If you’ve been following for awhile, you know I started Weight Watchers over 2 years ago and lost almost 50 pounds, then decided to quit late last year in favor of a life of less restrictions and more real food.

When I quit WW, I thought I’d achieved a state of self-love. I was happy with myself most days when I looked in the mirror, and felt proud of what my body was doing and could do.

Fast forward to the end of January. Getting used to life without counting points and the holidays combined with some serious grief eating from a rough month led to major weight gain. I realized that pants were starting to fit tight or not fit at all, and that my face had gained some of its roundness back. I’d lost a lot of my progress as a runner, and workouts were harder than they were before.

Did I look at my body in the mirror and glow with pride at it, still accepting it as it was and giving it love for what it had gone through that month?

I wish.

Instead, I went right back to hating it.

I went from being excited to get dressed to staring at myself in the mirror in frustration every morning as I got ready. Every time I put on pants that didn’t fit as well as they used to, I wanted to cry. Every time I went to the bathroom at work, I stared my face down, hoping my glare would melt some of the squish off of it. Everything reminded me of how I’d gained weight and how unhappy I was about it.

I felt inadequate and unattractive. I felt like a failure.

These feelings took me a bit by surprise. I thought, after all, that I’d learned to love my body. When I was at my lowest weight, I was still 20 pounds away from my goal, with lots of lumps and bumps and still no abs (does anyone even have those IRL??) and was incredibly happy with how I looked. Didn’t that mean I’d learned to love my body?

No, I’d just gotten thin enough that I felt it worthy to love.

I’m working with a nutritionist and food mindset coach (more about that later!) and talking about these issues with her has made me realize that losing weight didn’t fix my problems with my body. It just made them less noticeable.

Here’s the thing: I was going to gain weight eventually. Whether it was being pregnant or going through a stressful time, something was going to cause me to gain weight at some point during my life. I might gain weight and then lose it again, but I wasn’t going to be able to maintain my weight exactly as it was forever. Life happens. Bodies change.

The truth is that self-love isn’t created by losing enough weight that you can love your body, and then never ever gaining weight so you can maintain those warm and fuzzy feelings.

It’s created by loving your body exactly as it is, even if that changes. It’s loving you and the body you were given and all the things you can do with it because you are worth it, and because life is full of grand challenges and adventures that are much more worth focusing on than how you look in horizontal stripes or a bikini.

I’ll be honest – I have a long way to go. Getting dressed in the mornings is still hard, as is looking at photos from last year or seeing people I haven’t seen in awhile.

Right now, I’m starting small – I’m working on talking to myself more kindly and seeing my body for what it is and can do, not what it isn’t and can’t. Some days go better than others, but I’m trying. (Having a husband who forces you to start every day by saying “I am super pretty” helps. 🙂 He is such a keeper.)

To all the women I know who want to lose weight: please, please don’t confuse weight loss with self-love. Self-love doesn’t appear when you hit your goal weight. It’s earned daily by loving yourself even as you are right now.

If you’re struggling with something similar (isn’t that part of being a woman??) please don’t hesitate to reach out so I can pray for you and cheer you on.

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