Body Acceptance: Loving My Body, Old and New

By , SparkPeople Blogger
By Beth Donovan aka ~Indygirl

I can’t remember ever liking my body as a child or a teen. In my 20s, if I did like it, even for a second, it was only because I had “starved well” that day. In my 30s I definitely hated my body and in my 40s I was bigger than ever, weighing in at 460 at my highest. Oddly enough, it’s in my 40s that I’ve started accepting my body more.

I don’t know exactly what has changed, but my body is no longer subject to my rules of perfectionism. I have, in fact, granted myself permission to have a bad hair day, an “I feel bloated day” or a day when I’m just off my game. I used to stand in front of the mirror for an hour primping and preening, having to look just perfect before I would leave the house. If I couldn’t achieve what I thought was needed, I was bad enough off about my self image that I would call off school and even work. I would cry and starve myself the whole day in an attempt to make up for my failure.

What did I see in the mirror that was so wrong? I was fat. I hated my hair. I had a zit. My mascara was odd. You see, nothing else could be wrong if I was fat. I had to make up for it in every other way. I had to be perfect to overcompensate for being fat. I needed perfect grades, perfect makeup, perfect clothes, and never to make mistakes. Let’s face it: I set myself up for the failure and depression I suffered with expectations like that.

Where did those expectations come from? From a very young age, my mother and her family rode me about my weight. My mother said she didn’t want me to suffer by being overweight as she did, but her tactics were very cruel. Name calling, pointing at parts of my body and asking “What is that?” and commenting about whether I was or was not eating were prime examples. No matter what I did, she was not pleased. The rest of the family just kept lecturing, taking their diet pills and starving, setting a great example for my bulimic teens and 20s. I’ll save that story for another blog.

How did I go from the 200’s and hating my body to the 300’s and accepting my body more? Therapy helped, so did losing the toxic people who made me hate my body in the first place. I really believe we don’t loathe our bodies naturally. Children don’t hate their bodies until somebody points out that theirs are different. I think it’s a learned behavior. If it is learned, it can be relearned a different way, a healthier way.

First I lost a relationship that was fairly toxic to me. At the time, however, I would have done anything for this person, who reminded me constantly of my weight problem. One time he even point blank asked me “So when are you going to look like a cheerleader?” Still, thinking I was in the wrong, I began a bulimic cycle that took years of therapy to undo.

I also lost my grandmother, who was diet pill happy and could not resist telling me about how I would be so much prettier if I were slender. My mother also passed away, and I no longer had anyone telling me how I should feel about my body, except strangers who take it upon themselves to belittle others. I miss my mother and grandmother greatly, but I don’t miss the pressure they put on me to be thin. That pressure made it virtually impossible to love my body.

Tips to love your body now:

  1. Don’t let others be your mirror unless they are a positive one.
  2. Find what you like about your body and play it up.
  3. Spend time admiring things about yourself in the mirror and in pictures.
  4. Do things that make you feel beautiful.
  5. Protect yourself from toxic people who belittle your beauty.
  6. Avoid comparing bodies.
  7. Relearn to love yourself.
  8. Participate in things that make you feel good about your body.
  9. Discover your style and appreciate it.
  10. If you can’t find yourself, reinvent yourself.

Just like you learned to hate your body, you can learn to love it again. Personally, I got a tattoo on my right shoulder of some Victorian flowers that signify that I will no longer wait to live--life is happening now, not 10 pounds from now. It reminds me to love what I have and move on in freedom, stopping to smell the flowers along the way.

Have you learned to love your body, or are you still struggling to accept yourself for who you are now? Do you have any advice for others who might be struggling?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


Thank you for being so open and honest with your story. I struggle with this everyday, even without the toxic people you encountered in your life. Your bravery speaks volumes! Report
Thanks for sharing...good info!!! Report
so true. no matter what we look like, we can't be happy unless we accept what we are. Thank you so much for your story and the inspiration Report
I have always struggled with this! Report
"This is a really good Blog"
I'm learning to love my body again I have come so far on losing weight and learning to exercise and like it but I always focus on the things that I hate about my body instead of the good things my husband says I need to look at the good and stop focusing on the things I dont like because I look and feel tones better then I did when I started..Thanks so much for this Blog!And for being here Sparks! Report
Great Blog! It reaffirms that we are not alone when dealing with toxic people. I have toxic family members who belittle my efforts. When this happens I go to my husband for support or post on SparkPeople.
We are all beautiful. It doesn't matter what size or color or ethnic background we are. It is what is in each of us that shines forth. Report
I love it! Thank you for sharing. Report
I like how you say "oddy enough, it's in my 40's that I've started accepting my body". I think a large part of that is the learning that comes along with living. Let's face it, things that threw us in a tizz at 20 wouldn't even make us blink today. We know today's crisis is just part of life and will pass. There's some comfort in knowing you've survived before. That knowledge and comfort help us "ease up" throughout the years- Not give up!
thanks for sharing!
You have to be little to belittle. ~ John Murphy

I just read this quote right before I read this blog. So fitting. Thanks for the words! Report
Thank you for sharing this. I've been trying to deal with the issue of my husband telling me that he is no longer attractive to me because of my weight. Each day I wonder when I will be attractive enough. I shouldn't have to. Although, frankly I agreed with him at the time, I am on my way to becoming much healthier and have since lost 13 pounds (so far) out of the 50 total that I'd like to shed. Even still, his words have weighed heavily on my self-esteem. He was my best friend before we were married - how could he do this? He apologized for being so hurtful but he "was just being honest". I wanted to let you know that reading entries like this one has been very helpful, inspiring and motivating for me in trying to piece myself back together again. Thank you. Report
How encouraging! My friend who is a beautician and the Merle Norman lady we go to are good mirrors. They are experts in the field of beauty, I am going to listen to them! Report
Ironically, it was nearing my 40's that helped me to figure out that I don't have to be a slave to society's image of who I should be or what I should look like. Like Indy Girl, I grew up with a mother who unhealthily lost weight and often told me how I should look. I found myself searching for approval through men and other unhealthy relationships as I got into my late teen's and 20's. My husband, who has always told me I was beautiful and sexy just the way I was, was another reason I wanted to change. Every time he complimented me and I made a face or said something negative I could see the hurt in his eyes. I wanted to love myself and see myself the way he saw me. That and other changes in my life last year prompted me to really seek out that lovely, beautiful person. It was freeing and I find myself on this wonderful journey of health and fitness and enjoying just turning 40! Report
Excellent advice. Report
This blog is so beautiful and from the heart... you are an inspiration for me... thank you. Report
Your blogs are very "healthful"...emotionally, physically and spiritually. Report
Thank you for this article. I can definitely relate. It's amazing how I can remember every time a person told me I would be so pretty if I lost weight......but don't remember the times when I was told I looked pretty. I'm trying to do better with accepting compliments and to learn to be happy with my body. Its not easy but I will change my thought process. Report
I'm in a book study group at my Rec. Center of Marianne Williamson's book, "A Course in Weight Loss." It's wonderful and I recommend it to everyone. Take a look at the blog on my homepage. Report
Awesome perspective! Now I dont feel so alone...This is a subject matter that needs some serious attention and is no doubt the culprit of a lot of NEEDLESS unhappiness. I dont want to think about how much energy, consciously and subconsciously is spent not liking my body, fretting over not being active and more! I dont know if I can overcome these feelings unless I lose this weight (around 50lbs). It wont change who I am inside but how I accept myself. My husband and son just want to see me exercise to be fit health wise. I came from a background where looks must have been important and yes I was put down a lot and told I was ugly....
I was so touched to read these stories and blog how people overcame this obsession and unhappiness and who weigh so much more than me. Kudos to you! You give us inspiration and hope. Report
Bellydance has helped me to accept and even like my body at any size. It happened gradually as I took weekly classes. While learning the movements I began to appreciate what our bodies are capable of, which helped a lot. Report
Another great blog, thank you! Oh I could write a book about my Mother and conflicting statements. Arrgh!! Report
love it! Report
ah Beth thanks so much AGAIN!!
I am at the point that i am starting to love my body and accepting for who i am. I am happy at this point and i refuse to wait to be happy untill i am ' skinny' . Report
it is a challenge to love your body. In high school I wanted to hide under baggy t-shirts all the time because I was a size 15 and my friends were size 3s. I think i am finally to the point where I realize, hey a woman is sexy at any size if she believes in herself and has her own spunk and style.

Last year I gained about 30 lbs all at once and I got big purple stretch marks on my belly. I was so upset and humiliated and I hated it for a long time. I still have trouble accepting it because I'm only 24 and have no kids. But I've gotten better about accepting my big hips and curvy woman body because its a good one and its all I've got!

I can totally relate to the unsupportive familiy members. My grandparents used to pinch my sister and my fat and tell us we were getting chunky. Teens have it hard enough in high school, I think. It made me really resent them and its hard for me to have a relationship with them now, ten years later.

Way to go for learning to love your body! Report
I am one of "those" too. Mom was always on me about everything that went in my mouth, however she always broght the junk home/provided it and plenty of fast food regularly too. I've been on every diet imaginable beginning at a young age. I was even a few lbs overweight when I joined the Army and spent my whole 3 years on a diet and remedial PT. I learned to absolutely hate and form of exercise and put on more weight over the years. Mom still harped most of my adult life about my weight, even though I live in SC, her in MN. Even today if she asks about a meal we are cooking or at out, I get a lecture even though it is normally healthy. Bottom line, she wants me to eat what she wants, when she wants.

Through my long journey going up and down, up and down, I have learned to love myself and accept myself the way it is. Over the past few years I've gone from a 22 to a 16. I've learned to enjoy exercise and crave it. I love the way I'm shaping up and how much energy I have. I can see my figure again and I love it. I haven't lost weight in quite awhile, but I continue to see changes with my clothes and firming up. I shed the negative people about 2 years ago and boy does it make a difference. I try to focus on the positive and be a positive influence to others. When I look in the mirror I pick out my best attributes. The best thing is that I doin't avoid the mirror anymore. When I see my pictures now, I pick out some positive attritibutes, not the negative (even in my fat pics). I don't compare my body to others' anylonger either. No 2 are alike, mine is unique no matter how much exercise I do and no matter how much weight I lose. I also pick out clothes that flatter my figure and show off my figure.

One thing I've learned from blogs on Sparkpeople and all around me is that there are very few people satisfied with their bodies even once they meet their goals. It doesn't matter the size and weight. Even the size 6 down to 2. It seems like there is never satisfaction. And the ones that start at 22 and go down to a 8 or 10, still aren't satisfied either. Maybe the ones who are just don't come back and blog. But it seems they just move on to something else on their body they aren't happy with.

I'm proud of my progress and I may never reach my goal weight, but I've met my goal size. Yeah, The health industry thinks I should maybe lose another40-50 according to charts, but that isn't realistic either. But I have exceeded my expectations with my body shape and firming. I'm proud of everything I've accomplished so far and I do love myself for who I am, who I've become, the confidence I've gained, the positive energy I feel, the peace and contentment I feel, and I love my life. I'm completely blessed and transformed, thanks be to God!

Great blog! Report
As odd as this sounds, I love the spot on my shin that is directly above my ankle. There's a nice little dip there when I flex. As a runner, it's awesome to see my legs change and to see the little dents and divots that are created by using those muscles.

Ladyautumn said it best: I do not HATE my body like I used to. It has delivered three beautiful babies, nursed them and nurtured them and it still gets up with my brain in the morning - albeit groggily some days - but it still works and for that I am grateful! Report
I like this. My daughter has a very skewed image of her body. She looks in the mirror and literally sees a monster. She is actually very beautiful. She needs to learn to love her body even if it's not perfect. I mean who the hell is? Report
Thank you for sharing some personal experiences and healthy positive ways to accept or change our perceptions of our bodies.
It is very nice to know that I am not alone in struggling with poisonous people... I was happy, quite pleased with my progress! People were noticing and I have been getting compliments... I wasfeeling good & motivated to keep going... after a conversation, one that I had been avoiding, I am right back to hating myself, I look in the mirror & am utterly disgusted! My mom has always given the same reasons you said your mom gave you, she didnt want me to be miserable or be teased like she was because of her weight... the only person that has given me grief about my weight, in my entire life, has been her. No one else, ever, has seemed to care one way or the other. I dont even care as much as she does! I really dont know what to do, how do I make her understand she isnt helping??? That I avoid interacting with her because of the way she makes me feel about me?!?! Report
Thank you for sharing this! As I started reading this I saw so much of my childhood in what you wrote. When I got divorced, the first thing I did was begin to learn to love myself. It's been 6 years and I am making strides in not only loving myself for who I am, but in making healthy changes for my physical well being. Report
Thank you for sharing. It's hard to focus on ourselves and remember who we really are. Just because we're overweight doesn't make us less of a person. Sometimes we need to find out what that poison is :) Report
...Just shows the impact we have on our children and the others around us, no matter what. Thanks so much for sharing- i can relate to so much of it, and it also reminds me of what is important to pass along to my own kids, the concept of being healthy and fit, loving yourself, and that you are not a number on a scale...:-) Report
love it, thanks! Report
Thank you soo much for posting this!!!!! Every single day it's a constant struggle not to let my thoughts overcome my reality. I am slowly learning to love who I am and it feel amazing. I too have the help of therapy and have learned to cut "deadly" people from my life. Again, Thanks so much!! Report
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us! I was one of the lucky ones -- my parents always pushed me to focus on school and my education and intellect rather than my looks. Even with the right family, though, there is so much pressure out there telling you that the only way to succeed is to be thin.

I'm so sorry that you lost your mother and grandmother, but I'm glad that you've lost some of the poison in your life. I'm still trying to get where you are now -- to the point where I just accept who I am right now! Report
Thanks for writing this, and sharing your experiences and insights! Report
Great article, I needed to hear that (even though today was one of the good days). A good reminder, I do that with my home as well, waiting for it to be perfect to have guests. What a timely reminder for me! Report
You know, this was such a wonderful article to read today. I am 28 and have lost 50 pounds. Most days I look at my body and am so pleased with the changes I am seeing. However, on occassion, I look in the mirror and can't wait to shed those last 15 pounds. I love what you said about life starting now. I shouldn't wait for my life to begin when I am done shedding the weight. Instead, I should live now and enjoy my body now.
Thanks for this! Report
You are amazing. Being able to move past all this negativity and toward so much positivity! Bravo! I have never been bulimic or anorexic, but I have greatly disliked my body for much of my life. Thankfully, I have a wonderful family and I have mostly had wonderful friends, so I came to the decision that I would love my body and live in the now earlier than I might have. But I did have a toxic relationship with a man who was very critical, of my body, my clothes, my habits, etc. Also thankfully, that's over. I am not happy with my body now, but I love my body. I decided about a month ago that I was not going to continue the habits that make me feel bad (health-wise) and uncomfortable in my clothes. It was hard, but one of the changes I made was to almost completely omit dairy from my diet. I feel great, so I already feel beautiful! Report
I needed this today. Thank you so much for the inspiration Report
WOW... You said what so many of us feel. Thank you very much! I will live by these words, not only on the receiving end, but also the giving end. Report
Great post ... reminded me of similar experiences that I need to let go of to love my body today! Report
I am SO GLAD I took the time to read this! So encouraging. I'm going to share this with my daughter as she's going through some self esteem issues. Thank you so much for sharing!! Report
Anyone who thinks this is a pity party is completely missing the point of this blog and the responses to it. Thank you to everyone who shared their stories. I have similar ones and it's great to have this rubbish exposed and to know others who have turned things around and left the grimness and toxic people behind.

Thanks again, Indygirl. Your blogs always touch a nerve with me and often cause me 'aha' moments as I see reasons I get stuck sometimes. Seeing these things doesn't mean I passively accept my situation as hopeless, it enables me to see how my weight gain happened in the first place and what I need to undo/dismiss to be ok with losing weight and getting healthy. Pulling yourself down and allowing others to do the same is not healthy. No therapist on the planet should be saying otherwise.
It is a completely different thing to recognise that you need to take care of yourself better which stems from loving yourself.

Anyone who thinks Indygirl is using these things as an excuse to stay stuck ought to actually read and understand all the words, not just in this blog (though it would help if you did before you comment), but others from Indygirl which emphasise that this lady is no quitter, is a successful spark, and is an inspiration to those of us with a long way to go.
Long may you blog! Report
Thanks so much for sharing. I can so relate to this story too but at 55 I still have not got to the stage of 'loving my body'. It wasn't just parents and other people telling me that I needed to lose weight that caused my problem but having my parents never being 100% satisfied with my achievements in life. In childhood my mother would 'do it for me' rather than allow me to attempt things myself and when I was allowed to attempt things they were never good enough. When I took my final nursing exams and attained 3rd place with a score of 86% I was told 'You could have done better!' All this has caused me to always set my achievement bar way too high - even to the point of being unobtainable which of course leaves me with a feeling of self loathing and even worthlessness.
I stupidly tried diet pills (prescribed by a doctor who should have known better) many years ago and got well and truly hooked on them. I did lose masses of weight but that was because I wasn't eating anything and thought I looked great until a relative of a patient I was nursing whispered in my ear that she thought I looked gaunt and how much better I had looked before I had lost all the weight. I started to get heart palpitations and I now have a heart problem - quite a wake-up call.
I still really don't like myself and I hate my body but I am getting there. I'm sure I will get to the stage of say "Hey! What's not to like?" sooner rather than later.
My parents have passed so I no longer have to explain myself or try to prove myself but the years have left their mark.
Apart from the immense help joining SparkPeople has been I also attend a chronic pain group as I have a disability problem. They don't care what I look like or even what is wrong with me but they do care about what I think about myself and are teaching me to think differently. Becaue of them I even put on a swimsuit for the first time in 11 years and went swimming with my daughter at a local pool. I was so convinced people would stare and pass comments but no one bothered. In fact people were chatting to me and were really nice so my confidence just grew.
It is so weird how we think - I can help others and give positive encouragement and support to them no problem but can't think positively for myself. I know the perception of myself and how I think others see me is ridiculous but yet I can't 'fix' myself.
It is a terrible thing when we hit the self distruct button but thankfully we are not alone and loads of people are there to help defuse the situation if we just let them. Thanks again Beth for sharing your body acceptance - more power to you girl. Report
Negative self-talk has got to go. God don't make no junk! Report
Great blog, I just love it. Once I started reading, it just caught my total attention and reminded me of how I felt about my body as a teenager. Hang in there and keep loving your body because you are beautiful. Report
I LOVE your articles. I can soooooo relate. Thanks so much for sharing this and for being so honest. TERRIFIC!!! Report
Thanks for this post. Self-love is so important in order to have the self-discipline require to lose the excess fat we have on our body. However, sometimes it's the self-discipline that brings us to self-love once we start taking care of our health and adopt a positive lifestyle. You are definitely right about toxic people. Keep up the good work! Report
I am 65 years old and weigh 313 lbs. I do not like the weight but can't criticize the body. My mind and body have given me a fantastic ride so far. When I think about this I get a very good feeling. I owe it to them to get healthy and fit. It's pay back time. Also they are my partners if I am going to do this successfully. They have given me a beautiful life so far!! Why would I forsake them now. Report
I am so happy to find a post with a priceless message and comments that are so poignant. Thank you all. Report