It seems more difficult than ever to place stock on positive attributes unrelated to physical appearance. I hear clients day in and day out complain of the lack of speed of their physical progress while utterly neglecting the progress that cannot be seen by the naked eye. I am guilty of doing the same thing! Exercise and nutrition is paramount in disease prevention allowing us to sleep better, our bodies to function properly, our life quality to increase- it is essentially the fountain of youth- so why do we so quickly forget the other myriad of positive effects of health and fitness and only focus on aesthetics?
When I began training, I did so primarily for stress relief. Of course, I did not want to gain weight as I aged, but I was fortunate to not have had to battle with weight up until this point. I made healthy selections as frequently as possible, ate out with friends, and practiced moderation but I never had to focus on “dieting”. When I took my training to the level of competing, things changed for me. I started taking progress photos and although I would make changes that SHOULD have made me ecstatic- it seemed I would set the bar higher and higher for myself and never reach it. I would post before and after photos and although many of my friends and family said they would be happy with even the before image, I was NEVER satisfied. That is when it hit me- I was being way too critical of myself. I wasn’t loving my body for the many things it could do, appreciating it despite flaws, remembering the amazing vehicle it is for me to live my life. I was stuck on wanting to LOOK perfect, even though I felt pretty freaking perfect on the inside.
With that said, this week I want to talk about positive body image and NOT placing sole value on your appearance to determine if you should continue your fitness and nutrition regimen. Of course, we all want to look good! But none of us should want to look good if it makes you feel horrible! I know some of the most gorgeous physiques allowing their health to suffer for appearances. In my opinion, that should never happen.
We can do a few, if not all, of the things on the list below! This excerpt has been taken from my ever- talented friend, Kelly Westerberg, M Ed. (A true wealth of knowledge that I hope to have contribute more often regarding all things mindset and mental wellness)
Print this out, or save it somewhere on your phone where you can refer to it. I am considering printing it out in some obnoxious lime green or hot pink color and plastering it around my computer in my office…
1. Think of your body as the vehicle to your dreams. Honor it. Respect it. Fuel it.
2.Create a list of all the things your body lets you do. Read it and add to it often.
3.Become aware of what your body can do each day. Remember it is the instrument of your life, not just an ornament.
4. Create a list of people you admire: people who have contributed to your life, your community, or the world. Consider whether their appearance was important to their success and accomplishments.
5. Walk with your head held high, supported by pride and confidence in yourself as a person.
6. Don’t let your weight or shape keep you from activities that you enjoy.
7. Wear comfortable clothes that you like, that express your personal style, and that feel good to your body.
8. Count your blessings, not your blemishes.
9. Think about all the things you could accomplish with the time and energy you currently spend worrying about your body and appearance. Try one!
10. Be your body’s friend and supporter, not its enemy.
11. Consider this: your skin replaces itself once a month, your stomach lining every five days, your liver every six weeks, and your skeleton every three months. Your body is extraordinary, begin to respect and appreciate it.
12. Every morning when you wake up, thank your body for resting and rejuvenating itself so you can enjoy the day.
13. Every evening when you go to bed, tell your body how much you appreciate what it has allowed you to do throughout the day.
14. Find a method of exercise that you enjoy and do it regularly. Don’t exercise to lose weight or to fight your body. Do it to make your body healthy and strong and because it makes you feel good. Exercise for the Three F’s: Fun, Fitness, and Freedom.
15. Think back to a time in your life when you felt good about your body. Loving your body means you get to feel like that again, even in this body, at this age.
16. Keep a list of 10 positive things about yourself without mentioning your appearance. Add to it daily!
17. Put a sign on each of your mirrors saying, I’m beautiful inside and out.
18. Search for the beauty in the world and in yourself.
19. Consider that, Life is too short to waste my time hating my body this way.
20. Surround yourself with people that remind you of your inner strength and beauty.
As well as keeping progress photos, keep progress updates! How do you feel? How is your energy when you eat well, sleep well, and hydrate? This helps me so much! When I overeat, or eat the majority of my calories from low quality foods, I feel it.
Side note about a great way to view your diet break down as a flexible dieter and not cram in as much junk as possible to still have the physique look you desire: Alan Aragon (alanaragon.com) suggested to have your caloric intake divided in a way that 70 percent of your total calories is from nutrient dense foods you enjoy, 10 percent from nutrient dense foods you don’t particularly love but know you should eat (enter vegetables for me LOL), 10 percent from semi junk food (such as protein bars!) and 10 percent from low quality treat items that you love (OREOS). I try to keep this in mind when planning my day.
Have your vitals or lab worked changed since you adopted this new lifestyle? Exercise and eating well has been shown to reduce the instance of many chronic disease conditions such as coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and some cancers. That deserves a slow clap.
Each day, focus on at least one point from the list and put that into action for the day.
Each day, jot down one positive change from eating well and exercising that does not have to do with how sexy you think you are (or aren’t!)
Next week, find a new point on the above list, and keep adding to the unseen progress. If you are a mom, like yours truly, feel free to also add positive changes your children are making from witnessing your efforts to treat your body right! My son will ask me to “help him pick something healthy to eat”. I love that he WANTS to eat healthy and isn’t being FORCED to eat healthy. If I’m not at my dream look yet, but my son is learning how to fuel himself properly, I consider myself victorious.
Please do not put all your stock in appearances. We will always fall short as no one is perfect. Remembering to focus on unseen progress will keep you motivated and satisfied where physical progress can leave you feeling stressed and frustrated from time to time.