Over a dinner with a personal trainer Sammy a topic of body image came up and it struck us both how often we witness poor body images in people we work with. Sammy mentioned that her clients often dislike, judge or even hate their bodies. I also noted how many of my clients struggle with their body image, feeling unattractive and experience low self-esteem partially because of this. We both agreed that encouraging people to love and cherish their bodies is the key to success for them at the gym and in the life outside of gym.
Do Current Fitness Programs Help Building A Positive Body Image?
Sammi noted that many loud fitness slogans are based on pushing people by sending a message that they their efforts and their current bodies are not good enough. How often do those messages in fitness magazines and on gym walls imply that you don’t look good because perhaps you are a little lazy, or have a sweet tooth or don’t challenge yourself enough?
Do not give in to the desire of skipping the training session!
All these seemingly positive encouragements are really implying that without pushing, forcing yourself and battling with yourself there will be little to no gain.
Is Fitness About Joy or Hard Work?
What if we turned that around and tried to find joy in the fitness training rather than torture and hard work. It is often hard work, no doubt in that, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could simply love it, crave more of it and would eagerly jump off the couch and run to the gym on our own accord? Not possible?
What if we found a truly pleasurable experience in fitness routine and boost our body image and self-esteem right now and not after we achieve a certain fitness goal?
Here are a few tips that can help with building a positive body image:
1. Accept where your body is right now.
It is good enough and beautiful as it is. Even if some targets, like “refined biceps” or “slimmer waistline” are the goals you are moving towards, focus on enjoying what you have now. When looking in the mirror, try to focus on what you like about your body rather than criticizing and focusing on the pars that “need work”.
2. Treat fitness routine as “me” time.
Schedule and commit to it as the hour which you dedicate to yourself only. This is the time away from your kids, work, house chores and other tasks that may be on your mind. Leave your phone in the locker room and focus on just you, from the moment you walk in through that door, until you walk out, refreshed and rejuvenated!
3. Listen to your body and respond.
Try different forms of exercise and notice how you feel before, during and after exercising and choose the most pleasurable experiences. Hate cardio? Don’t do it! Love pumping some weights or a slow paced yoga class? Do those and enjoy! Nowadays there are plenty of options available for you to choose from. It might even be that in search in what feels good for your body you will end up in a dance class instead of the gym. And that is fabulous!
4. Go a few extra steps to honor the body you love.
Sometimes learning to cherish and truly enjoy yourself is a process that requires some careful thought and time. Often people find it a new experience and are not sure what else they can do, or doubt that they can find the time to do more. But some simple things can make a difference in the process of building a positive body image. Choose comfortable underwear and see how that feels. Apply a body creme of your favorite flavor after shower. How did that feel? Treat yourself for a massage and a walk after. Go for a swim in the ocean and leave the salty water to dry on your skin. Notice, notice and notice, and you will start appreciating the feedback your body gives.
However sometimes a negative body image and low self-esteem are deeper-seated issues that stem from our childhood experiences or past traumatic events that are difficult to tackle on your own. Asking for help and guidance from a psychotherapist can be a good place to start your journey back to your beloved self.