Positive Body Image: 5 Steps to Get There Now
Summer is upon us, which usually means bathing suits, tiny shorts and overuse of the phrase "beach body" by every fitness and diet commercial out there.
If you're struggling with body image issues, particularly after having a baby, summer can be pretty tough.
We consulted The Active Woman's Health and Fitness Handbook, by Dr. Nadya Swedan, to create a sort of checklist to get out of your body image funk and embrace the beauty that is your body!
1. Stay Active
"The best way to have a positive body image is to feel positive about yourself as a person. Stay active, exercise regularly and feel strong and fit. Nurture your muscles, feed them healthy food and maintain goals for your life and achievements."
Not only will staying active keep you healthy, it will make you feel good, too! According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise helps can ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety, two things closely linked to poor self-esteem.
Don't see healthy eating as a punishment. Reward your body with good food and plenty of water.
2. Do What Makes You Feel Good (AKA, Lose the Stress)
"Wear clothes that flatter you; have friends who flatter you also. Avoid uncomfortable situations and people who are negative about weight and being healthy. Remember that body fat is healthy and essential to life, fertility and bone strength."
We would add that, as hard as it sounds, avoid negative media messages about body image and weight. Block harmful posts on social media and stay away from friends who obsess over body image online. Join groups that promote health and wellness, and build their members up instead of tearing them down.and sodium, from salty food, cause water retention, so the scale might read a few pounds higher after such meals.
If you are really struggling with your body image and weight maintenance, try yoga, meditation, pilates or regular relaxation strategies. Some people meditate while walking, stretching or doing yoga. This will help you feel less anxious about food and more positive about your body.
3. If You Must Lose Weight, Do It in a Healthy Way
Dr. Swedan recommends throwing away the scale entirely. In her book, she goes on to explain:
"If you must weigh yourself regularly, remember that body water plays a large role in weight. Both glycogen, stored after a high-carbohydrate meal, and sodium, from salty food, cause water retention so the scale might read a few pounds higher after such meals"
She also recommends following these rules when trying to lose weight.
- Make sure you eat enough calories. (The Office of Disease Prevention and Heath Promotion recommends 2,000 calories per day for a moderately healthy woman between the ages of 20 to 50.
- Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
- Drink a glass of water before each meal or snack.
- Eat a fruit or vegetable serving before each meal.
- Do not deprive yourself of a food you crave for more than a week; eat a normal-sized portion of it.
- Try to take small bites, chew several times, and put your fork down between bites.
- Try to not skip meals.
Try to avoid sugary sodas, juice drinks and sweets—these just contain empty calories. Try to eat healthy fats such as nuts, peanut butter, olive oil, or fish to keep you full and healthy. Control your stress so it does not cause you to eat more.
4. Surround Yourself With Positivity
"Do not allow people to pressure you to lose weight. If a parent or friend is pressuring you, tell them to stop or walk away when they do so.
If you have a large shape and frame, take the pressure off yourself to look petite. Instead, focus on your strength. Focus on your health."
Dr. Swedan provides the following tips to stay positive.
- Get involved in athletic activities with women of similar athletic builds.
- Don't spend time with friends who make you feel bad about your size.
- If coaches or trainers make you "feel fat," find new ones.
- If you have trouble with self-criticism, find a nurturing counselor or therapist.
- Choose relationships with people who make you feel good about yourself.
- Wear your favorite outfit on days that you feel low confidence.
- Compliment those around you; they will give it back!
- Get a nonathletic friend to exercise with you once in a while.
5. Don't Give Up
"Do not be discouraged if you fall into unhealthy habits occasionally; return to the healthy habits as soon as you can. In times of stress, give yourself some slack. Keep exercising regularly, and make sure you have the essentials of nutrition."
Everyone has a bad day, when they look in the mirror and they don't like what they see. The important thing to remember is not to let that one day turn into two, three or four days. Find inspiration to get you back on track. Make a playlist that gets you going. Follow body-positive accounts on social media (some of our favorites are >GabiFresh and Bender Fitness.
Drink plenty of fluids, control your stress, and make yourself as happy as possible. Maintaining a healthy body image and weight requires work and patience, just like anything that is worthwhile. In time, you will feel great about how you look and, therefore, how you feel—every day!
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