A few years ago, I read a book by supermodel Crystal Renn, one of the world’s most successful plus-size models.
How she became a plus-size model is an interesting story. She started as a straight-size model, being discovered as a teenager in Clinton, Mississippi.
In order for her to be signed by an agency, she was required to lose roughly 50 pounds. Instead, she ended up losing nearly half of her body weight. And so began her career as a working high-fashion model.
According to her autobiography, during her first few years she was in terrible health, in constant fear of losing her job, and absolutely miserable.
On her days off, she spent hours at the gym — so many that she joined two separate clubs to prevent the judgmental stares from other patrons.
She began to hate her job, her life, and, most of all, herself.
She ate around 400 calories per day to maintain her emaciated form. She logged so many miles on the treadmill that she couldn’t walk without severe pain. She stopped having periods and began losing her hair.
This punishing routine was unsustainable and took a severe toll physically. Ultimately, her body rebelled, and her weight started to creep back up.
Of course, her agency threatened her with being dropped — and when she couldn’t get back to her size-zero frame, she was.
She was devastated. But also relieved.
She began to eat again. She ate whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. And, of course, she gained weight.
But an interesting thing happened. She lost her first modeling contract — but was then signed by Ford as a plus-size model.
Although the first agency who signed her had had high hopes for her, promising her that she would immediately take off and join the ranks of the supermodel elite, her career went nowhere.
As a plus-size model, however, it was just the opposite. Suddenly, she was besieged by designers who wanted her for their major campaigns, an offer that all models covet but that few ever get.
So, she began to love modeling. She began to love how she spent her days. Most of all, she began to love herself.
But then another interesting thing happened.
As she began truly loving her life (and herself), her eating habits once again changed. She started gravitating toward healthier foods — fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds — and her weight slowly began to drop.
Ultimately, she ended up not as a plus-size or straight-size model, but somewhere in between.
Fortunately, Crystal was able to somehow continue her successful modeling career. But she was criticized nonetheless for not being ok with being at a heavier weight.
She was blamed initially for being too heavy and not fitting the unrealistic standard of beauty we’re all faced with — and was then blamed again for losing enough weight to no longer be considered a role model of the body positivity movement.
She had to constantly explain that she wasn’t trying to lose weight. Her habits changed naturally as a result of her increased self-esteem and a renewed love of life . . . and the weight shed itself.
The Paradox of Accepting Your Body and Wanting to Change It
We hear it all the time: You need to love yourself just the way you are.
So how do we reconcile this message with our desire to change our bodies?
Loving your body the way it is doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to want to change it. In fact, that’s the only way to change it.
What is wrong is that we’re killing ourselves to conform to an unnatural and unhealthy body standard, and it’s creating intense self-hatred.
Then, as a result of those feelings, we eat to make ourselves feel better. Consequently, we carry excess weight — that keeps showing up because of desperately trying to meet the standard by crash dieting . . . and then failing miserably because, of course, diets don’t work.
The excess weight you see on your body feels uncomfortable because it’s not supposed to be there. It’s the direct result of eating emotionally, which can be traced back to the resistance caused by a life that’s not fully lived. How can it be if you spend the majority of it hating your body and wasting it on a diet?
That is why loving your body is the key to shedding the weight. When you no longer resist it, you feel relaxed and at peace, which is what frees you up to focus on more joyful things, which is what changes your behaviors, which is what then allows your body to become what it’s naturally supposed to be.
This is how Crystal Renn’s body stabilized somewhere between ultra thin and plus size.
How Loving Your Body Is the Key to Changing It
After a lifetime of being bombarded by the airbrushed images we all see in magazines, I still struggle with loving and accepting my body.
Each morning, the first thoughts that rush through my head are about whether was I “good” or “bad” the day before and whether my stomach will be flat or sticking out as a result.
It all happens in a split second, and I have to consciously remind myself to focus on something I love about myself.
I’m telling you, the emotional damage of those media images and how they determined my self-worth as a young girl will never leave me.
And here’s the irony: the self-hatred those images cause is what keep us from attaining the standard they portray.
Body shame is the genesis of emotional eating, which creates the weight you see, which takes you farther from the images you see, which creates more self-hatred . . . and more emotional eating.
But there’s a big difference between body dysmorphia and being dissatisfied with your body.
There’s nothing unhealthy with wanting to feel good in your body. And if the excess weight you’re carrying makes you feel uncomfortable, then there’s nothing wrong with wanting to eliminate it.
The problem is in the extreme measures we take and the mental and physical torture we engage in to get rid of that weight.
Trying to beat your body into submission by relentlessly dieting and killing yourself at the gym fuel the resistance you already feel toward your body.
The key is to allow the weight to come off, to shed itself. And it will through a lack of resistance. And the opposite of resistance is acceptance — in other words, self-love.
That is how loving and accepting your body the way it is now is what helps you change it.
Loving Your Life Is Also Critical
Loving your body is the start of loving your life. Think about it: there’s a direct connection between hating your body and a life not fully lived.
The hatred you feel is what keeps you in the diet–failure loop — and spending your life dieting means you’re not living a full, joyful life.
Your body is what carries you through your life, so loving it is key.
Loving your body instead of hating it, combined with no longer spending all your time and energy dieting, neutralizes the resistance you feel. Once this resistance dissolves, you will naturally start behaving differently.
You’ll think differently (more positively), you’ll move differently (more confidently), and you’ll hold your body differently (more relaxed). You’ll also start eating differently — you’ll effortlessly choose foods that support your new energy level, as opposed to forcing yourself to eat them.
It will be easy for you to work out — because you’ll no longer think of it as “working out.” You’ll think of it as moving your body and how good it makes you feel.
You’ll stop staring at yourself in the mirror and seeing all your flaws. Or avoiding the mirror altogether because you hate seeing yourself.
And once you do these things, your body will take shape. Its natural shape.
Stop Trying to “Lose” Weight
Your newfound acceptance of your body and love of life may or may not include dramatic weight loss . . . or it may.
Most likely it will include shedding those same 10, 15, or 20 pounds you’ve been killing yourself to get rid of for most of your adult life.
Whatever size or weight your body settles at, only you know if it’s right. Your body (and your mind, and your heart, and your soul) will tell you.
But let Crystal’s story be the ultimate example of how self-hatred and force create body dysmorphia, unhealthy behaviors, and a miserable existence. And how self-love and acceptance create naturally healthy habits, a body you feel good in, and a joyful life.
Loving your body the way it is, is the only way to change it.
So stop trying to lose weight — and let your body take shape.
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