How we see and feel about our bodies can be influenced by many factors; the media, our social and professional environment, the opinions of others, as well as our own beliefs. Whatever size and shape you may be, you have the ability to break free from negative body image traps and decide how you choose to see yourself.
Here are a few helpful tools you can use to combat some of these negative influences, to learn what is achievable for you, and to help you regain control.
1. Stop punishing yourself
If you want to lose weight but you aren't seeing results, mentally punishing yourself will not help matters. It will more than likely make you feel even worse, affecting belief in yourself to achieve, and lowering your self-confidence.
If your weight-loss plan isn't working for you, rather than imposing judgement or getting upset with yourself, take an objective approach. Think logically about the reasons why your current plan hasn't been a success, and try to find some solutions that feel manageable for you. If at first you don't succeed try and try again, just don't beat yourself up along the way.
2. Have goals that don’t equate to body image
You are training hard but the scales haven't dropped. You may be asking yourself 'why bother?' This mindset usually makes you want to give up, feeling it's all been a waste of time. However, there are so many other reasons to exercise, and setting goals that aren't just measured by how you look can keep you feeling motivated, maintaining an enthusiastic, positive attitude towards exercise.
Give yourself reasons to exercise that take some of the attention away from how you want to look. For example, improving health and mental well-being or living longer without some of the issues that can come with age. Setting strength and fitness goals can be extremely rewarding because progress can easily be measured, and when you see and feel improvements in these areas it's hard not to feel good.
Here's a video of when I reached a 100kg deadlift goal. I felt amazing!
3. Instead of wanting what you can't have, understand what is achievable for you.
If you aspire to look like a supermodel but you’re 5ft tall it ain’t ever gonna happen. If you wish you still looked like you did twenty years ago then unless you have a time machine or a good surgeon you’re in trouble. We all have our own idea of beauty and we all have our own natural shape and if these two don’t align then our perception needs to change.
Forget about everyone else and understand what is achievable for you. Make the best of what you have and look positively at what makes you different from others. If you are looking for role models to inspire you then find those of similar age and body shape to yourself.
4. Stop telling yourself you ‘hate’ your body
I can’t bear to hear anyone tell me they ‘hate’ any part of their body. Obviously we all have areas that in an ideal world we would change, but these should never be associated with the word ‘hate’. Often to make matters worse you might stand in front of the mirror and study these areas, constantly reminding yourself how unsightly they are. Why do it to yourself?
Stop giving the bits you don't like so much attention. You can also change your internal dialogue; so instead of telling yourself 'I hate my thighs' you could say 'I'd prefer it if my thighs were smaller'. You could work to change what you feel are your 'problem areas', but try not to give them too much importance. Instead focus on what you do like about yourself. Look beyond appearance too; recognise your strengths, understand what makes you feel good about yourself and value the qualities that you offer to those around you.
5. Ignore social media
Instagram is bursting at the seams with fitties who love to post exercise videos wearing next to nothing or mirror pics of their abs or backside all in the name of #inspiration. Sometimes, however, these self-proclaimed motivators have the opposite effect and make you feel darn right inadequate.
If videos and images on social media have a negative impact on you then stop viewing. Instead look for people who genuinely #inspire you in a positive way and promote a healthy lifestyle that you feel is achievable.
6. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Do you have a friend or work colleague who has a body you would kill for, or do you look at celebrities or people on the street and wonder how is it they look so amazing and you don’t? Usually it’s their lifestyle, their age or it's genetics, or a combination of all three.
How someone else looks has no reflection on you. There will be always be ‘beautiful people’ who are envied by those around them and the rest of us just have to accept it. Instead, focus on what you like about yourself on the inside as well as the outside and rather than paying too much attention to how others look start recognising qualities you admire in others that don't relate to their appearance.
7. Believe your goals are achievable.
How often do you tell yourself there is no point in trying to lose weight as you can never stick to it? Belief is a powerful thing and can have a huge impact on whether we achieve our goals. Maybe this attitude stops you making the effort going forward because you are always doubting your ability to succeed. Imposing a lack of belief on yourself can really get in the way of you making changes. It can even become an excuse for not taking action and an easy way out from having to actually commit to a goal.
It’s time to take the bull by the horns and stop limiting yourself through self-doubt. You have the ability to achieve as much as others and don't let anyone tell you differently. At the same time don’t be afraid of failing as this fear can stop us in our tracks. Take a risk, get out of your comfort zone, embrace change and most importantly have faith in yourself and do your best - that’s all any of us can do!
Take steps to feel better about yourself today!
Start to think about how you can create a lifestyle that promotes a healthy mind and body that works best for you. In addition to this, as you go through each day recognise even the smallest achievements, learn to take compliments from others on board and always treat yourself as you treat those you love and care for.
Louise Appel, Personal Trainer.
Louise Appel Personal Trainer, St John's Wood & Personal Trainer Maida Vale offers customised, individual Personal Training and Pilates at Lords Cricket Ground, St John's Wood. Personal Trainer Harpenden & Personal Trainer St Albans is located at EsTR Fitness.