You can’t change something you hate.
This is something I said recently to one of my clients.
Previously, she said she hated her body and how it looked — so much so, she avoided looking at it.
As we continued to talk, I asked her why she hated. Like many people, it was because she was comparing herself to the women on magazine covers.
“I should look like that, and because, I don’t I’m worthless,” she said.
Is it any wonder most of us struggle with body image? And, it’s not just women. Men battle with body image issues, too.
We are bombarded everyday with messages of how we “should” look. Whether it’s television, newspapers, magazines or social media, every day the “ideal image” is pushed upon us. All you have to do is look back on last week’s Superbowl.
You heard the response to Lady Gaga’s appearance as she performed during half-time. It was nothing short of fat-shaming. And, honestly, that pisses me off.
We are presented with the “perfect bodies” of various celebrities and fitness models who do live within reality.
They don’t actually look like that all the time.
Far from it.
And, the media doesn’t just mis-represent those bodies, they out and out lie about them. What they neglect to tell you is the majority of magazine covers are photoshopped. They neglect to tell you that prior to that one-day photo shoot, the model was on a very strict training and diet regimen for six to eight weeks — one that no human being can sustain forever.
Everyday, we are presented a lie and I for one applaud Lady Gaga for exposing the lie for all to see and standing up for herself. Honestly, I applaud her for not having that perfect six-pack ab body. She showed the world she’s just like the rest of us. In my mind that makes her a role model.
As I said earlier, we’re hit from all angles — social media, traditional media, healthcare providers, our friends, our family and our significant others are directly or indirectly providing us with cues as to what our appearance should be. But, most often the person who is speaking loud and clear about how you should look is yourself.
Studies show more than 80 percent of women are unhappy with the way they look or that they have at least some degree of dissatisfaction with their bodies. Dissatisfaction is linked to self-esteem, self-worth and depression. It leads to, as my client said: “A daily struggle not to hate myself to the point I can’t even function. I just want to stay in bed and forget the world.”
The truth is, I understand because I have been there, myself. At one point in my life, I nearly weighed 400 pounds. I hated myself to the point I did, on some days, layed in bed and tried to forget the world. Worse, I would use that self-hatred as an excuse to punish myself by eating myself sick. And, its something I not only struggle with today, but will for the rest of my life.
But, it doesn’t need to be that way. You just have to accept that the struggle exists and learn how to deal with it.
It’s up to you to realistically assess, understand and change the internal and external messages about what the ideal body. Stave off their effects on your self esteem and self worth. Easier said than done, I know. As I said, I struggled, too. And, now I’m a trainer.
I know negativity for motivation, body dissatisfaction and negative self-talk are NOT sustainable motivators. No matter how driven or motivated you are, at some point you will fall off the wagon. If those are your only motivators, you’re placing more obstacles in front of your potential progress.
Practice Self-Love. Try to remember and focus on the present. That you and your body are always doing the best they can at any given moment. And, if things need to change, then focus on making small changes that you can sustain over time. Instead of trying to have that perfect body — the one no one truthfully can sustain — focus on being the best YOU you can be.
Stop judging yourself based on the fiction that the media portrays. Not everyone should have six-pack abs, weigh 110 pounds and have no body fat. Instead practice self-acceptance and self-compassion.
If you have a goal you want to achieve, make sure its one based in reality Remember that self-acceptance is not giving up, but rather, should be a basis that spurs us into further action.
Engaging in self-acceptance can free up the mental space that was taken up with negative self talk that so many of us have and that prevents us from trying to reach our goals whatever they are.
And, yes it can be done. I know because I did it. It took me a long time to get here, but for the first time in my life, my mind set is one of self-love and self-acceptance. I choose to engage in healthy behaviors daily, because I feel better about myself when I do. I do it because I enjoy it and feel happier, healthier and it lets me enjoy life more. It also allows me do what I do, which is help people. Because of this single shift, I feel a new sense of freedom and motivation.
Instead of focusing on the negative, I choose to focus on the positive. When I have bad days, like if I overeat, instead of punishing myself by going on a week(s) long binge, I look for the positive in that bad day. Maybe it was just one bad meal or one bad choice in a day filled with dozens of choices 99 percent of which were good.
By focusing on the good I am able to be much more consistent with my behaviors because they come from a place of love and positivity instead of negativity and frustration. When you love and honor your body every goal you meet will be a reason to celebrate versus an opportunity to pick out and correct another physical flaw. And, those celebrations will keep you moving forward to a happier, healthier life.
Dan Romand is co-owner and operator of Full Circle Fitness-NY in Colonie, where he is also a certified personal trainer.