Lessons in Self-Love

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I’m currently fighting a terrible sore throat and cold that crept up on me all week and hit me full force yesterday. My appetite is shot. My kitchen tools weep. I sound like Kermit the Frog. And the most I can manage to get down is banana soft serve, Green Monsters, and other cold liquids to soothe my throat. I’m also trying to gargle with salt water, but nothing seems to be helping that much!

Yesterday, I used my lack of mobility to get caught up on emails while planted at my desk with a blanket and Kleenex. Many of my emails are from readers who struggle with weight, self-acceptance, happiness, and eating disorders. I also receive emails from readers who are making positive changes in their lives such as career changes, finding love in fitness, or entering recovery for an eating disorder. Sometimes I am so inspired by these stories I want to hug the screen!

I thought I would take a moment to talk about lessons I have learned since I began my road to health. Many of these are ‘light bulb moments’ that stick with me and keep me on the right track in times of difficulty. I hope they will help you too!

Lessons in Self-Love

1. Self-love is a work in progress…there is no finish line!

For me, accepting myself can be hard work. I didn’t just wake up one day and exclaim that I loved everything about myself. I still don’t, but I work at it. It was a lot of work to build up my confidence after years of destroying it. I still have days when my confidence is shaky and I feel down about myself, but I feel like those days are much less frequent now. My goal is not to eliminate negative thoughts, but to reduce the frequency of those thoughts and to counter them with positive ones.

Negative thought –> ‘I wish my thighs were thinner.’

Counter thought –> ‘Those thighs helped you run a half marathon in 1 hour 55 minutes, so beat it!’

2. Not having a crutch can be scary…but positive coping mechanisms help

For most of my life whenever something stressful happened to me, I would rely on negative habits like starving myself to numb the pain or anxiety. I had to learn how to turn negative crutches into positive coping mechanisms. Instead of internalizing negativity, I now try to talk about it with a loved one or write my thoughts down. Sometimes all I need is a walk or run outdoors to change my mood around. It also helps if I see the stressor as just a bump in the road and that this too shall pass.

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3. Food is not just about calories or fat grams.

I used to think food was the enemy because I was either over-eating or I was starving myself for punishment. Over the past few years, I have created a very good balance. I have not binged in probably 3 years, which I think is a record for me since it all began (for my 3 binge eating posts, see here). Instead of focusing on calories, I now focus on eating food that makes me feel great and I experiment with all kinds of healthy recipes. Over time, food and I became BFFs!

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4. Eating a vegan diet gave me a greater purpose in my life.

Becoming a vegan allowed me to put my focus on something outside myself. I finally was able to get out of my own head and connect with something I believed in. While some people assume that a vegan diet would be restrictive, I have found that it has been very freeing and I’m a more compassionate person than I used to be.

5. Eating intuitively can take a long time to figure out.

One of the questions I get asked the most is how I stopped counting calories and learned to eat intuitively. When you tell your hunger signals NO, NO, NO for many years, it is very difficult to turn that around, but it is not impossible! I needed patience and determination when learning how to eat intuitively. When I first tried to stop counting calories, I still did it subconsciously for months and it was very hard to stop, but eventually I was able to stop 100%.  I never hear the rambling of calorie or exercise numbers in my head anymore and that is very freeing.

Listening to my hunger signals comes natural to me now and I am able to eat until satisfied and stop before becoming too full. I used to eat based on how many calories I had allotted, but if I listen to my hunger signals I can maintain my weight in a much more easy going manner.

6. I am responsible for my own happiness and no one else.

I used to play the victim role and I didn’t believe that I was in charge of my happiness. Ultimately, for a change to happen I had to take responsibility for my own happiness. No one was going to be able to help me if I was not ready to embrace change.

7. Weight fluctuations are normal.

Some days my pants feel loose, some days they feel a bit tight, and some days they feel just right. I don’t freak out about this anymore because as long as I stay committed to eating right and exercise it will balance out. I can usually tell if I am not eating great by how I feel and that is usually motivation to clean up my diet a bit. Nothing extreme. No deprivation. No freak outs. No negative self-talk. I’m in this for the long haul and I would take happiness and a healthy body any day over the alternative.

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8. Create hobbies in your life.

I used to think that going to the gym each day was a hobby. In job interviews, I would be asked what my hobbies were and I never knew what to say. Weighing myself? Counting calories? Drooling over rail-thin models in magazines? Working out and healthy eating were usually my answers, but I knew deep down I didn’t have any real hobbies that were positive at that time. I don’t mean to imply that working out or going to the gym can’t be a hobby, but for me at that time, it was an obsession and a punishment when I overate.

Over the past few years, I have created so many hobbies that I enjoy almost every single day! The first hobby that started everything was this blog. When I started writing here, something clicked inside of me. I was able to talk about my struggles and triumphs and connect with others. I truly believe that once the happiness flood gate opens, you will seek it out more and more. Happiness becomes a habit over time, just like unhappiness.

I soon discovered a passion for cooking, baking, inspirational writing, hiking, recipe creation, racing, and photography and I was able to turn some of those hobbies into a career. Now I am getting into vegetable gardening as another hobby. Instead of searching for answers when asked what my hobbies are, I now think to myself, ‘Where do I start…there are so many things I love to do!’

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9. You can be happy or you can be unhappy, the work is about the same.

I would rather work hard for something positive than for something negative. If you are struggling with self-love you can always take positive steps to change your situation. Talk to your loved ones, see a therapist, join a support group, find a mentor, check out Operation Beautiful, see a Registered Dietitian, make a list of your goals, read self-help books, etc. You can always change!

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‘Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.’ – Groucho Marx

Can you relate to any of these lessons or have you learned other things along your journey?

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

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Beth B May 17, 2012

I could not have come across this post at a better time. Thank you SO MUCH for writing this! I have been a yo-yo dieter for many many years, and have recently been on a diet kick. Over the weekend I binged a bit, and missed a workout. Literally the morning I found this post I had vowed to punish myself by eating barely anything.

Then I read your post, and it changed my mind.

Thank you for sharing your story – it has truly helped me feel good about myself, and see my body and my health in a new light. I’m bookmarking it so that I can remind myself of it again and again! :)

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Angela (Oh She Glows) May 17, 2012

Im glad you found it helpful Beth! All the best to you.

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saravixen April 26, 2011

You’re a very inspirational, beautiful woman, thank you for your words of wisdom :) (and you’re great recipes!)

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L April 25, 2011

Hey I just gotta know, the pic — you’re really glowing — where you’re crouching and taking a photo, is that in Ottawa outside the main parliament building?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 26, 2011

That was in Chicago actually. Thank you! :)

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marmat April 25, 2011

Thank you for helping to warm my heart.

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Amanda (Tomboy That Wears Makeup) April 25, 2011

Beautiful post from a beautiful gal! Love it!

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jane April 25, 2011

Have just read this post and so agree.! I work as a therapist and have struggled to find a healthy attitude to my weight/body . Its a relationship that has had it’s ups and downs but I know for me that learnig to recognise what is hunger and knowing what being satisfied has helped stop the destructive bingeing pattern. Being responsible for what goes in my mouth is my choice and I now nurture my body with good food rather than junk !
I cant quite embrace for me a vegan diet but it is 80% vegetarian and I’ve quit red meat and processed foods.
The whole process of cooking also suorts a much more mindful way of being !

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Vivianne April 24, 2011

All I can say is, Wow. This post was absolutely what I needed to read. I am literally about to start crying because this resonated so much with me. I’m in the midst of a self-love crisis right now, fighting the exact negative thoughts you are talking about.

I am so happy I came to your blog and I can’t wait to keep checking back. (P.S. I’m greekyogurte, your new creepin twitter follower (; )

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Yvonne April 24, 2011

Thank you :)

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Megan@Dirty Dishes Daily April 24, 2011

Great post. I can relate to so much of this. It’s a constant struggle to be able to self-love but always rewarding when you do.

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Leslie Paquette April 23, 2011

Thank you! I really enjoyed this post. ~Leslie

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Erin April 23, 2011

Hey Angela! I just wanted to let you know that your website is actually what inspired me to finally change/clean up my diet. I was hit by a car in January and a month into my recovery (I tore ligaments in my knee/shoulder) I happened to find your website. It made me realize my binge/purge habits were not healthy and that turning to gross, processed food for comfort wasn’t healthy either. Through reading your story I finally made (and stuck to!) a promise to keep my diet healthy. I’ve been eating “clean” for 2 months now, (with only one binge two days ago on some Easter chocolate), and I channeled by emotional eating into positive hobbies, like learning how to run properly and I actually feel alot better. I’m still working on the self confidence thing, I still have a lot of self-loathing issues made worse by my knee injury resurfacing last week. The difference is, that I’m motivated now and that I WANT to change my mindset. Thank you for all you do Angela, you have majorly inspired me and changed my life for the better.

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Boom April 23, 2011

Wonderful message!!! I love your recipes and look forward to all of your posts. You truly are an inspiration to many.

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Heather Dawn April 22, 2011

You always write so beautifully and so relatable. You have continued to be an inspiration to me. I never thought trying to free myself from negative thoughts and disordered eating would be so scary. It almost seems like a safe place to tear myself down. Why does building myself up seem so scary? Reading your blog has inspired me to search for things that truly make me happy. As you said, it is something that doesn’t go away in a single day no matter how much we wish it did!
I hope you get feeling better soon!

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Amanda April 22, 2011

Hey Angela,

I’ve discovered your site about a month ago and LOVE every bit of it. I feel I can relate entirely (as I’m positive many other people can). I’ve been down that road… and along the way to my recovery to health, I’ve discovered the same revelations as yourself… I’ve created a great community around me and am so thankful for friends/family support! But ultimately it was a point for me to say I take my own power back and I choose to be happy, healthy and whole.

Thanks for this post and this wonderful site, I follow it and have tried many recipes! You are inspirational and so true!

Thanks!
Much peace and love,
Amanda BT

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Cameo April 22, 2011

Wow. Great post. I am in that period between obsessive calorie counting and intuitive eating. You are right, it certainly doesn’t happen overnight, but each month I get further and further from that mind-set. Looking back, I can’t believe how far I’ve come with the way I talk to myself about food. As for the hobbies – I can totally relate! I used to spend all my time and energy on trying to achieve a certain physique. I was on fitday.com more than I was on my own company’s internal server! All I did was tally up the food and exercise and look forward to cheat day (ie a day to binge!). It was no life. I am so much happier now. Yes, I am 15 lbs heavier as well, and sure, I’d like to lose it if I can, but not like I used to. No way. I am so much nicer now! I have so much more to give others now that I have let go of my food restrictions. And yes, blogging is an amazing hobby!

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lindsay April 22, 2011

i forgot to comment yesterday but just want to say thank you! Your lessons truly are an encouragement to us all!

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thehealthyapron April 22, 2011

This is probably my favorite post you’ve written so far. I still struggle with self-love and you’re so right, it’s a daily struggle. I especially relate to the hobby point. After you talked about this, I started asking myself my own hobbies…obsessing over calories and exericsing is NOT a healthy hobby~~I LOVE cooking.baking, blogging, walks in the park, laughing with friends, and LEARNING about new foods to experiment with. :)

Thanks I needed this today ::)

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Lauren (PB&G) April 22, 2011

I love number 4. When I switched to eating vegan I felt like a world full of possibilities opened up to me. Some people don’t quite understand it, but I do – and that’s the important part. I’m still working on the self-love, but vegan eating started me on the right track.

Have a great holiday weekend!

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Amber K April 22, 2011

I don’t know if I’m quite ready to stop calorie counting. It has helped me lose 100 pounds and I’ve been maintaining it for a couple of years now. I’ve noticed when I don’t keep track my weight creeps back up. I think it’s too easy to add a little extra of everything when I’m not measuring.

But I am getting better about liking my body and viewing food as mostly fuel!

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Melanie April 22, 2011

Thank you for sharing yourself with us. The relationship many women have with food and their bodies is a tremendously good & bad one. It can become so frustrating and overwhelming. I’ve finally reached a point in my life where being “skinny” isn’t my absorbed goal, being healthy is. I’ve started a new “relationship” with food and I’ve stopped counting calories & points. More than anything, I did this to eliminate the anxiety & stress I was feeling over food, and I feel so much better! One day, my body will bear my children and more than anything, I want to be healthy before, during and after that time comes. I want to raise my children to accept their bodies and have a healthy relationship with what goes into their mouths. I can honestly say, that most foods I was raised on, I no longer enjoy. I’d rather have a beautiful & colorful salad, than a steak. Knowing that, makes me feel better. Listen to your body and remember, we should eat to live, not live to eat.
Thank you Angela for your wonderful site – you’re helping to declutter the “clutter” in my mind when it comes to food & self acceptance!

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Fernanda April 22, 2011

Great! Thank you for this post… I´ve been following your blog for a while, but this post just fits me completely. I´ve been fighting to lose weight since I am a teenager (I am 36 years old Brazilian woman, living in the land of the body adoration)… I am not fat, but it feels like I am. Your text just made me think it is time to stop weighting myself everyday, writing down everything I eat and just eat what feels right to my body… to go back to my morning walks at the park and healthy food. Thank you dear…

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Viv April 22, 2011

Yes, I would love to see a post about this (gaining weight)! I’m actually struggeling to gain weight (in a healthy way).. I lost weight after trying to eat healthy (I learned the hard way that I need a lot of food to keep a certain weight, I just can’t eat loads of greens en fruit) and now I want to gain a few pounds but it’s hard.. I don’t want to stuff my face with crap everyday and feel like crap just to gain weight

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Sarah @ SarahFit.com April 22, 2011

Love this post. I’m still waiting for the eating intuitively to kick in…

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gracefulfitness April 22, 2011

Great post, thanks Angela. The last one made me smile. :)

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Danielle April 22, 2011

Such a great post! Really set me on a positive note for the day. Sometimes when I don’t feel 100% or am experiences negative self-talk, I check out some of your posts. You always have the right thing to say! Thank you so much for always being honest in your writing and a truly genuine person.

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Aarika @ Ranting, Raving, Running April 22, 2011

I really loved this post! I even took time to read your previous posts about binge eating, and I think it demonstrates what an insightful, intelligent individual you are. Great work on your recovery and helping to inspire others to be healthier.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 22, 2011

Aww thank you!

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Jennifer Drummond April 22, 2011

I love your post today. I wish I had the strength to stop counting calories and calories burned exercising. It has become an obsession for me, and thinking of stopping gives me anxiety. I lost a great deal of weight and I am in the best shape of my life, but I have the fear if I stop the counting of every little calorie that goes in my mouth I may gain the weight back. That is so awesome that you were able to move on from the counting days and just being able to listen to your body and enjoy life. I know whats bad to eat, I know I need to exercise almost everyday, and I know what my body is telling me, but yet I just can’t stop!

Thanks for sharing this with us, maybe I’ll be more opened minded about stopping all the calorie counting madness and just enjoy life?

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