For more sustainable results and a better body image
Having a “summer body” is a phrase thrown around frequently in the summer months, in fact, it’s almost impossible to go a day without getting a reminder of that perfect “summer bod” on tv, in magazines, social media, etc. These pressures can make it easy for us to put unrealistic expectations on ourselves about how we should look. Don’t get me wrong, it is great to have goals to work towards, but placing unrealistic expectations on yourself can be damaging to your mental & physical health. There is a lot to unpack here, but I will focus on how to avoid the potential downfalls that come with chasing the “perfect summer body” from a fitness perspective!
It is important to remember that many of the most impactful benefits of exercise are not visible from the outside and don’t contribute to the standard “summer body” ideal, some of these benefits include reduced chronic disease risk, reduced depression & anxiety, increased energy, improved moods, improved sleep, improved immunity, and increased bone density (to name a few). Aesthetic changes take time and are often a result of many things other than fitness including nutrition of course, but also factors such as stress levels, sleep, medical conditions, and genetics. I find that reminding myself and my clients of this can help to improve consistency with exercise and physical activity. Here are some tips to improve your body image and relationship with exercise:
- Be aware of comparison! As a society, we need to do a better job of loving our bodies and all the strength we possess! One way to help reduce comparison is to limit time on social media and be cautious of what types of accounts you follow… don’t be afraid to set boundaries and unfollow if something you are seeing is not serving you or making you feel bad about yourself!
- Dig deep and find your WHY that underlies your fitness goals! If you can work on understanding the true reasons you want to exercise or improve your fitness, you can then set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound goals that come from a place of intrinsic motivation as opposed to motivations that are imposed on you from external sources (media, celebrities, advertising, peers etc.).
- Find a way to move your body that brings you joy and makes you feel good-mentally & physically! It is not necessary to have a gruelling fitness routine and a restrictive diet to see results. While this style can be very effective and is preferred by some, it can also lead to burn-out, disordered eating and exercising, as well as illness. It can often leave individuals resenting exercise. If you can find a way to exercise that you enjoy and look forward to, you are more likely to develop a long-term habit that leads to consistency and sustainable results.
- Practice self-love and self-compassion! I realize this is much easier said than done, but small changes implemented consistently can really improve our level of self-love. One place to start is reducing negative self-talk, try to talk to or about yourself the way you would talk to or about one of your dearest friends! Other practices such as meditation, expressing daily gratitude, and positive daily mantras can also really help improve our level of self-love and self-compassion!
Clinical Exercise Physiologist