All this talk about bullying and obesity brought on in the maelstrom of coverage regarding Jennifer Livingston (a news anchor in Wisconsin who very publicly took issue with a letter who urging her to lose weight in order to be a better role model to girls in the community) has led to rather unexpected paths of thought for me. Not about bullying. Truth be told, I don’t really feel that the tone and content of the offending letter really amounted to bullying- insensitive and boorish, yes. Bullying, not quite.
Instead, it got me to really thinking about exactly what kinds of attitudes & behaviors I started adopting that helped me to lose the weight and keep it off (or, more aptly, get back on track when the weight started creeping back up). It wasn’t anything extrinsic. There was no so-called “bully” telling me to be a better a role model, no drill sergeant or Jillian Michaels standing over me night and day barking orders, no magic pills or potions. It was me choosing to get real with my body. What do I mean by getting real? Let me break it down for you.
Respect– Your body is a remarkable gift. It deserves your respect. It allows you to walk, run, reach, leap, jump, accomplish great things. When you neglect it, you disrespect it. Smoking, binging, purging, taking drugs, engaging in risky behavior, drinking copious amounts of alcohol, sitting on your duff all day every day are acts of disrespect to your body. Before you make a choice that impacts your body, ask yourself whether the choice you’re about to make is one that is respectful towards your body.
Empower – Eating smart and being active are the best ways you can empower your body. There are numerous studies out there trumpeting the positive effects of resistance & cardio-respiratory training. Make a plan to be moderately active at least 150 minutes per week. Don’t be afraid to lift weights ladies! Strength training can provide significant functional benefits and improvement in overall health and well-being, including increased bone, muscle, tendon and ligament strength and toughness, improved joint function, reduced potential for injury, increased bone density, a temporary increase in metabolism, improved cardiac function, and elevated HDL (good) cholesterol.
Empowerment isn’t just about doing push-ups, bicep curls or running a 5K at a respectable pace (though these things do feel pretty darned empowering!). It’s about making SMART food choices to fuel your body right. For me, tracking my foods has been key to maintaining. It has helped me stay in control of my food choices, rather than letting food control me. Whenever I stop tracking my foods, I inevitably start making poor food choices and mindlessly snacking. When you’re completely aware of not only what you’re eating but why you’re eating, YOU are in the driver’s seat- and food journaling is an excellent tool to keep you aware & accountable.
Accept – This is what gets tricky for some folks. I know I lived under the false impression that I was accepting my body for many, many years when in truth deep down I was just apathetic about my body’s state. I wasn’t interested or concerned about my health. I just chalked up my body shape to genetics and fate and then dressed it up nicely with complacence and some sparkly rah-rah all-for-show girl power “acceptance.” There’s a fine line between acceptance and apathy. Every one of our bodies have flaws and imperfections. Even actual supermodels don’t look like the images presented of them in magazines – it’s a not so magical act involving smoke, mirrors, makeup & PhotoShop. Accept these flaws and imperfections as part of yourself. Your own unique & beautifully flawed self. However, whatever state your body is in, accepting it shouldn’t preclude you from attempting to improve it if and when you can ESPECIALLY if it is having a negative impact on your health. You’re not rejecting your body and the way it is when you decide to start treating it better by eating right and moving more. You can ACCEPT your body and still strive to improve.
Love – All the components of keeping it real are important…but I feel this is one we should really strive to highlight when teaching our own children on how to view and treat their bodies. Too many of us look in the mirror and sigh painfully, then make some disparaging comment like “oh, I hate my thighs (or belly or arms or what have you)”- right in the presence of our children. Teaching them that it’s perfectly acceptable to hate our bodies. I’ve been guilty of this a few times myself but have vowed to do better. Your body is a-freaking-mazing. Stop criticizing or nitpicking it and show it some love. Look in the mirror and seek out the most beautiful aspects of your body. Compliment yourself. Recognize all the wonderful things your body allows you to do- dance, laugh, hug, skip, touch, feel touch, sing, see…the list goes on and on. Revel in your body’s accomplishments. Note its potential for more amazing feats…like being able to run or walk an entire mile if you’re not yet able to, hold your future grandchildren, master a push-up on your toes. Treat it with the love and kindness it deserves.
Getting real with your body (and staying real) is not easy. I’ll admit it- food journaling is a colossal pain. There are days where getting in a workout is a huge challenge. And heck it’s not easy to stay empowered in the face of temptation (hello birthday cake and holiday treats!), to respect, accept & love your body when a number on the scale or your reflection in the mirror is bringing you down, but if you fail to do so you’ll find yourself becoming more & more unhappy with all things in your life (not just your body). You’ll be feeling out of control, miserable and defeated- at the mercy of your recliner, fast food and processed junk. When you respect, accept & love your body for all it is and all it can be, you can’t help but feel empowered. And you can’t help but make the RIGHT choices when it comes to your body’s health armed with these tools. Think about it. How much love & respect are you showing your amazing body when you’re either starving it or cramming it with calorie-dense/nutrient poor foods? How empowered can you be while a slave to food and/or the sofa? Accepting your body is made difficult when you dig deep down and realize that you’re not treating it right- it is then you’ll realize the acceptance is all for show and not for real.
For me, personally, resting assured that I’m doing all I can to stay healthy & fit has made true acceptance of my body possible- not just for show. I don’t look like most fitness models. I have cellulite in a number of noticeable spots and, despite all my best efforts, rather matronly arms. I could use some cosmetic dentistry. Some would say my booty is a bit too big for my frame (though I admit I rather like that about myself). I’m far from perfect. But you know what, when I work out, I give it my all. For the most part, I make really smart nutritional choices. I see how that’s reflected in my body in its current state and I accept the imperfections with grace & humility. And I look at that reflection with love & respect- feeling empowered by all the positive little choices I’ve made during the day to treat my body well. Keeping it real has kept me at a healthy weight for several years now. So I challenge you to get real with your body- and see the magic that happens. Need a little help? Contact me.