Do you hate your body? That question doesn't always have a black and white answer. You might think - "Well, I don't hate all of it, but I do hate my short legs and my flat butt. I hate my big nose and my flabby knees."Most of us can make a long list of the things we hate. I found such a list when I was researching an article topic and was taken to a forum where readers were listing all of the things they hated about their bodies. Just a sample:
"I feel so ugly, and I hate my body"
"I hate my Butt!!!!"
"I hate my weight..."
"I hate being fat"
"Hate my APPLE SHAPED BODY!!"
"I hate my natural body type"
Unfortunately, the list went on and on and I thought, there are plenty of things to hate in this world; Ebola, paper cuts, lost keys, that blister on your tongue that you keep biting over and over...but our bodies? Why do we hate them so much when they work so hard?
When you think about it, the human body is pretty amazing, propelling us through each and every day despite all the terrible things we do to it - Too much stress, too little sleep, too much alcohol, too much junk food and, of course, not enough exercise.
Still, we expect a lot from our bodies. We expect them to lose weight on command and we expect them to lose it exactly where we want, even though we know spot reduction doesn't work. Our bodies do exactly what they're supposed to do and they look exactly the way they're supposed to - Depending on the kind of lifestyle we lead - and yet we get frustrated when our bodies don't conform to our standards and we can't seem to change the basic shape of our bodies.
So, how do you get past that frustration? How do you accept your body the way it is? It's not an easy process, but there are things we can do to stop the hate.
Exercise isn't just great for losing weight and burning fat, it's also great for your body image. In fact, studies have shown that exercise can make you feel better about your body, even if you don't lose weight. Some other boosts to your self-esteem:
- Exercise connects you to your body - When you exercise, you improve what we call proprioception, or the feeling of knowing where your body is in space. That sounds a little out there, but it's that ability to move smoothly through the world that keeps us strong and injury free.
- Exercise gives you confidence - Making it through a workout often gives you the confidence you need to tackle other challenges throughout the day or week.
- Exercise gives you control - You can't control how your body loses weight, but you can control your workouts - How hard you workout, how often you workout and the purpose for your workout.
- Exercise gives you strength - Not only is your mind stronger, but your body is stronger, giving you even more confidence to get through daily life.
We can all list all the things we hate about our bodies and, no doubt, we could also find at least a few things we like about our bodies, but why not look at things a little differently? We're often so focused on how we look, we don't pay attention to what our bodies actually do. Take a moment and list all the things your body does for you each day. Just a few:
- Get in and out of bed
- Brush your teeth
- Wash your hair
- Stand up and sit down
- Open and close drawers, cabinets and doors
- Get in and out of cars, trains, taxis and busses
- Pick up groceries, pets and kids
- Go to work
- Sit through meetings, traffic, long dinners, endless weddings
- Walk up a flight of stairs
- Walk the dog
- Take you through a Zumba class or a 3-mile run
- Being a soft pillow for a sleepless child
3. Talk to Someone Older
When I turned 40, my mother said, "If I knew how hot I was at 40, I would've spent more time appreciating my body and less time worrying about it." I've never forgotten that and I still think about it when I'm training older clients. I listen to the things they say about their bodies and lives and how little they worry about the size of their thighs or little pockets of fat they just can't get rid of. The things that are important to them are things that really matter like:
- Feeling better - The single most important thing I hear from my older clients is that they feel better, usually because they're in less pain. Chronic pain, from arthritis or other conditions is a problem as we get older and exercise helps them sleep better and move better, improving their quality of life.
- Being Healthy - When you're younger, you may worry more about your waistline than things like heart disease or high blood pressure. But my older clients are excited when they exercise enough to get off medications that often have irritating, sometimes terrible, side effects.
- Being able to do daily activities - I had one client who couldn't even stand up from a chair, she was in so much pain. Just being able to go out to lunch with friends without embarrassing herself by having to be pulled up was enough to please her.
- Getting through stressful events - Stress is bad for anyone, but it's worse for older adults, adding to pain and misery they may already feel. Many say that exercise helps them deal with things that, otherwise, may send them straight to the doctor's office.
4. Change The Way You Think
Negative thinking is a way of life for many of us and we all have an inner critic that's probably been in our heads since we were children. Maybe that negative voice is your mother's or father's, or that mean kid who bullied you in school. Maybe it's a mixture of voices, but they're all there for the same reason - To tell you how much you suck. Instead of letting that voice take over, try:
- Role playing - When the voice in your head criticizes you, imagine saying the same thing to your spouse or your closest friend...even a stranger. Would you ever say something like that to someone you care about? Why would you say that to yourself?
- Think about what's really wrong - We talk about feeling fat or that we're just big failures at exercise, but what's underneath all of that? Are you being too hard on yourself for not being perfect? Maybe you're simply overwhelmed by all the things you have to do to lose weight. Maybe you need help to figure out where you're going wrong.
- Give yourself a break - Exercise is hard and so is weight loss. Making yourself feeling guilty about failing may seem like the best motivation, but sometimes encouragement works much better. Instead of punishing yourself, try, first, forgiving yourself for not being perfect and then asking one important question: How can I like myself and my body even if I don't look the way I want? Don't you deserve that?
One of my favorite ways of bringing things into perspective is the 10-year game. If you find yourself ruminating on how ugly your body is, stop and ask yourself this: Will I care about this in 10 years? Will that armpit fat matter? What about that spare tire or belly flab? Looking ahead forces you to look at your actual life and what you might accomplish, rather than how you look.