The Brutally Honest Body Image Lesson That Should Be Taught In Schools

Women's Magazines can be depressing. It seems that no matter what we do with our lives, not matter what we are able to accomplish, if we aren't sexually desirable, we've failed. Women are learning to place the needs of other people before their own and to view their bodies with an hypercritical eye. How often have you read that confidence is sexy? This statement, intended to be empowering, sends the message that self confidence should be acquired, not because it is good for your mind, body and soul but because it makes you appealing to other people. If you are surrounded by the message that your body exists to attract a man and make other women jealous, than you may end up choosing workouts that promise to make you the most 'attractive' even if you don't enjoy it. We may not always be aware of these messages but they stick in our heads. We pluck and shave and primp because that's what we are supposed to do. We have to get ourselves looking proper before someone notices how unattractive we really are. All of these messages can lead to something called "self objectification" or an internalization of the way magazines objectify us and using that as the primary view of the body. All of this can lead to hypercritical body monitoring and can lead to a number of mental health risks.

What does this have to do with fitness?

This has everything to do with fitness. Way too many women join gyms or go for training because they have flaws they would like to 'fix.' She points to her trouble spots or focuses on those last 5 pounds. Her fitness goals are not really based on her own objectives, like running a faster 5k, but on making her body more pleasing to others. Looking "better" is certainly a great benefit of exercise but the constant pursuit of the perfect beach body won't likely lead to a lasting and healthy relationship with one's fitness program. For a joyful relationship with your body, you have to focus on the internal experience. You need to enjoy what you are doing.

Be your own celebrity health guru.

Tuning in to your internal experience can be difficult as we are so conditioned to think about how we appear to others. Ask yourself: What feels good? What do I crave more of? You cannot get these answers from external sources. Find out what rocks your world, and get more of it. Health and fitness can be done in a way that makes you want to do more. Give yourself something worth craving! There is the idea floating around that being healthy is no fun. That it is supposed to be hard and painful. But working out feels great when you find something you love. Of course it is challenging but if you've found the right routine, you will be excited to push yourself for something so worthwhile. And, after you've found the workout you love, you'll notice how wonderful it feels to nourish yourself with good food. If you are getting healthy in the way that is right for you, it will be pleasurable. Trust us. Look inside, the answers are there. It might be fashionable to follow celebrity gurus but the fact is, they have no idea what will work for you. That's on you. If you need help getting started, here are some tips that can help you figure out what is going to be best for you:

 1. Write it all down

Keeping a workout or food journal along with making notes about how you feel during each experiment, gives you a solid way of judging which things you like best. They don't have to be long, detailed notes. They can be as simple as saying "Ran 3 miles. Hated every second of it.” Or “Did hot yoga. Hard, but I loved how I felt after.”

2. Start slow and commit fully

Make one diet or fitness change at a time. Commit to it for three full weeks. If you try to implement too many changes at one time, you'll never know which one it was that made you feel a certain way. If you quit before three weeks, you haven't really given the change a fair shake.

3. Be brave

Step out of your comfort zone, keep your mind open. Don't be afraid to try new things. Try different combinations of exercise and eating, work with different training partners. Read programs and articles written by different coaches. See what works for you. Get rid of the rest.

4. Have fun

The journey is a reward in itself. Fall in love with the process of finding ways to exercise and eat. Finding things that are life enhancing should feel pretty darn amazing.  

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