When it comes to fitness, you often find two camps. There’s the side that’s often portrayed as the mainstream – those who aspire to six-pack abs, supermodel sizes, and looking good in a bikini or swimsuit. On the other side are those who say such aspirations are unrealistic and shaming, that beauty comes in all different sizes. Those in this camp emphasize the importance of self-esteem and loving yourself at any size.
I confess I get frustrated by the “self-esteem” camp. Why? Because that used to be me. But I was using it as an excuse. If I tried hard enough, I could convince myself that being at an unhealthy weight was okay. There were still men who found me attractive. I wasn’t that much heavier than other women. Etc…. Yet underneath the story I told myself, I was still miserable.
I learned something powerful about myself and about the “self-esteem” movement – it’s based on a false belief. A belief that you have to accept where you’re at.
Have you ever heard the Serenity Prayer? It starts, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, THE COURAGE TO CHANGE THE THINGS I CAN, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
You can change your body.
Read that again. You can change your body.
Oh, not everything. But many things. You can have a six-pack. Yes, YOU can have a six-pack. You can be at a healthy weight. You can be strong. You can be thin, if you want to. You don’t have to accept feeling like crap about your appearance.
Let me say that again too. You don’t have to accept feeling like crap about your appearance. You have the freedom to change it. You have the power to change it. It DOES take courage, but it can be done.
So how do you do that? I’ve written about my journey here, and I’ve listed a few steps below to get you started.
1. Get clear on what you want to change and WHY. Try the “Dickens” exercise. Write down your answers to the following questions:
What has being fat cost me in the past?
What is being fat costing me right now?
What will it cost me in the future if I don’t change?
Personally, I find this to be a painful exercise, but a powerful one.
And add this to it:
What will I gain if I get fit and healthy? What will my future be like? How will I look and feel?
Your answers to these questions are one of your most useful resources. You can come back and re-read these answers to keep yourself moving forward.
2. Love your body NOW. Yes, I just ranted about the “self-esteem” movement and how it takes away your power to change. But, there’s truth to it as well. If you don’t value your body, there’s no reason to treat it well. Too many times, as we gain weight and become unhappy with our bodies, we disconnect from them. We disconnect from simple, sensual pleasures like the feeling of sunshine on our skin, the caress of a gentle breeze, the pleasure of a warm shower or a gentle massage.
A friend shared a profound question with me a couple of years ago. Her therapist asked her, “When does your body become unworthy of love?” Is it at 50 pounds overweight? 20? What about five pounds? One pound?! What’s the cutoff?
I found that when I put it that way, the ridiculousness of my own mental attitude toward weight became apparent. My body is always worthy of love. It is ALWAYS valuable. So is yours.
Your body is a magical thing! It connects you with the world. It allows you to experience the beauty of this life in SO MANY ways. It gives you energy to chase your dreams. It allows you to interact with others and change the world.
Celebrate what your body can do. Enjoy the natural pleasures of physical sensations. Find the specific, beautiful features of your body right now. Because your body will never be more worthy of love and care than it is right at this moment.
3. Realize that love for your body grows as you treat it right. Your journey to become fit has to start with a love for your body as it is, so that you will value it enough to care for it. A seed is all that you need, though. That love will continue to grow.
I compare it to a relationship. Who do you feel more love for – an abusive relative, a cruel ex-boyfriend or -girlfriend, or your best friend who is consistently caring, supportive, and loving?
We get upset with our bodies, but ironically, the abusive relative here is YOU. Not your body. You are the one who is treating your body like crap. You’re giving it junk to eat. You’re not allowing it to experience the joy in movement that it craves. You’re the cruel one. You’re the jerk.
“Self-esteem comes from doing the daily things you know you should do.” – Jim Rohn
Eye-opening, right?! As you start to treat your body with love, the two of you will develop a closer relationship, so to speak. You will connect more and more with the amazing things your body allows you to do and to experience. You will feel proud of the love you’ve shown your body and the way you care for it. You will start to feel pride in the physique that you’ve worked for.
Self-esteem is not opposed to fitness and health. Rather, it is both a starting point and an end result of treating yourself well.
Question: What is your relationship with your body like? Do you need to make a change in this area of your life?