Let’s face it, women are under a lot of pressure to look a certain way in our culture. We are bombarded with images, articles, and endless products telling us all the ways we need to fix ourselves, beginning at a young age. I did not realize how much I had been affected by these messages until my first pregnancy.
There were so many circumstances out of my control and I gained a lot of weight. It was really hard to reconcile all the feelings I had about what I was “supposed” to look like with the reality of my new life as a mother and the fact that I was barely able to function…much less be able to tackle the feat of losing weight and helping my body regain the strength it once had.
What I’ve learned through three pregnancies with various complications is that it’s important to balance your fitness goals with the process of loving where you are right now.
If you don’t learn to love your body as it is, you will never be fully happy with it.
There will always be something else to “fix” if all you see when you look at your body is your perceived imperfections. Does “loving your body” mean you are encouraging living an unhealthy lifestyle? No. What it does mean is that we try to appreciate our body for what it can do TODAY, not what it will look like tomorrow. Many of us have grown, nurtured, and fed a child with this body! It’s freaking amazing. We want to take good care of our body to improve and maintain our health; not to think of eating right and exercising only as a way to change our appearance.
Here’s the truth about a positive body image from the organization Beauty Redefined:
Women and girls “who were more comfortable with their bodies — regardless of their weight or size — were actually healthier over time. They were more likely to be physically active and pay more attention to what they ate. Meanwhile, the girls who were the most dissatisfied with their size tended to become more sedentary over time and paid less attention to maintaining a healthy diet.”
What that means is cultivating a positive body image is an integral part of our long-term health and deserves just as much attention as nutrition planning and exercise.
Starting a new fitness program can be overwhelming (disclaimer: always talk to your doctor before beginning a new program). Where do you start? Honestly…just start somewhere. One good habit begets another. I always just try to pick ONE thing I want to work on, and focus on that one thing until I get it down. Keep your goals realistic, like adding an extra serving of veggies in your day, drinking more water, or adding in some light exercise a few times per week if you aren’t already doing so. I may not do everything perfectly, but I am improving myself one decision at a time. You will get stronger mentally and physically as you go along, and then be able to tackle something else.
Celebrate non-scale victories
Losing weight is one part of getting fit, but it’s not the only measure of good health. If you are interested in really digging deep into your health status, meet with your doctor to get a physical and a full panel of blood work to establish your current health so you can see changes as you go along.
But for me, the main benefit of eating a little healthier and exercising is how it makes me feel. I have more energy and feel-good endorphins. I don’t feel yucky and sluggish from too many heavy meals. I don’t experience sugar crashes from gorging myself from desserts (although it’s still important to treat yo’self! Balance, y’all!). On top of that, celebrate milestones like fitting into a new pair of jeans or noticing how much stronger your core/legs/arms/whatever are becoming (and remember, your HEART is getting stronger, too). What are you able to do today that you couldn’t a month ago? That is something to be proud of! Patting yourself on the back helps motivate you to keep making good choices. Go you!
Keep Trying and Don’t Give Up
There are always going to be obstacles to reaching goals. That’s life! If you mess up, don’t give up. It’s not the end of the world. Your health isn’t built or lost in a day, but over a lifetime. Jump back on the wagon when you can, and just hang on until then!
Find a way to exercise that you love. Well, maybe love is a strong word. But just keep trying different things until you find something that fits your lifestyle and abilities. I personally always have to modify exercises to fit my ability level. And that’s okay. Don’t compare yourself to what other people are doing. You do YOU. What’s important is that you keep yourself moving regularly and stay in your own progress lane.
If you get discouraged, push through it. Those feelings try to get us down, but over time we will learn how to deal with them as we strengthen our minds as well as our bodies. Stay away from media that makes you feel bad about yourself. Concentrate on how you feel versus how you look. For more tips on integrating fitness and body positivity, check out this guide from Beauty Redefined.
In summary: Work out and eat healthier because you love your body, not because you hate it.
It’s my hope that as women we can support each other by steering away from body shaming, towards others and ourselves. Let’s work together to promote the idea that getting fit as something we are doing for ourselves and for our kids, and not to please the eyes of others.
Here’s a printable to hang up on your wall or mirror to help you remember how important YOU are.