From experience, I know that simply changing your attitude towards your body can be the best way to actually help you lose weight. It might sound like a contradiction--"So you're saying I should love my body? But isn't trying to lose weight exactly the opposite?" Not necessarily.
When I was 18 years old, I suffered from the typical freshman 15. I think in retrospect that this had a lot to do with the depression that I experienced, being part of a 30,000-student university. Feeling like a nameless face prompted me to pick up a lot of unhealthy habits, eating not being the least of them. (Cramming at 2 am with a large pizza and lots of coffee isn't an unfamiliar activity for the majority of first-year college students, after all.) In turn, whenever I looked at myself in the mirror, all I saw were the defects: bad skin, cellulite, a flabby belly, etc. I tried eating better, but to no avail, I'd take one look at myself and think, "What's the purpose?" and would scarf down a huge burrito to make myself feel a little better.
Food became my solace, and exercise (which I tried many times) was way too intimidating. The idea of "revealing my ugliness" to other people was too unbearable to deal with. In essence, my own low sense of self-worth was getting in the way of any progress I could have been making. Instead of taking a more positive, self-determined approach, like noting how much better I'd feel if I started running in the mornings, or how my natural flexibility could easily be enhanced with a little yoga, I kept beating myself up.
To this day, I think that I was a little scared of changing. The person I saw in the mirror became the "real me," and if I did away with that image, I couldn't make any more excuses for myself - that was a frightening prospect, indeed. Gradually, with the help of friends and just over the process of growing up, I began to relax a little. I realized that just because I wasn't perfect, it didn't mean I couldn't love my body or feel good about it. I began to wear clothes that were more flattering, I started taking up salsa and belly dance classes, and I actually began to appreciate my curves, which I'd mistakenly written off as "fat" for so many years. It's funny to write this now, considering that at my heaviest, I was probably about 135 lbs (at 5'4") so most people wouldn't ever have thought of me as fat. But of course, self-image can be deceiving.
I learned not to be fooled by negative perceptions, which were oftentimes more false than true. As I became more and more active, I naturally picked up greater and greater self-confidence. I didn't become a crazy calorie-counter, but naturally, the new addiction to feeling good about myself caused me to reassess some of my prior bad habits and start treating my body the way it deserved to be treated - with love and care for what I was putting into it.
These days, I'm still happy, active, and trimmer than I've ever been in my life, and luckily for me, the effort is minimal. I eat what I want, stay active (although I have to admit I detest the gym), and have finally stopped comparing myself to other girls with "better" bodies than mine. The journey to feeling comfortable in my skin took some time, but I'm glad I'm here. It definitely makes me sad when I see other women beating themselves up or viewing their bodies with disgust, because it reminds me of where I was at one point in my life. My hope for others is that they can learn to embrace their individuality - it's so much easier to eat healthy and treat your body right when you're in a loving relationship with it.
Your post was very inspirational, Nirmala. I remember clearly when I was 5'5 and 193 pounds. I think it was the proximity to 200 that made me stop one day and realize that a change REALLY needed to be made-why I didn't take action before baffles me still, but I might know part of the reason why. When I was that weight, I was happy, had great relationships with friends, was being social and didn't have much trouble meeting guys. In fact, looking back, I had a lot more dates then than I did even as the weight started to come off. The reason behind it, I think, was my self-confidence. But I needed to learn to love my body in a different way-though I thought I looked just fine, I didn't always feel fine. I felt tired, sluggish, bloated, etc. most of the time, and that 193 on the scale made me realize that it wasn't okay anymore.
I've learned to love my body, more and more so as I've lost the weight and maintained a healthy weight-and it's a "true" love....one I plan on continuing with for the rest of my life.