If you believe that you’ll be happy once you lose weight, you’ll never be skinny enough to be happy. It’s a vicious cycle and it never ends unless we learn to love the body we have as it is right now, not tomorrow or next month or next year.

It’s ok to want to make health improvements to be at your personal best, but you can’t hate and despise the state you’re in now. Making these lifestyle changes is about believing you deserve to be healthier! Love yourself enough to take the time out to exercise and eat well.

It’s not about making the changes so you can look like someone else or love who you are. If you make changes with this as your ultimate goal, it may be tough to succeed and you may be miserable for life! Body hatred and dissatisfaction are hardly reserved for only the morbidly obese. In fact, many women who clearly have very little body fat to lose, are not happy with their body proportions.

Here’s some steps you can take to learn to love your body and develop a more positive self-image.

Step One – Pay attention to your words. Your brain is listening!

One aspect of gaining control and developing a more positive body image is understanding the role of negative and irrational thinking. We are often our own worst critics and can be so hard on ourselves. Listen to what you say.

Become aware of things you may have thought or said which could sabotage your efforts:

I missed my workout. I’m a total loser!

I need to starve myself to look good!

Since I stuffed myself at lunch, the whole day is ruined. I might as well eat whatever I want for the rest of the day and start all over again tomorrow!

Things always go wrong! I’m such a failure!

It’s not the diet program that’s wrong, it’s me!

I might have lost 10 pounds but I can’t go to the beach until I’m at my goal weight!

I’ll be happy once I lose the weight!

My thighs are the fattest I’ve ever seen!

I need to workout excessively so I can make up for all the junk I ate yesterday!

If I lose weight, then my boyfriend will pay more attention to me.

Why do I have such poor will-power?

Why couldn’t I just have been born with a perfect body?

There’s no way I will wear a bathing suit with this muffin top!

I’ve got to lose 20 pounds within a month to get ready for my vacation or my holidays will be ruined!

I’ll always be like this!

My butt is so big. There’s no way I’m wearing shorts!

I can’t seem to do anything right!

Why would anybody love me?

What is sad are the people who get caught in the thought process of “If I could just lose this extra 20 pounds, then I’d be happy”, and often, even when they do lose the weight, they’re still not satisfied.

Step Two: Manage negative and irrational thoughts.

Listen to your thoughts at the times when you feel worst and listen for irrational/negative thinking.

Dispute these thoughts by asking “Why is this so?”, “Where is this negativity coming from?” and “Could there be another possible explanation or interpretation?”

Imagine repeating what you’ve said to a close friend or child. We could never imagine talking to others as we talk to ourselves. The next time you catch yourself thinking irrationally or negatively, ask yourself if you’d ever speak this way to another human being. You deserve the same type of respect you’d give anybody else! Remind yourself that if you continually practice negative self-talk, eventually, you may actually start to believe your own words. Your self-esteem can end up taking a real beating.

Thought stopping (when worrying, think of a stop sign and then pleasant thoughts)

Stress management (when worrying, participate in your favorite relaxation techniques like massage, reading, baths, journal writing etc.)

Learn to live in the moment and to experience true joy in your life. Stop worrying about the past or the future.

Each night before you fall asleep, write in a journal or make a mental note of what was the best part of your day or of something that you experienced that you really appreciated or enjoyed. Developing a gratitude mindset can help stop negative thinking and help you feel better about all areas of your life.

Live today! Self-hatred takes a lot of time and energy. Obsessing about your body weight, nutrition plan and exercise program leaves you tired and depressed. Deciding to not enjoy the here-and-now because you’ve decided to wait until you lose weight will leave you feeling deprived and will often lead to more negative feelings and behaviors. Remember that thin thighs, a small butt and a 6-pack set of abdominals is not the ticket to a meaningful existence. Fill your life with interesting experiences and people and you’ll enjoy a much higher quality of life.

Step Three: Understand what’s realistic for you?

One step to improving your body image is to stop comparing yourself to others. It’s important to understand your genetics, your body type and your age and strive for a physique that is healthy for you.

Is there a history of excess fat in your family? If both of your parents have a higher percentage of body fat, it will be less likely that you’ll be able to achieve a super thin physique. Understand your genetics and the role it plays in your body composition.

Which parts of your body or your physical attributes are you satisfied with? Focus on your strengths!

What is the lowest weight you have maintained as an adult for at least one year? When did you feel the healthiest? Instead of focusing on a number on the scale, ask yourself when did you feel the healthiest and what did that look like for you?

Based on your genetic predisposition, your age and the amount of time you want to spend exercising, what type of “ideal” physique is achievable for you?

Step Four: Find your tribe!

Surround yourself with positive, supportive people who inspire, challenge and support you. Keep people around who are part of the solution not part of the problem.

Yours in health & fitness,
Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan, holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 30 years. She has received numerous industry awards including 2010 CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year - Runner up. She is a fitness trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including "Go For Fit - the Winning Way to Fat Loss" and "Fit over Forty" and the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She has presented hundreds of workshops to thousands of fitness leaders throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, England, Spain, South America, Asia and the U.S. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver and Salmon Creek, hosts races at WHY Racing Events, participates in various community fundraisers and can be found running, biking, or hiking around the community. Find more information at nwpersonaltraining.com.

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