write; I feel vulnerable sharing the inner battle I’ve faced for so long, and I fear I’ll sound dramatic or whiny. However, even the possibility of this helping one person to learn their worth outside of their weight/size is worth it to me.
I’m writing this post around the holidays, which is a time when a lot of us indulge more than normal and perhaps battle with guilt over what we’re eating and drinking. We shouldn’t feel guilty for eating decadent foods around the holidays, and we shouldn’t beat ourselves if we put on a few pounds, whether it’s the holiday season or not.
So. What does loving yourself when you’ve put on weight look like?
It will look different for everyone, but let’s explore some ways to love ourselves a little better together, no matter the number on the scale.
Know that your size or the number on the scale doesn’t define you.
The relationship between our identity and our appearance can be too strong, in my opinion. Sometimes when our physical appearance changes due to age, hormones, having children, health issues, etc., it’s difficult to accept our changing bodies, and we may not feel like ourselves.
I recently moved back to my hometown, and since the last time I was here, I’ve put on probably around 20 to 30 pounds. I’ve often been terrified to go in public for fear of running into someone I know, and when I do see people out and about, I convinced myself that the first thing they’re thinking is wow, she’s gained weight. (Part of this stems from having family and relatives who tend to comment on my weight.) Whether or not it’s rational, this kind of thought pattern is torture, and it held me back in a lot of ways.
I neglected friendships due to my own insecurities, and I avoided doing things I loved to do because of my fear of being seen.
Have you experienced this? If so, you know how terrible it is to allow your weight to define you like this. To hold yourself back from living life just because of your weight is to completely ignore the other incredible facets of yourself that make you you!
There is so much more to you than your body. Your size does not define you. You have talents and goals and beautifully unique qualities. I know that you have things in your life to be proud of, no matter how big or small those things may seem. Just still being here is something to be proud of, because I know the dark place this way of thinking can lead to.
You’re alive. You’re here. You should be proud of that. Now, let’s work on loving ourselves enough to not stay where we are. Self-acceptance and bettering ourselves should go hand in hand.
Find gratitude…even when it’s hard.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in where you are right now, feeling unsatisfied with the way you look and feel, feeling like you’ll never be able to have the body you want. Trust me; I get it. I’ve been in that place time and time again.
But you know what?
There are people in the world who would give anything to have what you have.
A roof over your head. Legs that get you places. A body that hasn’t given up on you.
These things aren’t guaranteed to everyone. But do you have them?
If so, be thankful because it could be worse. Something magical starts to happen when we practice gratitude; our mindset changes, and we see ourselves and the world a little differently. Life is a gift, no matter the size or weight of the package we’re living it in.
I challenge you to write down 5 things you’re grateful for every single morning. See what happens.
Focus on experiences.
Do you love to travel? Are you a people person? Do you love the outdoors? Are you into fashion? Do you love to dance?
Whatever you’re into, immerse yourself into the things you love in whatever way you can. It may feel out of your comfort zone right now, but in order to get out of this rut, you’re going to have to push past your comfort zone. In fact, when self-criticism and a negative body image becomes your comfort zone, that needs to change.
So find the things you love to do and do them. Spend time with people who make you feel uplifted. Seek and create fun, memorable, meaningful experiences to demonstrate to yourself that there’s so much more to life that that number on the scale or the size of your jeans.
The other day, my husband, my mom, and I went up to the mountains in Tollgate, Oregon to pick out a fresh Christmas tree. My husband drives a trusty 2004 Toyota Tacoma truck, so naturally we had to do some off-roading. Over a foot of snow had fallen the night before, and the towering, frost-covered pines surrounded us as we drove.
We pulled over to take in a gorgeous view, and as I stood there looking over a sea of pines that dotted the mountainside and the way the sun sparkled on the bright snow, I felt moved…and a little foolish. I waste so much time worrying about meaningless things like how I look when there is such awe-inspiring beauty in the world.
It’s easy to get so hyper-focused on self-criticism that we don’t look outside of ourselves and see the beauty all around us. It’s easier to find beauty in some places than others, but work to find the beauty around you when you’re feeling stuck in a rut of self-loathing; it can do wonders for your perspective.
Take small steps when you’re feeling stuck.
If your weight has caused you depression on any level, it can feel like you’re stuck in a place that’s difficult to escape. Even just getting up and accomplishing daily tasks may feel harder than they should, let alone trying to work toward your health/fitness goals.
So when leaving your bed feels impossible or getting to the gym seems like a treacherous feat, ask yourself what you truly can do. You can get out of bed and you can go to the gym, but getting your mindset in the right place is the first step.
Or, start with the small steps. Maybe instead of the gym, you can go on a hike on your favorite trail. Maybe instead of bingeing on junk food when you’re feeling down, you can make a healthier choice. Perhaps instead of reaching for a can of soda, you grab some sparkling water instead.
I know when I’ve been in that place of feeling stuck, I have to force myself to do something to kind of jar myself out of this negative thinking pattern of being “stuck,” When a negative mindset starts to set in, find a positive action to interrupt the pattern.
Understand that the small good decisions add up.
Just like a some habitual extra high-calorie meals here and several mindless handfuls of snacks there start to add up over time, good decisions add up too.
I’m not here to be the definer of good decisions, but here’s the important thing to understand; while it doesn’t feel like three, 30-minute cardio sessions per week or decisions like swapping low-cal frozen yogurt for your nightly ice cream add up, they do. Having a “screw it” mentality when it comes to the decisions you make regarding eating and fitness won’t help you. For example, beliefs like screw it, walking this extra 20 minutes a day won’t do anything or screw it, taking the time to prep my meals won’t make a difference are going to only make you feel worse in the end.
A, because those beliefs aren’t true. Those actions do add up over time, and they can lead to lasting results.
And B, those beliefs are going to make achieving your goals seem impossible. Read: it’s not impossible.
So no, you won’t lose all the weight you want by walking five times a week for two weeks. And no, you can’t eat healthy for a week and expect to reach your goals. However, if you do those things consistently over a longer period of time, you’re likely to see progress.
Consistency. Over. Perfection.
You don’t necessarily have to crush it at the gym to reach your goals (although that is one way). The truth is, forcing yourself to go to the gym 5 times a week just might not work for you (or it might!) but no matter your circumstances, focus on what you can do. Start small, and never forget that even the small good decisions have a major impact.
A few people to inspire you:
Here’s a few positive people in the health world who have such a balanced view on this struggle. They’ve been through it themselves, and they’ve helped so many people. Check them out when you need some encouragement and inspiration.
@mikzazon on Instagram.