What if You Hate Your Fat Body?

I hear a lot from people that they are “unable” to like themselves – that they can’t look in the mirror and be happy with the reflection, that they can’t be ok with their bodies, that they can’t accept being fat or be happy in a fat body etc.

I remember really struggling with this in my life and I know that it was a long hard process. And the first thing that I had to realize was that I’m literally the only person in the world who can decide how I feel about myself.  Nobody can crawl into my brain and force me feel any way about my body. The way that I feel about myself is an amalgamation of the opinions and thoughts that I’ve allowed myself to believe either consciously or unconsciously.

I spent a lot of time trying to blame other people for how much I hated myself and, at least for me, it never made anything better. Yes, I have a major issue with the way that women are portrayed in the media, and with industries like the diet and beauty industries that do everything in their power to make us hate ourselves so that we will buy their products in an attempt to stop hating ourselves.  Yes, I think it’s bullshit that they try to take our self-esteem, cheapen it and sell it back at a profit.  But that doesn’t change the fact that whether or not I buy into that and how I feel about myself is my decision – it has to be, there is simply no one else who could make it.

Now, was realizing this a magic spell that changed everything instantaneously?  No.  Not even close.  I had a ton of hard work ahead of me.  Still, the most important thing that I ever did for myself was take responsibility for how I feel about myself and my body. Because that allowed me to make the decision, the declaration (if only to myself in my living room) that I was going to learn to love myself no matter what it took.  At that point I didn’t like myself any more than I had the minute before I made the declaration but, for the first time in a long time, I had a glimmer of hope.

One day soon after that I was spending some time thinking about how I felt about myself and how I could feel better and why I felt so bad and I realized that I had spent so many years hating my body for how it looked I hadn’t taken any time to thank my body for what it does. So I got out some paper and made a list of everything that I could think of that my body does.  I think it was more than 60 pages long and I know that it included breathing and blinking (as well as smiling, talking, walking, hugging, waste elimination…it was extensive, is what I’m saying here.)

Then I decided to really put some energy into noticing my thoughts, interrupting negative thoughts about my body and replacing them with gratitude for things from my list.  Any things.  I might walk by a window and start to think something negative about my stomach but I would stop myself and think “hey body, thanks for blinking so our eyes don’t shrivel up!” Whatever it took to get to a place of gratitude.  Doing this exercise for a few weeks was the single most life changing thing that I’ve ever done.

At the end of those weeks I was no kind of poster girl for fat pride, I still didn’t love the shape of my body – that would come later – but I appreciated my body for what it did and for me that changed everything. It’s what paved the way for me to ask myself why I hated the shape of my body – was it really about what I thought or was it external messages that I had internalized and, since I had internalized them how could I kick them the hell out?  But it all started with the realization that I was in charge of this.  As painful as it was to realize that there was nobody else to blame for my seeming inability to be happy with my body, it also meant that my ability to love my body didn’t depend on anyone else and that was good news.

There’s a beautiful quote by Og Mandino that is one of my favorites, a portion of which I used to repeat to myself all the time while I was in this process:

 I will act now. I will act now.  I will act now. This is the time. This is the place. I am the person.

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Published in: on July 14, 2012 at 7:55 am  Comments (18)  

18 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Really great timing for this particular post for me…and it’s such a great message for ANY aspect of life — as trite as it may sound, having an “attitude of gratitude” really does change things.

    For me personally, I find I don’t really think about hating my body unless I have to see it! LOL! I didn’t have a full length mirror in my apartment for years for this reason and I only have one now for my voice students to use during lessons. Recently though I have been making the conscious occasional effort to MAKE myself look and find things about my body aesthetically to be grateful for — like my butt isn’t that droopy for someone my age and size. I have a great rack (thanks, Mom!). And considering the massive amounts of weight I’ve lost and regained over the years, my skin’s elasticity is doing pretty well (I really should have quite the turkey neck by now but I don’t). One day when my butt DOES droop and I get a turkey neck, I hope to not give a damn. But I’m not there yet. 😉 It’s going to be a process. Learning not to judge ourselves harshly for ANY reason is. But I think it’s worth it, because when we stop judging ourselves we tend to find less reason to judge others.

    • Hee! Just this morning I suddenly noticed I was developing serious crow’s feet around my eyes. I know this is one that sends a lot of women – and some men, too – spiraling down into depression, but I just thought to myself ‘wow! all the laughter shows in my face, now! how cool!’

      There was a time in my life when I, like you, couldn’t look in the mirror and not hate what I saw. The confidence does come in baby steps over time. After all, it took a long time to internalize all the negative messages, and they’re the ones most encouraged and reinforced by the world at large. But it can come. And when it does, it’s such a free place I can’t even describe it, let alone be grateful enough for it.

  2. I was just thinking today about how it still surprises me when I look in the mirror and realize, I don’t look as bad as I feel I look. I actually look quite nice. That’s sad to me. I don’t internalize compliments as easily as all the negative things that have been said to me over the years. I’m still working on it.

    • y’know what? i’ve sometimes not recognized myself when i caught a glimpse of me in the mirror that i was not expecting to see — because that person looked WAY cuter than i think i do! A shame. 😎

  3. What a great offering to be reading this morning. I think its an exercise worth implementing in my process and I appreciate that you shared your own personal journey with us. Thank you so much!

  4. This is a beautiful post. I found it applicable to negative thoughts I have about other aspects of myself too. Not smart enough, not strong enough, not whatever enough. I am also in the process of kicking these thoughts out of my brain, and I agree that realizing I was the only one who could do it was the most important part.

  5. I have a little bit of a different perspective on this. I hated myself (or thought I did)… basically until I found this blog. The reality was, I really loved myself, but I felt like I wasn’t supposed to. When I found this blog, it was like I finally received permission to feel how I already did. I’m not a fat activist… but I do have a blog (it’s usually about genealogy) but I have posted my story there if you’re interested to know how I came to love myself. http://mxmeli.blogspot.com/2012/07/loving-yourself.html

    • Hi Melissia,

      Wow, thank you for sharing your journey, I’m completely honored to have been a part of it.

      Big Fat Hugs!


      • Melissia, reading your blog made me happy. I’ve never quite thought about self-acceptance this way. It helped me realize that even when we start to love ourselves as we are, we have to fight outward messages that tell us not to do so–as if cherishing and admiring ourselves is egotistical. I think that applies to all of us in this Puritanical society. We’re given the idea that we should always be striving to be something we aren’t and chastising ourselves for what we haven’t yet become.

  6. Thank you. I need to work on this.

  7. Once again, Thank you Ragen. I am in the process in learning not to hate my body. Im almost there. Now I need to learn to love my body. I didnt think of it that way.

  8. I love the Og Mandino. Here’s a mantra I ran across recently that I am getting used to calling on, too: “Om Grow Up Shivaya”. 😎

    I love your ideas about gratitude — thank you. 😉

  9. Just another inspirational quote to add to your collection…

    It’s from a book called ‘Keys to the Open Gate’, edited by Kimberly Snow – the entire book is absolutely beautiful, but this one particular paragraph struck a chord with me many years ago:

    “Remember the beauty & sacredness of your woman-body. And remember that no matter how your personal body is shaped, whether it is abundant or slight, somewhere in the world a Goddess is venerated Who looks just like you.”

    I just happen to resemble the Venus of Willendorf 😀

    • i love love love this quote! just shared it on FB. thank you!

  10. love, love, love this post! i’ve often attempted to try something similar to what you’ve (seemingly) mastered: positive internal talk to keep the negative thoughts at bay. but i never would have thought to thank my body for what it does for me, such as blinking. that’s effing brilliant. i think i’ll start doing that now, instead of just attempting to force myself to like things i don’t like at this stage. thank you. you truly are an inspiration. 🙂

  11. Wonderful Regan, thank you so much for sharing this….. Yes for so many years I was not accepting myself. I rem some 5 yrs back a person asked me to draw a pic for accptance and I drew a pic of sweet little girl (actually my frnds daughter) hugging me tightly…. that was the best i could say abt acceptance…. I declared to that person how can I love myself being so fat???? Over the period of 5 yrs somehow I got EFT and so many other things changed ….. Today I look in mirror and tell myself.. I DEEPLY AND COMPLETELY LOVE AND ACCEPT MYSELF THE WAY I AM….
    Also Regan, thank you for sharing abt gratitude…only last month during a task I had noted 10 things that I am grateful abt my area of concern ie. my weight… BUT Now reading that you wrote 60 pages……….. WOW…. thank u for sharing…. . I will do the same more…. Ur post are so good…. thank you… Purneema

  12. I think the real eye-opening thing for me was seeing my best friend lose weight and become an entirely different person. She was (and still is) obsessed with being thin and it made me so sad because I missed the person she was when she wasn’t obsessed with the scale. We had so much fun before and now we can’t even go out for lunch because her diet is so restrictive she can’t take off from it for even an afternoon. I wish I could show her how awesome she is and that she was just as awesome and beautiful when she weighed 300 pounds.

    I realized I didn’t want to be thin, I wanted to not be oppressed and those are two very different things. Learning to love myself and love my body hasn’t been easy but in some ways it’s been a lot easier than constantly hating myself and being obsessed with weight loss and “fitting in.” It’s been so freeing to let go of that self hate, shame and guilt.

  13. We can’t begin to take care of a body we hate, we despise, even. We can’t begin to treat it well, to nourish it and to move it to be fit, if we look at it with disgust.

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