Body Image Blues
As a professional in the fitness industry, I hear too often people who refer negatively to parts of their body….
- “My legs are so fat!”
- “My butt is so big!”
- “I wish I could lose this muffin top!”
What is sad are the people who get caught in the thought process of “If I could just lose this extra 20 pounds, then I’d be happy” and sometimes, even when they do lose the weight, they’re still not satisfied. If you believe that you’ll be happy once you lose the weight, you’ll never be skinny enough to be happy.
It’s a vicious cycle and it never ends unless we learn to love the body we have as it is right now, not tomorrow or next month or next year. It’s ok to want to make health improvements to be at your personal best, but you can’t hate and despise the state you’re in now. Making these lifestyle changes is about believing you deserve to be healthier! Love yourself enough to take the time out to exercise and eat well.
It’s not about making the changes so you can look like someone else or love who you are. If you make changes with this as your ultimate goal, it may be tough to succeed and you may be miserable for life! Take my word for it. I’ve seen it happen time and time again! Body hatred and dissatisfaction are hardly reserved for only the morbidly obese. In fact, many women who clearly have very little body fat to lose, are not happy with their body proportions.
One aspect of gaining control is understanding the role of negative and irrational thinking. We are often our own worst critics and can be so hard on ourselves. Here are some examples of things you may have said to yourself which may sabotage your efforts:
- I missed my workout. I’m a total loser!
- If I don’t starve myself I’ll get fat!
- Since I pigged out at lunch, the whole day is ruined. I might as well stuff myself today and start all over again tomorrow!
- Things always go wrong! I’m such a failure!
- It’s not the diet program that’s wrong, it’s me!
- I might have lost 10 pounds but I can’t go to the beach until I’m a perfect size 6!
- I’ll be happy once I lose the weight!
- My thighs are the fattest I’ve ever seen!
- If I lose weight, then my boyfriend will pay more attention to me.
- Why do I have such bad will-power?
- Why couldn’t I just have been born with a perfect body?
- I’ve got to lose 20 pounds within a month to get ready for my vacation or my holidays will be ruined!
- I’ll always be like this!
- I can’t seem to do anything right!
- Why would anybody love me?
Here’s some steps to learn how to love your body and improve your body image.
Step One: What’s Realistic For You?
- Is there a history of excess fat in your family?
- Which parts of your body or your physical attributes are you satisfied with?
- What is the lowest weight you have maintained as an adult for at least one year? When did you feel the healthiest?
- Based on your genetic predisposition, your age and the amount of time you want to spend exercising, what type of “ideal” physique is achievable for you?
Step Two: Manage Negative and Irrational Thoughts
- Listen to your thoughts at the times when you feel worst and listen for irrational/negative thinking.
- Dispute these thoughts by asking “Why is this so?”, “Where is this negativity coming from?” and “Could there be another possible explanation or interpretation?”
- Imagine repeating what you’ve said to a close friend or child? We could never imagine talking to others as we talk to ourselves. The next time you catch yourself thinking irrationally or negatively, ask yourself if you’d ever speak this way to another human being. You deserve the same type of respect you’d give anybody else! Remind yourself that if you continually practice negative self-talk, eventually, you may actually start to believe your own words. Your self-esteem can end up taking a real beating.
- Displace continuing irrational beliefs by techniques of
- Thought stopping (when worrying, think of a stop sign and then pleasant thoughts)
- Stress management (when worrying, participate in your favorite relaxation techniques like massage, reading, baths, journal writing etc.)
- Learn to live in the moment and to experience true joy in your life. Stop worrying about the past or the future.
- Each night before you fall asleep, write in a journal or make a mental note of what was the best part of your day or of something that you experienced that you really appreciated or enjoyed.
- Live today! Self-hatred takes a lot of time and energy. Obsessing about your body weight, nutrition plan and exercise program leaves you tired and depressed. Deciding to not enjoy the here-and-now because you’ve decided to wait until you lose the weight will leave you feeling deprived and will often lead to more negative feelings and behaviors. Remember that thin thighs, a small butt and a 6-pack set of abdominals is not the ticket to a meaningful existence. Fill your life with interesting experiences and people and you’ll enjoy a much higher quality of life.
Step Three: I Need a Little Help From My Friends!
Surround yourself with positive, supportive people who inspire, challenge and support you. Keep people around who are part of the solution not part of the problem.
Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for over 25 years and has received numerous industry awards including International Personal Trainer and Fitness Presenter of the Year. She is the author of five books including “Go For Fit – the Winning Way to Fat Loss” and “Fit over Forty” and is the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver and can be seen running, hiking or cycling with her two children, Brianna and Jackson. She can be reached at www.nwPersonalTraining.com or www.ShapeupwithSherri.com Note: As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a 2 week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started. Contact 360.574.7292 for more details.