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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{ 189 comments… read them below or add one }

rawkinmom April 21, 2011

great post!!! I am in the process of realizing some of the lessons you highlighted…..its great to hear it and see it from other perspectives too….I still freak out about weight fluctuations though!!! LOL

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Hannah April 21, 2011

I love this post of yours Angela! I love your recipes too, but since I’m in school I can’t make them at the moment. I love hearing about your journey through recovery and self-love.

In the moment, when I’m struggling (which has been frequently lately), I’m good at reaching out for help, from friends, family, or just by writing on my blog. But in the long term, self-love is pretty hard, and I’m struggling to make that commitment…but I’m sure it’s worth it in the long run.

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Hannah April 21, 2011

Also, have you done an intuitive eating post ever? I’ve read your blog for years now, but I can’t remember. There is a lot about intuitive/mindful eating from a binge-eater’s perspective, but not much for someone who is in recovery. It would be great to hear how you applied intuitive/mindful eating to your life as someone who needed to gain weight, not lose it. Does that make any sense? Haha.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 21, 2011

Yes that does make sense! Let me sit on this for a bit.

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Hannah (Balancing on Two Feet) April 21, 2011

I love this post! I needed to read some of these inspirational words today! I especially loved the comment about the thighs! It is so important to remember how our bodies move us through this world and not just how they appear to us.

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Jennifer P April 21, 2011

The whole post was great, but I especially love that quote at the end. :)

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Maria April 21, 2011

A really great post. At the moment I am still at the calorie counting stage. I do try to listen to my body more, and I am much better at it, but still I am not at the final stage. But it is good to hear that it is possible! Seems silly but I dont want to be calorie counting forever- it does not take long but I feel like I should not need to.

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Ashley April 21, 2011

Beautiful, love! I am so happy for you!! xo

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Julie April 21, 2011

This is such an inspiring post and I can relate to most of the things you said. Women, in general, are so hard on themselves. Once one can learn to love theirself.. everything just seems to come together.
Healthy eating + finding a positive & healthy relationship with exercise has changed me forever. I’ve never felt happier or healthier!
And I agree, we all have days when we just think negative thoughts but it’s always so important to think in the positive and be grateful for who you are and what you have.

As my spin teacher says, “stick that booty out! show your neighbors what you’re workin’ with. it is what it is!”
;)

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Sarah @ veggie-kids.blogspot.com/ April 21, 2011

What a great way to start the day!
Thanks!!

Sarah
veggie-kids.blogspot

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Jennifer April 21, 2011

Hi Angela,
I absolutely love this!!!!!!! I can relate to almost everything you mention. My relationship with food and exercise was very unhealthy for a long time. For years I obsessed over both, counting calories down to the macros, weighing myself daily and developing body dysmorphia. I used to compete in figure competitions, which was my way of having a reason for my obsessive behavior.
It wasn’t until I got sick with Hashimoto’s disease(autoimmune disease that attacks the body and thyroid until it doesn’t function) that this all changed. I discovered that I had several food allergies and other things such as soy and gluten were very bad for someone with my disease. I also chose to eliminate other foods that I had intolerances to such as corn, dairy and yeast. Through this process I decided to become a Raw Vegan to heal my body and it really worked. Later on I decided to just be a Vegan, but with a lot of raw incorporated.

Since being Vegan I have felt much more free. I no longer count calories and actually enjoy cooking and baking. I don’t stress about things like weight fluctuations, as you mentioned. I only step on the scale when I go to the doctor and I don’t beat myself up about the number. I feel HEALTHY and that’s what is most important. I really enjoy working out finally, as opposed to it being a chore that has to get done. Right now I’m doing P90X and loving it.
Thanks for posting this, it really resonated with me and many others I’m sure!!!

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Pearl (Crunch and Chew) April 21, 2011

Wonderful post, Angela! Number three is really important to me, and something I sometimes struggle to remember – that food is something that you need and something that can make you feel good. It’s your friend!

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Kate April 21, 2011

So well-written! Some of these things I’m still working on but I feel 1000% better giving my body good nutrition than being in that nasty struggle of not eating one day and overeating the next. It feels so miserable.

I stopped weighing myself too and that helped immensely. Sure, I’d like to know what my weight is sometimes but I know I’ll stress over it and undereat.

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faith @ lovelyascharged April 21, 2011

This was absoluelty beautiful, and its something that I and many of your readers can certainly identify with. I agree that the process is very slow and gradual. It may seem that there is not much change in the way we treat ourselves from day to day, but when I look back to where I was a year ago, there is a HUGE difference. I can’t believe some of the things I used to put my body through and how blessed I am to have moved beyond them. Your blog was one of the first ones that I read and it definitely inspired me to start moving beyond the unhealthiness and find that good relationship with myself – thank you!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 21, 2011

Thank you Faith :) I agree about change being very slow and gradual. That often means it will STICK and be long-lasting too!

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The Teenage Taste April 21, 2011

Great post Angela! I’m bookmarking it!

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Jen @ keepitsimplefoods.com April 21, 2011

Beautiful post! Sorry to hear that you are sick. I’m recovering from the same type of cold…it’s been nearly 2 weeks! Hope you get better soon!

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Lizzie April 21, 2011

Angela, I think you would really love the book I am reading right now: “Mile Markers” by Kristin Armstrong (Lance Armstrong’s ex-wife). It’s a compilation of her blog in book form and has a lot of the same messages that I see you putting forward in this post.

Hope you feel better soon! Hot honey and lemon (make it thick so you have to spoon it out), hot shower with Vicks stuffed up your nose (inhale that steam!!), and down time (you know you have telly you want to catch up on!) :)

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 21, 2011

Thank you :) I will check out that book.

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Lauren at Keep It Sweet April 21, 2011

I love these posts, a constant reminder on how to respect ourselves!

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Morgan @ Life After Bagels April 21, 2011

:)

just that …

:)

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Ashley April 21, 2011

I’ve always struggled with my weight– and the relationship I have with food is not a good one. I’m working on it– but I admit, it is a struggle! I’ve been reading books such as “In Defense of Food,” to inform myself about the foods I eat. The hardest part though, is the confidence to look into the mirror and say something good about myself and not immediately tear myself apart. How come it is so easy to destroy our confidence but so hard to build it? My boyfriend has been a huge help– we are working together to eat better, workout together. He’s my best friend– and he loves me for who I am, and is always telling me to stop, look in the mirror, and see what he sees. I’ve been trying– and I’m starting to see it:) Thank you for this post– and hope you feel better soon!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 21, 2011

That made me tear up a little because Eric used to do the same for me. I admire your determination! Stick with it and one day you will stop in your tracks and realize that you have made a ton of progress.

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Ashley April 21, 2011

I know! He tells me all the time, whenever I have a bad hair day (those are the worst!) or my clothes don’t fit right– he just keeps telling me! And it builds my confidence, it makes me feel that if someone else can see it then why should I force myself not too?! And then I found this blog, and all the recipes! Whenever I’m at a loss of what to make… I’m like, “I’ll go to Angela’s blog!”
Anyway, thank you! It’s been a crazy day but I just looked in the mirror and noticed that my hair looks fab! haha, I even danced around a little because it was such a refreshing thought:)

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JenATX April 21, 2011

Ashley, be proud of yourself that you are working to create a better relationship with food & positivity. That is not an easy thing to do! The blog world has really helped me & I’m glad that you are part of the community that is so so supportive :) I think what Angela said about happiness being a journey rather than a destination is so relevant- you can’t just snap your fingers & say “I have no food issues now!” They’re always going to be there but you can turn those thoughts around if you keep working on it.

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Ashley April 21, 2011

Thank you so much! Hope you had a wonderful day! I am really happy I’ve found such a wonderful community:)

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 21, 2011

Thank you both so much! Love reading your thoughts.

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Olya April 21, 2011

How could someone do such a great job at making us feel we should look somewhat different to what we are? My friend (who never exercised) got comments how great and sporty she looked and I (used to exercise a LOT at that time) wouldn’t get any comment. It hurt. And I would exercise and starve myself even more. But with time I realised that we’re all different and have different bodies. Why should anyone tell me how to look? And why should I wait for someone’s approval. I praise myself and feel proud for the efforts I put into eating well and exercising. Sure, I would love to look like one of the models from a glossy cover. But… if I did, would I be here where I’m now with my wonderful husband? If not, I don’t want it!

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Holly @ The Runny Egg April 21, 2011

I love this post Angela — I feel like I’ve been on the road to health for a while now — and it is true, there is no finish line (and if there were, I still think I’m far from it) — but I’m getting close to it.

I loved reading about your hobbies — because that is something I struggle with. I never knew what to say, and I still don’t! A work in progress :)

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Carolyn April 21, 2011

What a timely post. I’m deep in the pit of a self-loathing moment today. I saw a photo of myself this morning that was taken at a luncheon for work last week and I look so huge and fat. I’m getting married in 2 weeks and I thought I looked OK and I know I’m as heavy as I’ve ever been, but the photos don’t lie. I’m starting what I call a “crash diet”, but is really a “sodium crash/no alcohol” diet as soon as I get to the grocery store to stock up on veggies, brown rice and lean protein. But I can’t shake this feeling of “why did you let yourself get to this point?” and the general feeling of self-hate/failure. A good run tonight will help that feeling, I hope (training for my 2nd half marathon now)…but I’m really struggling with myself today. I feel like crying… :(

I loved your quote and I have two quotes tacked to my office wall at work and I’m trying as hard as I can to pull strength from them:

“If you don’t like a thing, change it; and if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” ~Maya Angelou

“Now if you’re going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.” Gen. George S. Patton

Hope you feel better soon!! I find curries help with being sick too.

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Leanne (Bride to Mrs.) April 21, 2011

Angela, this is so beautifully written.

I’m finding myself at crossroads right now….

skinny/calorie counting/obsessing about gym/looking “perfect” in my wedding dress

VS.

healthy/learning-to-find-my-happy-weight/exercising & eating out of love for myself/looking like the best version of ME in my wedding dress

It seems so obvious to go with the latter, but I find that option scary because I don’t trust myself around food. I worry that if I give up being ‘strict’ with myself and obsessing about calories/working out, that I’ll balloon up to 300 pounds.

Reading this blog entry of yours, the point you made about “I am responsible for my own happiness and no one else.” really resonated with me.

I need to start taking better care of myself, both physically & emotionally. I’m a smart woman, so why do I let a number in a calorie counting book or the number on a scale, matter to me so much?

Thank you for writing about topics like this.

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Caroline April 21, 2011

I feel I’m at a very similar point, trying to navigate between leading a healthy lifestyle while maintaining a weight I feel happy and confident with. I’m very afraid of letting go of the calorie-counting, etc. in the name of being “healthier” and ultimately gaining weight.

Posts like this make all the difference. You are an absolute inspiration, Angela. For me, the sentence “I’m in this for the long haul and I would take happiness and a healthy body any day over the alternative.” really hit home for me. It isn’t about obsessing over every second of every day, every morsel we put in our bodies. It’s about the big picture, and I don’t want to wake up one day when I’m 65 and feel I’ve wasted my whole life fixating on such insubstantial things. It’s a journey, and a challenge, but one you have helped to make easier and more enjoyable through your uplifting posts and delicious eats!

So thank you for being you.

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Heather (heathers dish) April 21, 2011

I love it when you do posts like this :) and you’re right in that there’s no finish line…it’s about journey anyway! Beautifully written by a beautiful woman!

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Danica April 21, 2011

I hope you feel better soon! I absolutely LOVE this advice ~ it might be my favorite post yet. I am saving it to post on the wall to remind me that Self Love needs to always come first every day!

Danica

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 21, 2011

Thanks, that means a lot!

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Christina April 21, 2011

Love, love, LOVE this post!!! You are a ray of light Angela! Glow on girl.

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Meghanne April 21, 2011

This is an amazing post Angela. It is so inspiring to read about your journey in recovery and finding balance. It speaks to me in so many ways. When I don’t count calories on an online counter I do it in my head (and have for over 15 years), I feel like my life lacks hobbies that don’t involve calorie burning or food. It is a struggle, I love food but don’t let it myself enjoy it…humm…perhaps as writing this I have just stumbled upon something here. Anyhoo, I’m inspired by your creative pursuits and have been doing lots of reading about intuitive eating lately and am trying to follow my bodies quiet messages that are leading me softly towards a life of happiness, balance and freedom. Blessings to you.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 21, 2011

Thanks Meghanne, you sound like you are on the right track!

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Nicole @ Fresh & Fit April 21, 2011

I love and relate to all these points! I use to be the same way with the gym as a hobby thing. It was my life and all I knew. The treadmill was my best and only friend. Thankfully I have found many other hobbies and am learning to accept my body for what it is. Thank you for touching on this subject!

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Tulika April 21, 2011

Angela, you are truly inspiring! Thanks for sharing this–it is always nice to have a reminder to listen to our bodies.

Hope you feel better soon! I am just getting over a similar sore throat, and unfortunately the best thing to do is rest! :)

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Therese April 21, 2011

I do love these posts, Angela! I have to say, the greatest thing that ever happened to me was the day I realized that only I was responsible for my own happiness. Until then I relied on everyone else to make me happy. When I understood what self-responsibility truly meant, my life changed completely!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 21, 2011

Love that :)

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Nicole April 21, 2011

I love what you say about hobbies. Obsessing over weight and exercise is a full time job and doesn’t leave room (or energy) for much else. I’ve had similar problems and feel sad when I look at other women whose lives are consumed by diet and exercise. Focusing on eating and exercise is a part of life, but there is so much more to experience!

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amanda April 21, 2011

thanks for this. changed my day.

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Ashley April 21, 2011

I love that quote.

Self-love (and well, everything in life) is such a journey and it has been something that I’ve really struggled with this year. Despite helping so many others achieve their goals and aspirations, my own personal demons and body image have fought hard against me this year. Sometimes I feel like I move 2 steps forward and then something will happen and I’m 10 steps back. It is a constant struggle, but I’m working on it. I love these tips and suggestions and this post couldn’t have been more timely.

Something that I try to keep in perspective is how much healthier I am (physically) and how grateful I am for that. I wrote about the changes I’ve made over the last two years on my blog today… when I look back at my old habits I can see how far I’ve come. Being healthy and happy is integral to me and now it’s just about creating a synergy between health/happiness/body image too.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 21, 2011

Thanks for sharing this Ashley. I’m sorry that you have been struggling, but I think it is great that you are able to still see the positives despite what you may be going through.

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Baking 'n' Books April 21, 2011

Wow…so well said..your 1rst paragraph sounds like me for sure…

Angela – timely is right. Are you in my mind??!

I really like the “victim” one and having to take responsibility for yourself. Ab.sol.ute.ly.

Also the one about the hobbies for sure…making me think about what’s important…and doing new things…

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Laura April 21, 2011

so true! thank you for your ever positive and supportive words. I too struggled with self-love/ loathing for quite a while until I finally recognized it and turned a corner. Your blog has helped pull me out of the loathy, unbalanced teeter-totter that sometimes happens. I love reading your stories, recipes (Yay Green Monster!) and insight. Thank you! :D

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chelsea April 21, 2011

Great post. It is so true there is no finish line with self love I think there is a ton of starting lines because sometimes you have to start all over and as long as you dont give up your doing good!

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Donna April 21, 2011

Great, amazing, awesome post Angela!
I read it a few times and went to your binge eating posts and read that and its sooo hard to read you talking about going through exactly what i did to myself
I haven’t stepped on a scale in about 2 years now and even if i am a size up from what i used to be, i don’t look horrible the way i realize i did at my lowest weight
I actually tried vegan for a week recently and was surprised just how great i felt!
Thanks again for another inspiring post :)

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Tessa @ Amazing Asset April 21, 2011

Oh Angela, I appreciate you writing this post more than you know. I have been struggling with disordered eating for about 8 years now and am simply sick of it. After finally recognizing my issues, I am slowly but surely recovering and striving to find a peace with food any my body. Eating intuitively is something I am working toward now, it’s difficult like you said, but will become easier as I practice :)
I am going to bookmark this post and refer back to it whenever I need some encouragement!

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Tara @ trulysimplebits April 21, 2011

This was a wonderful post! Very honest and I am sure most, if not all, your readers can relate to at least one point in the post. You are an inspiration :) I love your recipe posts but these types of posts (real life) are by far my favorite.

PS – Hope you feel better soon!

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kaila @ healthy helper! April 21, 2011

Love this Ange! Such a great post with an even better message! You are a fabulous writer and express things so beautifully. Yay for self love!

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Lisa April 21, 2011

Weight fluctuations are very normal. I can fluctuate 5 pounds daily, monthly, depending on hormones and water retention. But I still get stuck in that cycle of “why did I gain 3 pounds??” and over-analyzing what I’ve eaten. Sometimes I get stuck in that mode too.

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Emily April 21, 2011

Angela this is such a wonderful post :) Thank you – it’s exactly what I needed to hear today. Yesterday I stepped on some scales for the first time and, despite the fact I hadn’t even really put any weight on, it still started that negative spiral of emotion. By last night I’d managed to remind myself that my body does awesome things and that I fuel it well, and reading this post has just reaffirmed for me that there’s no need to beat myself up over nothing :) xx

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kate@ahealthypassion April 21, 2011

I love what you said about being vegan, so true it allows you to live for something greater and put purpose in everything you eat. I completely agree its not restrictive at all I have become a better person because of it plus you’re forced to be creative and focus more on your health!

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Hilary April 21, 2011

This is regarding your sore throat :) If it gets really bad (& wakes you up at night) I’ve actually found that Advil works. I’m guessing you try to unnecessarily take medicine but sometimes, I find that my need to feel well outwins my desire to try every all-natural remedy under the sun (that sometimes don’t work).
Hope you feel better soon!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 21, 2011

Thanks! I have been taking some when it feels real bad…I find it helps with my sore ears (when I swallow), and helps my throat a bit too. Im all for natural approaches but there is no sense in suffering all day long! :)

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