Let’s run through a hypothetical situation. Whether or not that you are familiar with it, it’s well worth your consideration.
Imagine this. You’ve been through a dozen trainers and coaches, dietitians and health gurus, and they have all begun their pitch with variations of the same sentiment: You need to love and accept your body before you can begin the process of change.
If you’re anything like most people, you may politely nod and make placating noises whilst internally disregarding everything they have just told you. You are with them to lose weight and build muscle, not to learn to love yourself or anything like that!
It’s a frustrating situation. You want change: it’s what you’re working towards and what you’re paying all these trainers for. You want to look like a fitness buff, like an Instagram model, airbrushed to perfection in your everyday life.
You don’t want to learn to love yourself, right? The idea is a cliché and it has little to do with your goals. However, as with all the best clichés, the idea of loving yourself is bandied about as often as it is because it contains a kernel of wisdom- far more than a kernel, in fact.
For many, the idea of self-acceptance feels like something of a defeat. If you accept yourself for who or what you are now, you may feel as though you’re precluding a better, future version of yourself. You may be shutting the door forever on the self-image you have of yourself that you want to realise.
So you ignore your trainers’ advice. You tell them all that you don’t like the way you look or feel, and that you want to change.
Then, one day, it hits you. It has hit many other people in the same way. You realize that you aren’t seeking a stronger, healthier version of yourself by going to the gym and implementing all sorts of diets and training regimens. You’re acting out your own self-hatred.
You realize that you’ve been getting up every day, looking in the mirror and telling your body how much you hate it, how ugly it is, how weak and useless it has always been. With this negativity, you will struggle to find the drive to change, to build a strong, useful body in which you feel at home.
When planning meals, you’ve been telling yourself that you don’t deserve decent food. This makes you more likely to starve yourself, or to binge on unhealthy food, which makes your poor self-image dangerous and, ultimately, self-fulfilling.
Essentially, you are treating your body- and, by extension, yourself- as the enemy, where you should be regarding it as an ally. Self-sabotage and/or a lack of contentment are at the end of this particular path.
Aside from anything else, this is no way to live. It’s miserable and we all need and deserve better. If you do need to lose weight, gain muscle, or improve your fitness to create a healthier version of yourself, aim for it. But do it without the self-hate and self-deprecation, if you can.
Make an ally of your body. Accept it for what it is, warts and all. Dare to love it.
Then decide, with as clear-eyed a view as possible, what you would like to change about it in order to make yourself happy- not in order to fulfil a predetermined view of what it ‘should be.’ This is what that trainer is truly telling you to do, and when it clicks, you will find that you are capable of far more than you ever thought possible.