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Maintaining body positivity while working towards fitness goals

While a yearly physical can prompt people to kick-start a workout regimen, there is often an obsession with the end results before they begin. We are bombarded with a constant stream of images of fake perfection, whether it is photo-shopped Instagram influencers, airbrushed magazine models, surgically altered fake reality stars, or television stars and world-class athletes with excellent genetics. All too often that can take its toll on the psyche and creep its way into how we think and talk about ourselves. The fallacy that it is better to look good than to feel good can actually get in your way. According to Fit Day, negativity towards yourself and your abilities to maintain a healthy lifestyle can actually hinder weight loss. However, if you practice some self-acceptance and self-compassion, you can maintain body positivity while achieving your fitness goals. Here are some tips:

Food, Glorious, food

We strive to have a rocking beach body by cutting carbs or shame ourselves for that plate of French fries and vow to work them off with a double dose of cardio. Obsessing over calorie reduction and the guilt and consequences of eating food can send you into a tailspin which isn’t helpful for your mind or body. Equating exercise with calories burned in terms of how much you can eat at each meal can quickly develop into an eating disorder. Not to say that well balanced, portioned meals aren’t important, but if your goal while exercising is to undo what you have done at the table, then training becomes a punishment and defeats the purpose of health. If it isn’t looked at as an obligation that will control your future perfection, you may actually enjoy exercise.

For Shame

Stop calling yourself fat. You have fat on your body. You are not the embodiment of fat. Too many diet commercials with before and after ads have left us with the impression that we have to identify with one of these archetypes. If you have certain goals like tighten the midsection or firm your thighs, that is entirely acceptable. However, don’t get down on yourself if it takes longer than you anticipated to get where you want to be. Think of all the things your body allows you to do and how much stronger you are becoming. Appreciate your body for the abilities it gives you to move. You may not have achieved your perfect size or strength yet, but you are making yourself healthier and you need to give yourself credit for that.

Don’t Check That Dial

Unless you are weighing in for a boxing match or some type of meet where ounces matter, you should focus on how your body is responding to your exercise routine rather than every little bit the needle moves on the scale. Plus, noting how you feel before and after working out is always a better way to maintain a healthy body image than staying hyper-focused on how you look. Getting stronger and healthier is a better benchmark than looking super skinny, no matter what some of those magazines will try to tell you. Healthy is hot.

A Kind Word

Be kind to yourself. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to your friends or family. If you were having dinner with a bff, would you call them out for ordering a cheeseburger and give their thighs a once over? Would you taunt your gym mate and remind them that as the years go by they can’t bench press what they used to?  Not only are those types of comments insulting, they aren’t constructive at all. If you aren’t going to talk to someone you care about that way, there isn’t a reason why you should talk to numero uno that way either. If you are surrounded with constant negative self-talk to negative talk from friends, break the cycle. Make a rule that no one says anything rude about their bodies or suffer a penalty. Have a money jar or tack on extra laps for a lapse in judgment. Use positivity and motivation to build each other up. Make a plan to use the buddy system when working out like joining a gym together, catching a class at the same time, or making dates to hike in groups. Having positive reinforcement from people working toward the same goal is always more fun than going it alone.

In The Mood

Working out for your health is often thought of as good for the heart but it is also good for the brain. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence reports that firing up your heart rate will help fire serotonin into your brain as well. Making sure you move can be a great mood stabilizer and help decrease tension and anger. According to Psychology Today, a 2010 study by the British Journal of Psychology discovered that people who regularly exercised were less likely to be depressed than those who spent their time sitting on the couch. Lifting weights can be a great way to lift depression, as long as you are doing it for fun and not moving objects as part of your workday. Even a walk had a positive effect, which is good news for those who shudder at the thought of running for fun. Whatever you choose to do can have a positive effect: yoga and Pilates can curb stress and tension, while aerobic activity like running, biking or swimming will release those neurochemicals that put you in a good mood.

Keepin’ It Real

Who doesn’t want that magic pill that guarantees an overnight fix? If you are expecting to move mountains in a matter of minutes you are setting yourself up for failure. Be reasonable about your goals and keep it realistic. Making noticeable progress is always a great way to motivate you to continue your routine, so set objectives that are actually obtainable. Setting certain benchmarks like dropping one or two dress sizes in three months, is easier done than losing 20 pounds by your sister’s wedding in 30 days. Unreasonable goals, like being able to run a marathon when you can’t remember the last time you laced up a pair of running shoes, is a recipe for frustration and possible injury. Be kind to your body. If you need to stop because you are out of gas or have the possibility of injuring yourself, don’t beat yourself up. Push yourself as far as you can go, but know when to back off if you need a break. While your goals should be challenging, if you aim for pie in the sky targets, you will be let down and be down on yourself. So take it one step at a time and give yourself a pat on the back for showing up and doing the amount you did.

Best Dressed

A 2016 study by Dove magazine found that 9 in 10 women would bow out of a function if they weren’t feeling how they were looking that day. That is a lot of missed opportunities based on body image. Sometimes something as simple as feeling good in what fits well can give you the confidence you need to kill it. Dress in a way that makes you feel good and that shows off your assets. If you love your arms, then wear the tank top that shows off that gun show. If you are proud of your legs, rock that mini skirt or those short shorts. Just because a magazine says that someone with your body type shouldn’t dress a certain way, that doesn’t make it true. The fashion industry has a warped sense of what a normal body type looks like, so don’t conform to those ideas and wear what you like.