Dear Therapist: I accept the fact that I’ve gained weight over the last 2 years, I’m not mad at myself but I’m also just not feeling good about myself. I’m single and really haven't done any dating or put myself out there and it feels like now is the time with the warmer months coming and people really stepping out into life in a full way. I guess my question is, how do I accept my new weight, in a real loving way. I’m not in denial but I’m just not happy about it.Frame Therapist Elisabeth Abbott weighs in:
Before we get into how to feel better in your body, let me say how glad I am that you’re not mad at yourself. Bodies change over our lifespan for countless reasons, including normal aging, health or mobility issues, and stressors—like, say, a devastating global pandemic. Despite the stigma associated with weight gain in our culture and the discrimination that larger-bodied individuals can endure, weight gain is not a moral issue, and we need to challenge the narrative that weight gain is a source of shame.
So how to accept — even love — your body at its new weight?
1. Do what makes your body feel good.
Does your body like to dance? Does your body feel good when it relaxes in a warm bath or eats a delicious meal? How about when you have an orgasm, either with a partner or a trusty vibrator? Or on a hike, when your shaking legs make it all the way up the mountain and you take in the beautiful view? Start noticing when your body feels good — or even just okay — and give yourself more chances to feel that way. “Stepping out into life,” as you say, and giving yourself ample opportunities to notice what your body can do — and how good it can feel — will help to build gratitude for and comfort in the body you have right now.
2. Go shopping.
This advice may sound shallow, but I can’t tell you how many clients put off buying clothing for the body they have right now because they’re idealizing some hypothetical other body they might have someday. You deserve to have clothing that fits, appeals to your sense of style, and helps you to feel like yourself — and you deserve it now, in this body. The goal is not to buy clothes that are “flattering” (a term often used to imply that we should look smaller) — it’s to find pieces that make you feel joyful, comfortable, and/or like a boss. When we feel confident in what we’re wearing, we feel more empowered to connect with others and do the things that make us feel good.
3. Surround yourself with others who practice body acceptance.
Spend time with people who make you feel good in your body, and who prioritize connecting and living life over appearances. This might involve setting some gentle boundaries with family members or friends who talk about their own bodies negatively. It also may involve curating your social media feed: muting posts from fitness influencers or friends who sell weight-loss products can be excellent self-care. On social media and in real life, practice noticing truly beautiful things about other people with all body shapes and sizes. This practice, with repetition, helps to challenge our outdated beliefs about what is acceptable or attractive — and will allow you to notice with more ease what’s beautiful about you, too.
4. Read, write, and talk it out.
Many of us feel ashamed or selfish for struggling with body image when there are “more important” things going on in the world. But when we feel uncomfortable in our body, it’s hard to feel comfortable anywhere, let alone empowered. A few of my favorite resources for strengthening body acceptance and self-love are The Body is Not an Apology and its accompanying workbook, both by Sonya Renee Taylor; The Body Image Workbook by Thomas F. Cash; and More Than a Body by Lindsay and Lexie Kite. If you can, talk with a therapist who understands that body image struggles are not only individual issues, but also systemic ones with roots in white supremacy, misogyny, and consumerism. These conversations might make you grieve, or they may make you angry—but grief and anger can be powerful catalysts for change, including building body acceptance and self-love.
About the Therapist: Elisabeth Abbott is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) in Los Angeles. Specializing in trauma and anxiety, she empowers clients to discover their resilience, find their voice, and create their most fulfilling life.
Follow Elisabeth on Instagram @elisabethabbottlmft
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