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Self-Esteem & The Great Weight Debate: Acceptance v. Diet

Acceptance v. DietHere’s the thing. There are people out there who hate their body for what it is. A lot of overweight people judge themselves in a way they would never judge anyone else. When we get like this, every ounce of our self-esteem is wrapped up in what the scale says. Our lives are measured by pounds lost and gained from day to day, week to week, month to month. At its worst, this way of thinking can lead to a serious, life-threatening eating disorder. But even at its best, self-esteem/weight dependency is not good.

Yes, I struggle with being overweight, but I try not to hate myself for it. I am grateful for my body. It’s worked hard to keep me healthy over the years through all my relapses and dealings with chronic illness. God made us the stewards of the earth and our bodies. It’s my responsibility to love and care for these gifts, in sickness and in health.

So when I read about this acceptance movement in a New York Times article, there was enough cognitive dissonance in it to make my head ache. What does it mean? Mandy Katz, the author of the article Tossing Out the Diet and Embracing the Fat says,

“This movement — a loose alliance of therapists, scientists and others — holds that all people, “even” fat people, can eat whatever they want and, in the process, improve their physical and mental health and stabilize their weight. The aim is to behave as if you have reached your “goal weight” and to act on ambitions postponed while trying to become thin, everything from buying new clothes to changing careers. Regular exercise should be for fun, not for slimming.”

Do you see what I mean? Which is it? Eat whatever I want or behave as if I reached my goal weight? Because those two things are different. If I were to behave as if I were at my goal weight I couldn’t eat whatever I want. And exercise? If I waited for exercise to be fun, hell would be well on its way to freezing over.

On the other hand… I totally agree with living life to its fullest now. Wear clothes for the body you have now. You look really good now! Don’t postpone dreams until you reach our goal weight. Go for that promotion now!

Our self-esteem needs nurturing as much as our bodies do. When we make loving ourselves conditional, like, “I will be so happy after I lose 30 pounds,” it’s like holding our self-esteem hostage. Not nice.

Drop the gun, leave the cannoli, and walk over to the sunny side.

If the Acceptance Movement is about loving ourselves for who we are now, body and soul, and caring for ourselves responsibly AND reasonably, then you can count me in!

Today is the first day of the rest of my life and eating as if I’ve reached my goal weight.

Self-Esteem & The Great Weight Debate: Acceptance v. Diet

Elvira G. Aletta, Ph.D.

Elvira G. Aletta, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, founder of Explore What’s Next, wife, and mom of two teenagers. Dr. Aletta is a writer whose articles have been featured on the New York Times Well blog, the Wall Street Journal Online, Parents magazine, NPR and the BBC London Radio. To learn more about Dr. Aletta and Explore What's Next, visit her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter!

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APA Reference
Aletta, E. (2018). Self-Esteem & The Great Weight Debate: Acceptance v. Diet. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 28 Aug 2009)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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