“After I’ve lost 20 pounds, I’ll be happy with who I am.”

Via on Jun 9, 2013

yoga girl Rachel Brathen pretty weight loss

Ramblings, thoughts, and loving contemplations.

We respect Rachel (@yoga_girl on Instagram) because, as you’ll see below, she preaches pretty much the opposite of many of the celebyogis out there. She’s about realizing basic goodness, not selling perfection. ~ ed.

I get flooded with comments and questions about looking pretty. Yes—about looking pretty.

Some also involve feeling good (in a combination with looking pretty) but so many of them come down to the same thing: changing the way we look.

It’s questions about losing weight. About diets. Beauty products. Exercise routines. Yoga for weight-loss. Yoga for better skin. Yoga for…for what?

On any given day I get 100-250 emails, and the majority of them are questions from people that want advice on how to change something about themselves. I do my best to answer in my own hippie way (“do yoga, eat your veggies, meditate, use coconut oil” etc., etc.) but I think there is a fundamental issue beneath all of this that no one is addressing.

Why is it that we on some level feel that we are not good enough the way we are?

Who taught us that we need to see a certain number on a scale to be happy? When was it decided that we need to look in a special way to feel okay with looking at ourselves in the mirror? Yes—we want to be healthy. Yes—we want to feel good. But this world (especially this strange social media one) is so full of unrealistic expectations that simply no one can live up to.

My least favorite comment I see on my feed is “You are perfect.” No, scratch that. My least favorite comment? “I wish I looked like you.”

You guys may know I have an Instagram feed. I choose what I post here. I could post photos of myself eating cheese while lying in bed last night watching old episodes of How I Met Your Mother (yep) or of how oily my skin gets when I’ve had too many beers the night before (yep) or the stretch marks I have on my upper thighs (yep). Or any of the million things that are not, in any way, “perfect” about the way I look. But I choose not to. I choose instead to post photos of me when I’m having a good hair day, or in a yoga pose that looks good in profile, or in a pretty dress on the beach. But I’m thinking now I may have been wrong in portraying just one side of me. I am not perfect. I’m not always in balance. I cry and get sad and emotional all the time (ask my boyfriend!). I have days when I feel ugly, or fat, or insignificant. I have days when I feel…not good enough.

And you know what?

I call bullshit!

We need to stop comparing ourselves with others and start loving ourselves, just the way we are. Love your body. Love your soul. Of course we have a hard time finding an exercise or diet routine to stick to—the whole reason we feel that we need one is because we deep down feel that we are not good enough as we are.

Telling yourself you’re not good enough is not loving yourself. Looking in the mirror and only seeing flaws is not loving yourself. Exercising or dieting simply because you want to change your body is not loving yourself. And I don’t in any way mean that exercising is not good for you—quite the opposite. It’s the way we look at ourselves that we need to turn around. The most difficult thing is not to find an exercise or diet routine to stick, but to deeply accept that we are already okay. You are okay. You are more than okay! You are beautiful, just the way you are.

I say, change it up! Instead of thinking you need to change your body so you can love your body (“after I’ve lost 20 pounds, I’ll be happy with who I am”), do it the other way around. Love your body so you can change it. Love your body. Love your soul.

If we keep exercising with a purpose to change because we are not already perfect, that exercise is always going to be negative and have a negative effect on all aspects of our being—mind, body, soul. You think staring at yourself in the mirror while running on the treadmill with your jaw clenched shut is good for your body? Think again. You think taking away the joy of eating delicious food is good for your body? Think again.

We are energetic beings. What you send out, you get back. If you don’t want your entire life to revolve around the shape of your physical body (which in the big scheme of things is so insignificant!), we need to realize this and make fundamental changes from the inside instead.

Yoga is good. It can also be done wrong, sure—practicing without mindfulness can definitely be compared to running on the treadmill with your jaws clenched. Are you in your body on the mat? Or in your mind? Do you feel the moment? Or are you focused on nailing that next pose, getting to the next step? Our minds can turn anything into ego. Which is why, again, we need to come back to a place of love.

The good thing about yoga is that it is so accepting, so loving, we can all do it no matter our age or body type. We can practice when we’re tired or energized, day or night…as long as the breath is there. Daily yoga helps because the thing that hurts us in the long run is our mind, not our body. We can weigh a million pounds, but that alone is not going to make us unhappy. It’s our mind’s perception of this fact that will make us unhappy. Know what I mean? It’s the thinking that hurts us. “I should” or “they shouldn’t” or “I would be better if…” …this is the reason we feel so inadequate. Yoga helps to calm the mind so we can free ourselves from these destructive thought patterns.

I used to think I wasn’t good enough, thin enough, smart enough, pretty enough… And I was always looking for the next “thing” that would help me achieve these things, because then at last I would be happy. But I finally realized: nothing from the outside will ever fix my inside. Even if I am a supermodel or the smartest person in the world, my mind will keep trying to find the “next” thing to fix. That is why we have to go on the inside to find that balance and happiness, not on the outside. Exercise is good and taking care of our body is good, but we need to do it mindfully. Once we realize that we are already so beautiful, so intelligent, so perfect, the rest will fall into place. We will start making decisions throughout our day that will heal our body. And we will make these decisions automatically, because we found a love for ourselves. So it will be natural to go for the fruit instead of candy, to move, to meditate, to eat strong meals that build us up instead of eating things that break us down. And this is where balance come from.

It took me a long time to find a balance in life, and I am still struggling with days when all I want to do is lie in bed and eat my weight in chocolate. Who doesn’t? And sometimes I do that too, trust me—and it’s okay! As long as those days are not overclouding your life. Find what makes you happy, accept your highs and lows and remember: this too, shall pass.

Stay beautiful, inside and out. Love your body. Love your soul.

About Rachel Brathen

Rachel is a yogi on a world tour. Born and raised in Sweden, she currently resides in the beautiful island of Aruba where she is busy teaching yoga at a resort in the mornings, coordinating retreats at noon, taking her three somewhat crazy dogs to the beach to keep up with the surf in the afternoon and trying to survive as a vegan (where no vegetables grow!) in the evenings. She firmly believes that life is not black or white – it’s black and white and blue and yellow with rays of pink and sparkle in between. You can teach yoga and still be a party animal. Meditate and ignore your spending problems. Be vegan and eat too much chocolate. Have a Swedish passport and live in the Caribbean. You can do anything, as long as it’s you! You can find Rachel on the beach, probably practicing her Astavakrasana, or on facebook.com/rachelsyoga.

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30 Responses to ““After I’ve lost 20 pounds, I’ll be happy with who I am.””

  1. Holly says:

    Awesome read! We all have this inner struggle. Its good to know you not alone. Thank you :)

  2. Kate says:

    "Love your body so you can change it"

    This is very problematic.

  3. Heidi says:

    I wish you would post those pictures, Rachel! Visual realities are so powerful!

    • elephantjournal says:

      Amen! It would be brave and inspiring. I asked Rachel about this kind of question recently when she visited Boulder…I can't remember her response, but I found it surprising and inspiring. Maybe she'll comment here.

  4. jsh822 says:

    Thank you for writing this and your honesty. What you said is so poignantly real and applicable in every day life, on and off the mat. Living in the modern world today, we are enticed to chase external gratification and become obsessed with what we see with our mind, we often neglect to find our truths and beautiful goodness from within. We're enough… Yoga is the bridge to that understanding, a lifelong practice that brings us back to our self, our soul.. beyond the physical body. Xo

  5. Lucy says:

    I think that the message of the article is great, but I feel as though you are not seeing some glaring contradictions. If you post multitudes of pics of yourself looking 'ideal', you are making a statement about what you feel is important about yourself. In your case if I knew nothing else about you, I'd say that based on the images you post you place extreme importance on how you look. You clearly have gone to great lengths to typify what our culture considers beautiful, so don't be surprised that women want to look like you! And please don't chide women for placing too much importance on beauty when you are as guilty of it as they are.

    However, you clearly place a great deal of importance of your own appearance by virtue of the multitude of images you post of yourself looking 'ideal'. You fashion yourself after the what our culture considers beutiful, perpetrate this image and expect

    • elephantjournal says:

      One of my favorite things on instagram? The hashtag #yogafail—check it out—the delightfully surprising thing is that when we do share our mishaps and bad hair days et al., we can rediscover a sense of humor about ourselves and our life. ~ Waylon

      PS: Rachel did directly address your question: "You guys know this is an Instagram feed, right? I choose what I post here. I could post photos of myself eating cheese while lying in bed last night watching old episodes of How I Met Your Mother (yep) or of how oily my skin gets when I’ve had too many beers the night before (yep) or the stretch marks I have on my upper thighs (yep). Or any of the million things that are not, in any way, “perfect” about the way I look. But I choose not to. I choose instead to post photos of me when I’m having a good hair day, or in a yoga pose that looks good in profile, or in a pretty dress on the beach. But I’m thinking now I may have been wrong in portraying just one side of me. I am not perfect. I’m not always in balance. I cry and get sad and emotional all the time (ask my boyfriend!). I have days when I feel ugly, or fat, or insignificant. I have days when I feel…not good enough."

      • Lil says:

        I don't think this woman had a question so much as an observation, that despite the writer acknowledging other perfectly human qualities about herself, that she chooses not to post those less desirable photos because they do not fit a particular image she is clearly choosing to portray. This is what happens when people become commodities in a largely image dominated western yoga instructor culture. It's akin to dissociation. Just as one can be occluded by negative views of themselves, so too can they not really own the beauty of life force of the shadow. To truly make an impact in the public realm, don't just talk about it…..actually show both sides. Otherwise, it's really not that helpful.

  6. Caitlin says:

    Great article and so true that we never seem to be content with how we are. Its always the need to fix ourselves or change some part of our body and then, then we can finally relax and be happy, only we never are.
    I am a big girl and have been struggling with body issues most of my life – even when I wasn't fat. I wrote about it in this blog post http://cgrace4wellbeing.blogspot.co.nz/2013/01/he… . I think if we could all get to the state of loving ourselves first we would all be a lot happier. CG xx

  7. elisa says:

    I applaud Rachel and her desire to post pictures of herself full of light and love and beauty. I don't know why we seem to require people to show us what we may perceive as their failings or "ugly" parts so that we can feel assured we are not alone in our "ugly" thoughts. This is a beautiful piece about the importance of focus and intent. Yay !!

    • Chantal says:

      Fully agree with this. I love to see beautiful pictures of beautiful people. And I'm not talking about beauty as an outside feature, I believe beauty comes from within and it just makes me feel happy to see other people being that happy. Everyone struggles with their own insecurities and life problems, we all KNOW that, don't we? Why can't we be happy for people who wants us to see their happy side of life and be happy for them for having so many beautiful moments in their lifes!

  8. amphibi1yogini says:

    I'm not going to go all food-phobic because someone is vegan and loves to show themselves off. On the other hand, intelligent calorie restriction–sparing of carbs, loads of ACCESSIBLE corework (NOT handstand or any inversion — with MY retinopathy) and dedicated cardio (moving the legs ON the ground, thank you, such that you raise your heartrate due to the movement and not the temperature of the practice room or the sunny beach (did you know that some beaches in Dubai are now refrigerated?) … may be keeping me out of the ER.

    The side effect of all this (in addition to wasting syndrome having kicked this all off) may just be meeting cultural expectations on body size for the first time ever. If they only knew.

  9. Julia Byers says:

    I agree, many people these days are never happy with who they are and how they are. They're always trying to improve themselves based on the fact that they don't like how they currently are, which is the wrong approach. We should all learn to be happy with who we are at this moment and work towards improving ourselves because we want to be better, not because we don't like how we currently are.

  10. Brain says:

    I agree that it is important to lay the facts down straight rather than embellish it with false promises whose transparency is pretty obvious from the outset itself. I have seen those techniques be used far too often and it is good that you don’t use them.Thank you for sharing.
    .

  11. Dave says:

    First we'll try a little dose of blunt reality.
    At it's core, the reason why people want to have a certain figure/look a certain way is because that figure/look attracts a lot more candidates from the opposite sex (or whatever sex you are trying to attract). And, and human beings, we want a sexual partner (or partnerS). The more candidates we attract, the higher chance we have of finding one (or more) where there is mutual attraction.

    I see your point with attaining that marvelously enlightening place in your life where you "love your body so you can change it," but I believe for most people, if they truly 100% felt that they were good enough as they are and loved themselves just the way they are, then they would not improve. They wouldn't work out and get stronger, faster, more flexible, more coordinated, have better cardio, smarter, etc.

    But my real point is (and the biggest part I disagreed with in this article):
    I believe that NONE of us are perfect. And that's NOT a bad thing. Quite the opposite actually. That is what not only makes us incredibly unique, but keep us constantly improving (and ENJOYING the journey of continual improvement and self betterment).

    I, however, do strongly agree with this statement, "nothing from the outside will ever fix my inside."

    peace and love

    • Gabi says:

      I believe that when we truly love ourselves, we start being active for the pleasure of it, like is intended to be! Fun! Exciting! Relaxing! You go for a walk because it feels good! because it makes you feel alive, because you feel in your body that this is beneficial, not because of calories!

      I do believe that true revolution comes from loving ourselves!

      Expanding love through ourselves could make us see which "physical activity" resonates with us!

  12. I appreciated this article. The whole body image, learning to love my body, learning to love myself thing is uppermost in my mind as I navigate the rocky terrain of my fifties and post-menopausal weight gain. My daily meditating mind knows that the size of my jeans is way down the list of what matters in the cosmic scheme of things. And yet, I agonize over it. Way too much. Yes, I need to learn to love my body, love my soul. And this is at the core of my daily practice. And it must be said that, at least for some of us, it is damn hard work. It doesn't come easily or quickly, despite the claims of countless self-help, self-improvement, self-transforming 'movements' and their gurus vying for the dollars of the self-loathing multitudes. Unfortunately, a lot of folks in the yoga 'business' fall into this category. (I certainly don't get the feeling that the author is one of them.) So, to everyone else out there struggling to love (even just not hate) a body that's far from some arbitrary ideal, I'm with ya! It's a jungle out there, kid.

  13. gogypsygo says:

    This would be cute if coming from someone who had 20 pounds to lose.

  14. Mina says:

    Beautiful article. However the picture attached to it is of a very fit very thin girl. Might be sending conflicting messages.

  15. Beautifully written. No one is perfect! I think people get caught up in social media and with or without meaning to envying other people's lives because it's easy to. Most people only post the good stuff on social media which portrays a "perfect"picture when in reality this is skewed. We have learn to love ourselves, where we are at, and trust that it's where we are supposed to be. My yoga teacher recently said "Use your own life as inspiration"….so true!

  16. saxifrages says:

    Yes, Ideally love ourselves as we are. Self acceptance. But so I often I get to that happy place only to watch all the men my age, yes even the new agers, chase after the women 20 years younger. I go to Bhaktifest and I am invisible as a middle age woman. Easy for a beautiful young woman to say.

  17. Karlena says:

    RIGHT ON SISTA!!!!! Diggin everything ur dishin' ….. Keep on shining your light xoxoxoxoxo much aloha from a fellow traveling yogi ~*~*~*~*

  18. Kirti Seth says:

    Thank you Rachel, this is the first I have read your post, and like it very much, You have rightly said we have to love ourselves and the right choices will follow. All these years I have struggled with my weight too, and my self esteem is down to the pits, and I wish I was actually not so obessed with the weight issue, and just enjoy the exercise and yoga routines, JUST BECAUSE. So I shall try harder to remind my self about this post, and love me first.
    Thanks
    Kirti Seth, India

  19. Maryse says:

    Thank you for your amazing honesty. Reading this felt like an echo of all the things I had said to myself, about myself over the years. It's sick. And so, just for today, just for this moment, I choose to love me for me.

  20. Tierney says:

    beautifully said.. unfortunately its people like the founder of lulu lemon and his comments of "if your thighs touch, you probably should wear lulu lemon yoga pants". Who send women back a thousand steps in the process of self acceptance. Thank you for this candid article… and maybe you should post a few non perfection pics on IG. I know for myself when I see the people who put one after the other ones of perfection, I can't help but think that is what they are and that I will never get there!!
    Namasteh

  21. Mel says:

    I like her, a lot. Sadly i use to be and at times still think if i was only skinnier. Lately i have been rethinking that instead of wishing to be skinnier i am thankful for i come from a long line of very over weight family. Im talking 400 to 500 pounds, after having my son i still didnt gain like most did in my family. I fight each day to make the right choice most days i fail but i try and for me that counts. I see so many online saying oh im so depressed i will never fit into my size one jeans again, while i have a friend that wishes she could gain enough to fit into at least a size one. My friends have shown me that skinny people have their own battles and to me that makes me feel human and love them even more. Rachel you are a role model and with that comes the rule that you must seem perfect, i love how you just set a new kind of role model that we all can be for others. Thank you so much.

  22. Rose says:

    Rachel talks a good game, but she does indeed contradict herself. Check out her yoga_girl IG account where she has beautiful pictures of herself and will post smug captions. There is weekly drama and controversy in her comments section with all out war and she too is part of the drama. Last week she told people to f_ck off in her caption and made no apology for it. Her arrogance is staggering.

  23. yowunga says:

    I think it's okay that Rachel only posts "pretty" pics of herself. I follow her on Instagram and I think her pictures together with the text are mostly very uplifting and full of positive energy. That's why I follow her. Pictures of tired and bloated Rachel in bed eating chocolate wouldn't inspire me in that way. But then I am not an insecure teenager hating my body…

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