At a recent weight loss seminar, as we were discussing the subconscious obstacles to success, a hand shot up. We were talking about habits, pleasurable associations with the wrong food, fear of success and fear of failure. The question came from the back of the room, “How do I learn to love myself?”

“How do you love a baby?” I answered, “with unconditional acceptance.” You love yourself by noticing your successes and praising yourself for them, rather than focusing on and berating yourself for your failures.”

This is a perfect question to ask ourselves once we finally realize that we are not just reaching for that bag of chips or devouring that brownie because it tastes good. We seek out the foods that we crave because subconsciously they have often become a substitute for the love that we long for. It may seem as if there’s a hole deep inside ourselves that will never be filled and so we reach for the “comfort foods”—usually some form of carbohydrate to give us that momentary feeling of satisfaction and completion.

The problem is, no amount of food can fill that longing for love that we all have. No amount of food can give us the safety and nurturing that is at our core, but often feels absent. Eating as a way to fill our emptiness is a surefire way to create a deeper pain inside. Now layered over the original pain of feeling separate from our true self and others, we now have the physical discomfort of living in an overweight and/or unhealthy body, and the emotional guilt of knowing we have done this to ourselves. This may additionally be layered over with feelings of shame and regret. When we seek to punish ourselves, or comfort ourselves from the onslaught of this secondary pain, we often reach for more food.

So the question of how we can learn to love ourselves is a key to unraveling this tangled web we have woven. Seeing that we are, indeed, searching for love and comfort is the first step, but the more important one—if we are to break our destructive patterns around food—is learning to fill the hole inside ourselves directly by finding the love that we seek within.

This is often easier said than done. In fact, I believe learning to truly love oneself can be a life-long journey as there are always deeper levels to which we can aspire. Contrary to what one might think, true self-love is not selfish at all. In fact, the more we love ourselves authentically, the more open our hearts become and the more genuine love we are capable of giving to others. At the highest level, when we attain self-love, we may not even experience any separation with others and the needs of others may become as important to us as our own needs. Learning to love oneself is the journey of this lifetime—finding our deepest purpose for being here and finding the courage to live it. At the same time, we have to be completely honest with ourselves and accept fully what we discover if we are to put an end to emotionally hurting ourselves, once and for all.

Here are some keys for success:

What are you thinking?
We have a staggering 70,000 thoughts each day! Most of these are subconscious and we are not even aware of them. And yet each one affects how we feel particularly when patterns of thought become established. Take time to notice how many of your thoughts are putting yourself or someone else down in one way or another. Become a student of yourself and become aware of the effect that negative thoughts have on yourself. Notice how they affect your breathing, your posture, and your facial expression. Don’t judge your thoughts as good or bad but do notice how they make you feel.

The good news is that you are not a victim of your thoughts because you are in control of what you think. The unfortunate news is that you can not will yourself to think any differently than you already do. Try not to think of a pink polka-dotted kangaroo jumping through the forest . . . and what happens? You can’t will yourself not to think of something but you can re-program your thinking with tools like affirmations and self-hypnosis. The key to success is consistency and repetition, particularly with strong emotion. A great place to start is simply by taking a quality that you are yearning for such as “love” or “peace”. You could start with a simple affirmation such as “I am peaceful,” or “I am loved, loving and lovable.” An alternative option would be to take the word Peace and imagine that you are breathing in peace. Feel the peace enter you as you affirm, “I am breathing in peace,” and feel peace move from you out into the world as you exhale and affirm, “I am breathing out peace.” I find this simple breathing technique with your soul’s quality of Peace or Love to be a very powerful way to shift your thinking to the positive side.

What are you feeling?
So much of the time we are unaware of what we are feeling. We may have a vague sense of discomfort, or a nagging fear that is just outside of our awareness. What you don’t feel you can’t heal. It’s important to start to become aware of what you are feeling and bring it into your conscious awareness. When you label your feelings as ‘bad’, you no longer have the power to deal with them in an effective way. Part of growth comes from accepting all parts of ourselves including the parts that are painful and difficult. Rather than getting stuck in a hurtful emotion we can remind ourselves that our feelings are like the weather—they come and they go—and we can allow them to move through us until they pass. Eating a big plate of pasta when you are not physically hungry isn’t really going to get rid of the bad feeling although it may divert your attention from anger at a situation outside of you to self-disgust. The ideal transformation would be to feel the initial anger, refrain from overeating—perhaps exercise or practice self-hypnosis instead—and see what is revealed to you about yourself as you let the anger move through you on its own. With the help of exercise with self-reflection or self-hypnosis, you are giving yourself a positive tool to help you heal.

Finding Your True Self
The ultimate secret for learning to love yourself is to realize without a doubt that you are not your thoughts, your feelings, your life situation or your body. Through the practice of self-hypnosis or heart centering meditation and what I call Subconscious Imprinting Technique (SIT) you come to know (not just think) but absolutely feel certain about the fact that you are none of these things. This is a huge relief because at some point we come to see that we can only change our thoughts, our feelings, our life situation and our body, up to a certain point. Ultimately, happiness comes from accepting things as they are and feeling grateful for all the wonderful gifts that our lives are filled with. Some of those gifts include shifts in our perceptions and our life situations in a positive way, and when this happens it’s a wonderful feeling! This shift in perception may occur after lots of hard work or sometimes it seems like an effortless blessing. Even with these wonderful periods of grace that we have all experienced, who among us doesn’t know the difficulty of struggling with our own thoughts, emotions, life situation or body? This, too, is part of life and it’s the part that often drives us to crave foods and reach for food when we are not physically hungry. Certainly, you may say that you eat when you’re happy, celebrating with friends, etc.—but the majority of over-eating, bingeing and snacking is a habit that has developed out of a need to “feel good” and cover over pain. But as we already discussed, the strategy is doomed to fail because in reality these actions lead to “feeling badly.”

The true secret to breaking this habit once and for all and prevent yourself from falling into secondary “bad” habits is to face yourself—all parts of yourself—and your life head-on. You need to look at every character trait that you find within yourself after deep inner searching, and with humility and love, let yourself know that, “even this I accept.”
Once you do this, you no longer have to run away from yourself. You can also find relief in the understanding that you have the strength not to act on every thought and feeling that moves through you. You can relax in your own skin. It’s OK to feel regret for parts of yourself that have caused harm to yourself or others. When this self-forgiveness comes from a place of sincerity and acceptance, it’s much more likely that you will no longer have the subconscious urge to continue with the same undesirable behaviors or thoughts of the past.

How could you possibly have the courage to look at painful parts of yourself if deep down you believe that these places are the “truth” of who you are? That’s why the key to success in loving yourself truly is to travel deeper inside yourself to your core—your essence—your timeless soul and connect with the Reservoir of Pure, Unlimited Potential inside yourself. It’s only from this place that you can look at your own thoughts and feelings—and with a breath of relief realize that they are not you at all – they are simply moving through you. Most of them are habitual and many of them are based on fear or limited understandings about yourself and your life.

From this greater vantage point, you are much free-er to keep the beliefs that serve you and release those that have kept you stuck. From this deeper place within, you can connect with the greater truth about yourself—beyond your physical body, beyond the habits of thought, action and emotion that have kept you stuck, and instead experience yourself as a soul with a bright, beautiful, light. When you connect with that and KNOW it to be true with certainty, food becomes simply a pleasure to be enjoyed while at the same time a way of receiving your necessary sustenance from the earth to keep you alive. When you feel how the Light that you are can only exist in this world from within your body, you will intuitively become aware of what your body needs to consume to keep your light at its brightest, and your energy level at the highest necessary to live your life’s true purpose.

Making this connection with the Truth of your essence—and taking time every day to establish a relationship with this place within that is deeper than your thoughts or emotions—is the key to truly learning to love yourself.

Author's Bio: 

Rena Greenberg, Director of Wellness Seminars, Inc, is the Author of The Right Weigh: Six Steps to Permanent Weight Loss used by over 100,000 people (Hay House Publishing 2006) and The Craving Cure: Break the Hold Carbs and Sweets Have on Your Life (McGraw-Hill 2007).

Rena leads weight loss seminars at hospitals, governments and major corporations throughout the United States on a regular basis. Her unique and effective weight loss program has been featured in over 85 newspaper articles and over 35 television segments including Woman’s World Magazine and FOX-TV, nationwide. Rena is an ordained minister, a hypnotherapist, biofeedback therapist and neuro-linguistic programming expert. She can be reached at