I love that everywhere you turn on the internet these days you are seeing and reading more messages from women about positive body image. The much-needed body-positive movement is all about accepting yourself at every shape and size, but, my question is; where does that leave those who still want to make changes? We are 100% on the right track to changing women’s core beliefs on body image although I think there are also some cracks in the message.
What this ‘body positivity’ is really about is loving and being kind to your body. But maybe where the message can sometimes be lost is that this should also be viewed as taking care of your body, listening to what it needs and giving it that every day. And, sometimes, for some women that includes being open to making some changes. I see great messages being shared online but I also see women being shut down for still having health and fitness goals. Striving for something different doesn’t mean there’s anything ‘wrong’ with you right now. It just means that you’re in the middle of a personal journey, and the path is more worthwhile than the destination.
You will not be able to hate your body into being healthy. More often than not, body-shame and poor body images result in kilos gained, not lost. After my 13 years of training women what I’ve seen amazes me still, women who believe their body type affects their self worth seem to exercise less, and have more food related issues, no matter their body type. And the women who work out with aesthetics as their main motivator, are less likely to stick with exercise, or dieting.
My passion is to transform the way you look at nutrition and exercise. I know that changes motivated by looks don’t last, I’ve seen this first hand. If it’s long term change your looking for it’s going to be hard, it doesn’t involve some cheap marketing ‘get fit and skinny quick’ method, it requires you to reprogram your brain. A lot of this comes down to the enjoyment factor: You’re less likely to focus on workouts and healthy eating when they are all about ‘fixing’ your so-called ‘flaws’ or punishing yourself for what you ate.
Self-criticism and harsh self-judgment activate the threat and stress responses in your brain and body, this flood of stress hormones, that include cortisol and adrenaline, results in anxiety, inflammation, and for a lot of women, emotional eating, and more body shame. Hardly a formula for healthy change or long term health.
If weight loss is your goal you will be more likely to succeed if you treat your body kindly. Choices made with self-worth in mind are more likely to lead to results and better long – term physical and mental health.
You must develop a body-positive approach to change but this isn’t just loving your body, it’s about shifting the one-size-fits-all ideal we’ve all been fed our whole lives. Let’s break the mold and create a new movement girls!
My advice, if you’re trying to lose weight, is that it’s important to ask yourself ‘Why?’. Kindness-driven answers more like ‘I want to be healthy’ are far more likely to result in positive change. When I dig deep into women’s motivation for losing weight over the years, it often comes from a place of body hate. They want to discard their current body rather than taking care of their body and treating it well.
How do you reprogram how you think about and value your body? With clients, I start by encouraging them to build awareness. I ask clients to be conscious of when and what they say to their bodies whether this be positive or negative and also be aware of what external factors might contribute to these feelings.
Step 1 is awareness, step 2 is changing the way you speak to yourself in these situations. Instead of saying “I ate so much, I need to get to the gym to train it off”, instead switch that sentence for “I want to go to the gym, because I deserve to be healthy”.
Tuning into your self-talk is a seriously powerful tool, and where your worth is often derived. Reframing and changing the stories you tell yourself will literally transform your whole life.
For some women, their stories may include the need to change. For others, they won’t. True body acceptance and love is about making those decisions from a place that honours your body for the amazingly awesome home it is, no matter its size or shape.