If you’re new to Skinny on Swanky, be sure to check out my first post here! Skinny on Swanky is my weekly posting series that allows me to share my real life with my readers and includes my Skinny Saturday posts.

Happy Saturday, friends! I have a really amazing Skinny Saturday post for today that I can’t wait for you to see! But first, I have a little bit to explain…

I know that some of you have been following my Skinny Saturday posts since earlier this year when I first started writing about my efforts to lose weight and lead a healthier life style. During the summer, and especially towards the end heading into Fall, I started to majorly lose consistency in writing these posts. A major contributor to that was my super hectic schedule. I spent all summer writing my first cookbook, and then I jumped right into planning and hosting an online blog conference. I needed to hit the pause button on Skinny Saturday, because it was just one more thing in my week. And I just had to start cutting things out where I could in order to survive.

Then my schedule slowed down some. And I could have started writing Skinny Saturday regularly again. But when I sat down to write a post, I couldn’t think of anything to write. Healthy habits have been a struggle for me over the past few months, maybe more than ever before in my life. Between my foot injury and the stress of writing a book and maintaining an active blog (on top of everything else people normally do in real life), I somehow hit the pause button on being healthy too. And I just didn’t feel like I had anything to write that was motivating or inspiring. And I kind of felt like I just didn’t care anymore.

But I’ve received such an incredible response and outpouring of support from all of you that I didn’t feel like Skinny Saturday was something I should give up on. And then it occurred to me that it might be time to ask for help. I don’t mean help with eating or with exercising, I mean help with Skinny Saturday.

Skinny Saturday used to be a spark of inspiration and motivation for me each week, and many of you wrote to me saying that’s what it was for you too. I want to bring that feeling back to these posts!

So I turned to a very dear friend of mine.

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Shanna and I were roommates in college, and we’ve been close ever since. So close, in fact, she married into the family, and we are now cousins-in-law! Over the years, as close girlfriends do, we rode the weight roller coaster together. From crash diets to spending our weekends eating bags of M&Ms and Oreos on the couch, we covered it all together. Which is why I’ve always felt comfortable confiding in her about my weight and eating challenges. I knew she would understand.

Four years ago, Shanna and I decided to lose weight “for real.” But instead of keeping my end of the bargain, I got pregnant, had a few complications that limited my activity early on, and made a conscious decision to throw in the towel. But Shanna didn’t. She lost the weight. And more than that– she changed herself inside and out. I watched her diligently and relentlessly study out the weight loss process. She would read endless books and articles and blog posts about the science behind proper nutrition and the psychology behind forming good lasting habits. She learned what her triggers were and how to deal with them. She learned how to genuinely enjoy and take pleasure in her new healthy lifestyle. And she continues to do so without forcing herself to live a life of deprivation from her favorite treats.

She has an incredibly positive yet realistic and well-rounded outlook on life. Anytime we talk about body image, weight, and health, I come away from the conversation feeling more than inspired– I feel like my goals are reasonably within reach.

And that is the feeling I want to share with Skinny Saturday readers. I’ve decided that there is no one better to bring that feeling to this series than Shanna herself, and I’m ecstatic that she’s agreed to write about her experiences and what she’s learned about health, body image, and weight loss here on Something Swanky.

Please know that I am not quitting Skinny Saturday. I promise that I haven’t just found someone to fill my spot so that I can walk away from it with no sweat. I think you’ll understand once you see how Shanna writes and what she has to say. After reading her post for today, I felt a spark again. I remembered why I started writing about these issues in the first place, and why it’s so important to keep this discussion going. Shanna has been a big part of my personal journey with self image and weight, and I absolutely feel like she belongs here with us.

I have a feeling you are going to love this addition to Skinny Saturdays.

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I’m so thrilled that Ashton has asked me to do a guest spot for Skinny Saturday, but also totally intimidated. I am not a fitness trainer, nutritionist, health guru, psychologist or anything else impressive or qualifying. What I am is a girl (woman? I still can’t accept that fact) with two kids, a fabulous husband, and a completely average but marvelous life. I guess what sort of qualifies me to write here in this context is that five years ago, I was 40 pounds heavier than I am now.

There are so many aspects to anyone’s weight loss success, and people are always asking me “How did you do it?” I’m working on coming up with some super profound answer that I can give, because I know that’s what I was always searching for—that one motivational quote or one tip or one method that would be the key to my getting thin. If only I could hear the right formula, then I could make it happen for me too. There are countless things that I learn and utilize every day in losing and maintaining my weight, and I hope that in possible future posts I’ll get to share some practical tips and everyday advice. And maybe even some recipes that get me through. But today I want to take a more abstract approach to my story.

I have a 2 ½ year old and I’ve been reading a lot lately about how to help him learn what is right and what is wrong. Anyone who has had any contact with children has probably employed the rewards system to garner good behavior. “Sit in the shopping cart and I’ll give you a cookie.” (I mean carrot…I don’t feed my kids sugar…ha!) The other side of that is that we sometimes threaten with punishment to stop bad behavior. “Don’t push your sister over or you’ll sit on time out.” The sociologist Lawrence Kohlberg calls these motives “Moral Reasoning”. There are 6 stages of moral reasoning that we all go through from childhood to adulthood, but those two are the most basic:  we do what’s right to earn a reward or to avoid punishment. (And those few sentences sum up all that I remember from earning my Sociology degree.)

Why am I blabbing about Sociology? Because of this…

How many of us set weight loss “goals” and dangle a “reward” that hinges on achieving that goal? When I lose 5 pounds I’ll buy myself a new pair of shoes. If I can get to 130 pounds I’ll get a new wardrobe. If I can lose 10 pounds by Christmas, then I can eat two desserts at the family party.  Ifs and thens.

We also punish ourselves with our attempts at weight loss. I ate a piece of cake yesterday, so I have to spend three hours at the gym tonight. I can’t fit into my skinny jeans, so I’m going to mentally berate myself every minute of the day that I’m wearing my “fat pants”.

One thing I’ve learned having lost those 40 pounds three different times now (the initial loss and then also after each baby) is that neither of these methods is healthy or helpful to our weight loss. I have all the self-control in the world when it comes to other people. I have no problem limiting my toddler to just one cookie. I’m the healthiest gal in the world when I’m packing my husband’s lunch. I’m all about the encouragement when I’m talking to my sister about her running goals. It’s easy for me, because I love these people. I would never call my child fat, or be angry at my husband because he ate extra dessert, or yell at my sister when she decides to sit on the couch watching Downton Abbey instead of going running.

So why are we so cruel and unforgiving of ourselves? Why doesn’t our own self control come from a place of unconditional love? Somewhere along the way, every woman gets this idea in her head that loving yourself is conceited. We are conditioned to think that if I am proud of my physical appearance or my talents or my personality traits, then I am a snob. The humble and unpretentious thing to do then is to hate ourselves; we deny compliments, belittle our achievements, give others credit when it is totally due to us. We degrade ourselves to avoid appearing arrogant; we become martyrs to our own humility. And that spills into how we treat our bodies, especially when we are trying to lose weight.

Rewards and punishments don’t work because, as Geneen Roth says, they are based on hating something about ourselves. When we don’t achieve a reward we are punishing ourselves twice—we feel bad because we still weigh 5 pounds more than we want AND we didn’t get a new pair of shoes. That’s just mean. And isn’t it easier to do kind things for someone that you love instead of someone that you hate? Being healthy and getting to a healthy weight is a kind thing to do for many reasons. And I have learned that it’s so much easier to do that service for myself when I come from a loving place.

You are not a sum of the cellulite on your limbs...

My first advice to anyone asking “How did you do it?” is to start by getting to know a few things that you love about you, exactly the way you are right now. So you hate your thighs, who doesn’t? You are not a sum of the cellulite on your limbs. You are a sum of many beautiful parts, physical and mental. Don’t ask other people what they like about you; learn to give yourself that positive validation. I really love my nose and I think I have beautiful hands. And I have empathy and generosity toward others, and I really like the fact that I cry easily at tender and lovely things. Like any commercial with a baby in it.

So now you try it. What, in your heart of hearts, do you love about yourself? Silly or serious, big or small. Say it out loud, share it with someone, write it down, or if you’re feeling brave, share it here with everyone.

Love yourself, and reward yourself. Not a future version of yourself, but the you that you are right now. Get a pedicure because you WANT one, not because you lost 2 pounds this week. Don’t withhold the things you enjoy because you are “overweight.” Do you choose your friends based on their jeans size? I hope not. So stop snubbing yourself for the same thing.

When we judge someone by their physical appearance, either because they’re overweight or because they’re thin so we enviously hate them, we miss out on potentially wonderful relationships. So stop judging yourself by those standards, because you’re missing out on a wonderful relationship with YOU.

Loving yourself does not mean that you aren’t trying to better yourself, or denying that there are true health issues that come from being overweight.  And it takes hard work and dedication to be healthy. But this is the best starting point that I can give anybody when it comes to treating your body with kindness, especially when you’re trying to losing weight.

Shanna will be joining us for future Skinny Saturday as often as regularly as her schedule permits! 

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