“When I lose 10 more pounds I’ll be happy.”
“Ugh. My hair is so thin.”
“Put down that cookie! Only two more months until swimsuit season.”
“I should really do something about those fine lines that are beginning to creep in.”
Sound familiar? That is the loud, negative and, quite frankly, uninvited voice inside your head that keeps you in a constant state of needing to better anything and everything about your external self.
Why is it so hard for us to accept our bodies? Society has put so much value and importance on our outward appearance that it places what’s on the inside — intelligence, compassion, humor, etc. — on the backburner. In an effort to perfect our “flaws” so that we can finally get to a place where we can be “happy,” it has become difficult to even consider accepting or loving our physical bodies as is.
But the truth is that if we tell that unwelcomed voice to simmer down and finally begin to appreciate and respect our bodies, we’ll ultimately end up happier and healthier. Science has shown that when people have a more positive body image they may have a more positive quality of life and a healthier body. Here’s why:
You gain skills that are central to weight loss.
A 2011 study found that when people feel more positive about their own body image, their ability to regulate their eating habits also improves. “As body image improves, the researchers found that autonomous motivation, self-efficacy (confidence in one’s ability to produce a desired result) and self-regulation skills, which are central to weight loss, also improve and emerge as the best predictors of a beneficial weight,” says Misti Gueron M.S., RDN, medical nutrition therapist at the Khalili Center.
You sustain more weight loss than dieting.
While your main desire to accept your body should not be to shed pounds, it may help the process in the long term. “A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that ‘health at every size’ participants improved and maintained weight loss, while the group on a diet initially lost weight, but eventually gained it back and had little sustained health improvement,” says Alyse Levine, M.S., RD.
So while no one will argue that going on a diet can help you lose weight, it’s keeping the weight off that is most challenging. Body acceptance and positive self-talk can lead to more sustained weight loss than a “quick fix” diet that helps you drop weight only to gain it back again.
You exercise because you enjoy it.
While most exercise is fueled by the desire to change the way your body looks, body acceptance is about doing things that make your body feel good and are consistent with your values, such as living a long and healthy life. A study published in the journal Appetite examined a one-time, two-hour body-acceptance workshop compared to a no-treatment group for women who were already trying to lose weight. At six months, workshop participants were significantly more physicalactive than those who did not attend the workshop.