Be your own sweetheart, all year 'round

By Cathy Shaw, RD, WVU Medicine Medical Weight Management Clinic

Leading a healthy lifestyle is not just about eating healthy foods and getting regular exercise. It is also about the emotional and spiritual choices we make; whether they are good or bad, they affect our overall health and well-being.

Most of us are very good at showing love and affection to those around us. We often put the needs of our spouse, children, parents, co-workers, and even our pets before our own. We compliment others on their appearance and accomplishments. We give the gift of time to lend an ear, or just to show we care.

But how do we treat ourselves? Often we are critical and condemning about our appearance and our accomplishments. We are uncomfortable in our own skin. We forget how beautiful we are, both inside and out. We let a negative body image and self-professed “lack of willpower” drag us down – regardless our state of health – mentally, physically, and spiritually. If we constantly feel we are “not good enough,” it is certainly difficult to feel good about the healthy lifestyle choices we make. So many people, no matter what fantastic changes they have made, feel they are never good enough. This is not a recipe for a healthy life.

So how do we get past this self-defeating behavior and be truly comfortable in our own skin?
Here are some tips on how to boost your self-image and self-esteem, and put you on the path to loving the skin you’re in (some of these tips are courtesy of

Find one way to compliment yourself every day. Try to get beyond your appearance. Take pride in positive qualities, like being a great parent, a good listener, and a loyal friend.

Each time you receive a compliment, write it down in a journal. If you are having a bad day, break out your journal and relive that positive moment.

Realize that everything about you has been earned. Every laugh line on your face has a story. Every stretch mark on your belly represents a new life coming into the world. Every gray hair brings with it wisdom and experience. Hot flashes may not be fun, but they mean you are opening a new chapter in your life.

Catch yourself and stop complaining. When friends or co-workers are constantly complaining about their traits and shortfalls, it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon. Stop, think, and turn the conversation around. Find something positive in those around you to share.

Stop the negative self-talk. When you find yourself looking in the mirror putting yourself down (“I’m too fat”, “I have too many wrinkles”, “My hair is ugly”, etc.), pause and come up with a positive and loving thought. Would you say those things to a friend? Of course not, so don’t say them to yourself!

Realize your self-worth is not found in a number on a scale. Remember that you can practice healthy habits at any size. Most people tell me how eating healthy foods and getting regular exercise make them feel so much better, physically and mentally. You need to continue to focus on those healthy habits, and your body image and self-esteem will continue to improve beyond the numbers on the scale.

Be proud of your accomplishments, no matter how great or small. Each step you take down the path to health is a big deal. Don’t belittle your accomplishments by thinking they are too small or meaningless.

Remember, building self-esteem is a journey. What will you do to show yourself some love today?

These tips are brought to you by the WVU Medicine Medical Weight Management Clinic. The clinic provides a non-surgical, weight-loss program that is directed by a physician and addresses food, movement, and behavioral changes.