When I was a coach helping people to reach their health goals, I would often hear the words “I want to be a size [x]. Then I won’t hate my body as much. I look so fat and disgusting at this size.” I ask them this question: “If you don’t love how you are now, what difference will being in a smaller body make?” Perplexed, clients often look at me with wonder, secretly hoping I have the magic formula.

I could absolutely help people lose weight — if that’s what they want. But what I am most passionate about is creating body confidence regardless of size. I promote health over size every day of the week. I am in the business of helping clients reach a goal of feeling strong and empowered. So when clients tell me their goal is size-focused, I ask them to think about why they want that. Is it to meet a societal norm or expectation or is it because they’ll only accept themselves once they get there?

We have to remember that we have been programmed by the dieting industry — and even the medical profession — to believe that we’re only truly worthy once we are within the predetermined limits of what is considered an acceptable body size. These limits ignore any individual measures of health and strength. They are not designed to work for us, they are designed to keep us stuck in a cycle of shrinking ourselves to a size that is considered acceptable.

What if we instead practiced showing ourselves love and compassion at the beginning of setting any health and wellness goals? What if we looked at the food we were eating as nourishment for the body that holds our beautiful selves? What if we gave ourselves unconditional permission to eat?

I speak from experience when I say this: If you don’t love yourself now, losing body fat will make little difference. You may find yourself more attractive, but you’re also more likely to find fault and never be entirely satisfied.

I have been 150 pounds lighter, utterly miserable, and still looked at my body critically. I was never thin enough or beautiful enough, and I certainly felt my size dictated who I could attract. Conversely, today I am fuller-figured, but I’ve learned to love my curves. I see the beauty in my eyes and the femininity in my womanly figure; I admire the strength in my legs and respect their abilities. It is from this position that I seek to achieve any health goal — whether that is to increase the amount I can deadlift or lose a few pounds. My goals are to help my body move with more ease and flow, not because I want to feel accepted by others. I only ever need to accept myself.

What’s more, not only do we need to have the right goals, but we need to be emotionally connected with them. Losing weight so we can feel more socially acceptable is a shame-based goal — and those don’t work. Losing body fat to lessen pressure on an aggravated joint, or to fit into your favorite jeans, or to run after your children without feeling out of breath are goals we can emotionally connect to. And by connecting emotionally with them, we are far more likely to succeed.

You’re lovable and accepted — especially within the Bold & Badass community — exactly as you are.

Reflection practice:

**Try out the following journaling prompts to begin connecting with your body and caring for yourself in a new way.**

Do I see myself as beautiful the way I am? What parts of me do I love?

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How can I show myself more love?

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What would it feel like to let go of societal norms about my body size?

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Image credit: Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Olivia Pennelle

Located in Portland, OR, Olivia Pennelle (Liv) is an experienced writer, journalist, and coach. She is the founder of the popular site Liv’s Recovery Kitchen, a site dedicated to helping people flourish in their recovery. Liv is passionate about challenging limiting mentalities and empowering others to direct their own lives, health, and recovery. You can find her articles across the web on podcasts and publications across the web, including Ravishly, The Fix, Recovery.org, Workit Health, and STAT News. Liv was recently featured in VICE.

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