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You Can Love Your Body -- and Still Lose Weight for Your Health

Are you supposed to love your body, excess weight and all, or take every extra step possible to slim down ASAP? It can be hard to tell these days.

Many articles and social media “influencers” focus on “body positivity” — learning to love ourselves as we are. They say it’s self-care to embrace who you are at the moment and own that person as fabulous. Just as often, we see impassioned warnings about the health dangers of weighing too much, from high blood sugar and blood pressure to knee pain and trouble sleeping.

Both are right. You should accept yourself, and you should also develop healthy eating and exercise habits. The two are not mutually exclusive.

What Is Body Positivity?

“Body positivity” is a trendy term for having a good mental image of your own body. “A healthy body image means you feel comfortable in your body and you feel good about the way you look,” says the Office on Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Accept your body as it is, be compassionate to yourself, and your self-esteem will be higher. That in turn might lead you to be more social, which is important to mental health. Most important, high self-esteem is likely to keep you from getting depressed. The National Eating Disorders Association even published a list of suggestions to build body positivity. It’s called “20 Ways to Love Your Body.”

Some experts encourage overweight people to think instead about “body neutrality.” That means to stop examining your body parts and instead consider how your body serves you.

You should accept the body you have, even when you’re overweight or obese. You should value yourself based on matters other than BMI or how many pounds you’ve lost.

Love Yourself, Love Your Health

Still, you can have better health, feel more energetic and overall live a better life if your weight is within a healthy range. Even shedding a few pounds can improve your mood and eliminate some health challenges. Too blue to bother? It’s hard to fight the urge not to exercise, and not to overeat, when you’re feeling down. Try to talk to yourself logically, thinking about how movement and healthy foods will raise your spirits.

Even small changes can make a big difference, including:

  • Move. Do some kind of exercise, even if that means walking around the block after dinner, marching in place during a TV commercial or swimming a lap daily at a local pool.
  • Cut out junk food. Whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats and whole grains will make you more energetic. Processed foods can mess with insulin levels and lead to depression, plus they might not provide nutrients. Don’t keep junk food in the house.
  • Limit screen time. Find alternatives to surfing on your smartphone and tablet, and watching TV. When you’re screen-bound, you’re sitting still, which is not ideal, and not socializing, also not ideal. Instead, invite a friend for tea, initiate a phone call, do a jigsaw puzzle, build blocks with a child, go watch a sports game live, stroll around a store, play cards … just don’t sit and stare at a screen.
  • Find new hobbies. It’s easy to flip channels and stroll to the fridge. Distract yourself with activities that can be fun, even fulfilling. The options are endless: knitting, ceramics, taking an enrichment class, volunteering at a nonprofit such as a theater or homeless center, learning to draw, taking up bird-watching, playing a musical instrument, starting a collection, educating yourself about investing, planting a garden, improving your photography skills and many other options.

Advanced Weight Loss Routes

You should accept who you are, but you should understand you can be healthier and feel better if you lose weight. The situation tends to grow worse when you don’t do anything about excess pounds.

Eating well and exercising regularly are the tried-and-true combo for slimming down, yet many people need another route to weight loss. There are several options for those who can’t shed weight by dieting and exercising alone, including:

  • Medical weight-loss programs. Weight-loss clinics often involve doctors, nutritionists and mental health professionals. Together, they provide a custom combination of education, training, medication and support. You’re likely to be coached about how to change lifestyle habits including eating, sleeping and stress-management. Ask your doctor to recommend a program nearby. While in-person participation is most likely to help you, online options are available too.
  • Endoscopic procedures. If you need medical intervention to lose weight, consider an endoscopic procedure, which is less invasive than bariatric surgeries. Most involve a procedure in which a doctor will access your digestive tract using a thin flexible tube called an endoscope inserted through your mouth. For the two most common endoscopic weight-loss options, the doctor will place a special sleeve around your stomach, in essence making your stomach smaller, or a saline-filled silicon balloon, which will make you feel full most of the time.
  • Bariatric surgeries. Depending on your body, your preference and your situation — for example, if you’re 100 pounds or more over your target weight and have multiple health problems, you can choose from a few types of more aggressive bariatric, or weight-loss, surgeries. In this case, too, you will receive nutrition and mental health support as well as medical intervention. Options include the roux-en-Y gastric bypass, in which your stomach and small intestine are made smaller so they can hold less food at one time; and a duodenal switch, so some food bypasses the stomach and goes straight into the small intestine.

Love Your Life

Look into moving more and eating less, or an alternative weight loss method, because you’re bound to feel happier and be more energetic with a healthier body. You’ll love that body, too.

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