Did you know that 56% of women say they are dissatisfied with their overall appearance and 89% of women want to lose weight? These thoughts can become increasingly intense when the weather turns warm and summer is around the corner. The key to easing your negative thoughts is not weight loss. 95-97% of intentional weight loss diets fail, so let's put that to the side. We aren't going down that path!
Instead try these 6 Steps to Body Confidence now...
no restriction, negativity or deprivation necessary.
Face Your Body:
When you're feeling insecure it's easy to "turn off" from looking at your body. You avoid your reflection at all costs, never look down or ban full length mirrors. This is a problem because while we are not only our bodies they are still important. If you hate your physical self you won't be able to fully enjoy life so let's get to work. In order to begin the process of accepting yourself you need to start looking at your physical self. You can start by dressing in a favorite outfit or you can even go nude. Sound scary? Take a breath...This will get easier with practice. It's common for the first time to be rough. If you feel negative emotions come up write them down or say them out loud. Be compassionate with yourself. Add a self-care routine to your mirror gazing, play some favorite music, put on some luxurious body lotion. Make this a daily activity- the more familiar you are with your body the easier it will be to begin your journey to acceptance.
Purge Old Clothes:
Many clients feel incredible amounts of stress when it comes to trying on old clothes. This is especially prevalent during the summer season when people tend to show more skin. Instead of trying on a bunch of old items give yourself permission to buy clothes that work for you now. Your body is the gold standard- your happiness and well-being are worth much more than that old pair of jean shorts! If your budget is smaller check-out Amazon.com, Poshmark, a clothing swap with others or a local thrift or consignment store. Pick clothes that make you feel good in your skin today and donate the clothes that no longer serve you.
Unsubscribe from Diet Culture:
Whether it's other people on social media, a women's magazine or a friend's constant diet talk- now is the time to say no more. If you notice that you start criticizing yourself after looking at a piece of media or talking to another person take heed. In order to accept yourself you need to start setting boundaries. It's not okay to make yourself feel bad for who you are. Period! It doesn't matter if you've made mistakes, slipped up or let yourself down in the past. Today you are sticking up for you and that means cutting out negative influences that enforce a rigid standard or beauty or worthiness.
Check Your Feelings:
Do you often say, "I feel fat"? Part of diet culture is teaching us that fat = bad. Everyone- regardless of their body size or health deserves to love and respect themselves. Body positivity has no weight limits and if you have a problem with other people liking themselves that says more about you than them. Instead of saying "I feel fat" dig deeper and ask yourself what's really going on? Try to think about what set off your feelings and begin to de-program yourself from thinking fat = bad.
Ban Negative Self-Talk:
If you wouldn't say it to your best friend, why are you saying it to yourself? When you start getting down on yourself picture someone you love in front of you. It can be your friend, mom, child. Take a moment to really visualize this person and all the things you love about them. Now- think about your negative comment. Would you want the person you love to hear this about themselves? Usually the answer is no! It is also helpful to write down the negative things you say about yourself. Doing this type of exercise helps take the sting out of our self-criticisms. When you hear a negative comment- "You failed again! I can't believe you're such a loser."- visualize a door slamming on that voice. You cannot hate yourself healthy or happy.
(This post originally appeared on my tumblr account lilybirdlifts.tumblr.com in June 2015, find it here)
Last week after a particularly rigorous workout I started to feel fatigued and not just physically. As I wrapped up my stretching I could sense tears beginning to form and quickly caught myself- what was going on?
I had just completed a successful lifting session and felt great, but at the same time I was experiencing a feeling of vulnerability and overwhelming heightening of emotional awareness.
Turns out, I am not alone. There is a strong tie between exercise and emotional release and this phenomena is supported by anecdotal evidence and clinical trials held by mental health professionals. At the root of these occurrences are how intricately related human beings mind/body connections are. This may seem far-fetched in a society of people who tend to be disconnected from their physical forms for whatever reason, but as you connect with your body through exercise emotions are awakened in new, and sometimes powerful ways:
The body holds on to feelings, even if it seems the mind has dealt with them. So if a person has the opportunity to relax that area, whatever has been held there can come to the surface. The body wants to complete the emotional experience.
-Karol Ward, therapist
Exercise causes tension to release and endorphins to flow throughout your body so you might feel elated but also emotional at the end of your workout. Whether you are exercising alone or with a group many practices ask you to turn inward and reflect on your present feelings and experiences. These meditative exercises can stir up emotional vulnerability that can also cause you to have intense mental reactions to exercising.
In addition to exercise causing emotional release it also fosters positive trends across many demographics (varied by sex, age, race, socioeconomic status), as discussed in Current Opinion in Psychology:
…Exercise and physical activity are associated with better quality of life and health outcomes. Therefore, assessment and promotion of exercise and physical activity may be beneficial in achieving desired benefits across several populations.
Older adults responded particularly well to 24 week resistance training programs and women also reported a high level of increased emotional satisfaction after increasing their activity levels. These positive effects are not limited to weight training or ‘traditional’ workouts either: mental health benefits were also observed in groups that participated in activities such as hatha yoga and dance classes.
So- the next time you workout or exercise take some time before and after to reflect on your mental state. Review your day, what might be stressing you out (family, friends, work, etc.) and recognize that these issues, no matter how big or small, are within you. You don’t have to search for an answer, or know how to fix them, but simply acknowledging them can be enough to keep your body and mind healthy.
…and remember, you are making a positive change by exercising, no matter how often you do it, so celebrate that choice!
Sources (links to articles within titles)
Bennett, J. (2014, October 20) Why So Many Women are Crying at the Gym.Time.
Stenson, J. (2007, October 2) Moved to tears: workouts and waterworks.MSNBC Online.
(2007, October 4) Another Reason to Exercise: Release Pent-Up Emotions. Pop Sugar.
Penado, F, Dahn J. (March 2005 Issue) Exercise and well-being: a review of mental and physical health benefits associated with physical activity. Current Opinion in Psychiatry.
About the Author
Lily lives in the Bay Area of California with her husband. She loves to lift heavy, watch vintage movies and cheer on her fellow warrior queens!