- Self-acceptance is the foundation for positive change.
- Self-compassion serves as a springboard for healthy change, not shame-based dieting or hefty expectations.
- Accepting ourselves as perfect allows us to extend that love and acceptance to others.
As someone who has struggled with unhealthy excess weight versus healthy self-acceptance most of my life, I can relate to those reading this who have declared this a month of change. And various companies and businesses promising "quick and easy fixes" are at the ready, waiting for us to pay them for the magic elixir or program that might initiate the changes we want—even if we've had the same goals for years.
I tipped the scales at over 450 pounds when I graduated from college. This was challenging for me not only mentally but also medically. Yes, every body is beautiful (that's what this post is all about), but excess weight can also lead to preventable medical issues that could inhibit our lives.
So where does one begin when wanting to create change that enhances life finally? My suggestion? Think about kittens—or maybe puppies.
Although I'm a writer by trade, my side hustle is animal rescue, which includes a fair amount of fostering kittens. These little beings usually arrive disease-ridden, malnourished, and in various states of poor health—not to mention very fearful. Their immune systems haven't developed yet, and many have not received the love and sustenance of a mother (having somehow been separated from their parent before the ideal time.).
Maybe this sounds somewhat familiar. I had a childhood that was full of abuse from my parents and other adults. What I apparently needed was a good foster. That didn't happen. But by fostering kittens as an adult, I've learned a valuable lesson that I remind myself of daily: Every belly is beautiful.
I don't mean to oversimplify loving ourselves for who we are and how we look at this moment. But learning to do so can be a beautiful jumping-off point for positive change in our lives. Without that mental commitment—that we are perfect at this moment—real and permanent change can be challenged.
Back to the kittens. They're often frail when I get them. So after a feeding, their little bellies protrude. Once they learn to trust me, they will come to me after eating—often laying on their back for a belly rub. And this is when, while rubbing their precious bellies, I'll tell them how perfect and beautiful they and their bellies are. No matter the nasty eye infection or other medical malady they might have. They are perfect.
And so it struck me that if these little kittens' bellies are perfect, so is mine. I've long since taken off the excess weight. But I still have some loose skin around my abdomen and a plethora of stretch marks, so much so that I get intimidated to take off my shirt at a pool or beach.
This is when I need to remind myself that my own belly is perfect. It was perfect when I weighed over 450 pounds. And it's perfect now. And so it goes: If my belly is perfect, that means yours is, too.
Truly loving ourselves at this moment allows us to reach for healthy goals while expecting the same kind of love and acceptance from others.
After kittens I've fostered are adopted into their forever homes, I almost always hear from their new families about how outgoing, loving, and confident they are—and how easily they adapt to unfamiliar surroundings, new people, and change. I know this is because these kittens were taught they are perfect. And guess what? You are, too.
Breathe your perfection in. Even with goals of achieving a healthier weight, giving up certain substances, changing jobs, establishing strong relationships, or simply looking into a mirror without criticizing what we see, the more we love ourselves (and our perfect bellies), the more we'll potentially accomplish in this new year and beyond.