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Personal Essay on Learning to Love Your Body

I Had to Learn to Love My Fat Before I Could Let It Go

It happened so slowly: gaining a few pounds here or there, overindulging during the holidays with the promise to get healthy after the new year. Over time, my "Winter coat" had become more difficult to shed, and the small annual increases had added up to an overall weight gain of 50 pounds. I felt uncomfortable, my clothes didn't fit, and I avoided full-length mirrors at all costs. I hated my belly, my thighs, my fleshy face and arms. I was depressed and decided to make a change.

I began to see my body as my best friend, the one who would always be with me.

I struggled for over a year exercising, tracking calories, and avoiding all things carbohydrate. I did squats every time I went to the bathroom, lunged my way down workplace hallways, and was constantly tensing and flexing under my desk. And yet, every time I stepped on the scale, my weight was the same. Yes, muscle weighs more than fat, I'd tell myself — but why weren't my clothes fitting better? After months of miserable "healthy living," I was no closer to my goal weight, and I was tired. I love food and cooking; I never feel more at home than when I'm in the kitchen creating something wonderful. This self-torture was keeping me from enjoying my favourite hobby AND not yielding any visible results. I was frustrated and resigned myself to a life of blubbery disgust. I would always be overweight, but at least I'd get to cook and eat what I wanted. "You win," I told my muffin top with a sigh.

When I surrendered the emotional battle against my physical self, something incredible happened: I became relaxed, satisfied, and contented. I had convinced myself that I could never be happy being overweight, but after I made the decision to call a truce and stop the constant negative energy I had been sending myself, I could breathe easier. I could enjoy food without drowning in a sea of chocolate-covered guilt. I started to thank my body for being the amazing, reliable workhorse I've always taken for granted. My arms and legs are strong, my hair is thick and luxurious, and my stomach and hips are womanly and soft. The fat I had accumulated over the years was not because I was lazy and useless: it was protecting me from the negativity and pain I often felt in the world and the sad emotional abuse to which I was subjecting myself.

My friend David told me about a Hawaiian concept called Ho'oponopono, a practice of gratitude and forgiveness meant to bring peace and balance to the self. I began to thank my fat for all it had done for me, keeping me safe and cocooned when I needed it. "You've taken care of me for a long time," I told my body, "but I'm strong and I can shed some of this armor." I started looking at myself in the mirror, admiring the sags and scars from a life truly lived. I danced like a crazy maniac until I was laughing and panting in my bathroom, grateful for the ability. I began to see my body as my best friend, the one who would always be with me.

Since I made the decision to practice self-love, I have lost weight, about 20 pounds, without making any changes to my eating or lifestyle. While I praise my body for letting go of some of its protection, I am not in any rush to lose more. I accept that I am at the weight I am meant to be for now, and if that changes in the future that's fine, too. For now, I will find joy in dancing barefoot in the kitchen while I create something delicious and be thankful to the body that allows that to happen.

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