We see it everywhere. “Drop three dress sizes with this new program!” “Lose ten pounds in two weeks with this easy workout!” “Flatten your abs!” “Lift your booty!” The list goes on. Magazines, advertisements, and the media in general are pushing us to think solely about image when thinking about health and fitness. Exercise is thought to be merely a tool to look a certain way.
What we all know but easily forget is that exercise has countless mental and emotional benefits, and even physical benefits, that have nothing to do with the appearance of our bodies. As soon as we change our focus to those benefits, exercise will be viewed as fun and natural, not something we dread or force ourselves into as punishment or a way to change our looks. Here are some tips on how to change the way you look at fitness.
1. Set realistic goals that have NOTHING to do with the appearance of your body. Aim to work on a certain yoga pose that interests you every night before bed. Improve your flexibility by stretching a body part that you feel is tense. Make a point of gradually increasing the size of your hand weights every month or so. Make the decision to take a walk around the block when you feel tired or stressed. Make your jogs longer by increasing by a half a mile every week or two. Do something that makes you feel accomplished and strong, without ever putting the bad kind of pressure on yourself. Set a time frame for your goals, or don’t, as only you know what is healthiest for your mind and body.
2. Throw out any magazine or advertisement that makes you feel bad. If “lost ten pounds in a month” magazine covers make you feel bad about your body, or make you view exercise in a negative way, toss them. Replace them with books or inspirational quotes that make you feel confident or remind you that life is not all about the way you look.
3. Clean up your social media feeds. If you follow accounts on social media that make you smile and inspire you to feel comfortable in your own skin, that’s great. If you follow accounts, whether they be fitness accounts or not, that make you feel inadequate or inspire you to compare yourself to others, unfollow them. What inspires one person may upset another. What is body positive to some may be triggering to others who have dealt with exercise addiction or eating disorders. You know what you need. You know what makes you feel good. Create an Instagram feed that you scroll through smiling. A feed that makes you feel even better about yourself, not worse, after you see what those you follow are posting.