I spent a lot of my life hating my body. Every glimpse in the mirror was a reminder of how much of a failure I was for not meeting the elusive standard that I had set for myself. I lived in constant fear of judgement and a sense that nobody would ever take me seriously as a fitness professional.
Luckily those days are *mostly* behind me (nobody’s perfect) and I want to share what I think is the main reason for that.
I used to think that I had two options: I could either love and accept myself as I was, or I could do something to change myself. The first one seemed impossible to me, so for a long time I tried to change myself. I tried fasting, I tried paleo, I tried hours of cardio, I tried two-a-day workout regimens, and so on. But all the while, I continued to hate my body. For someone who has such a positive outlook on every other aspect of life, it was draining to be constantly negative toward myself.
So then, I spent a long time trying to work on body acceptance and loving my body no matter what. And I felt a little better, but I still wasn’t happy with the way I looked – I was just faking it. I was working on saying nicer things to myself when I looked in the mirror, but there were still things (reasonable things, like lowering my body fat percentage below 20%) that I wanted to change. The problem was, I felt like a hypocrite striving to make changes, when I had been working so hard on accepting myself!
I definitely thought for a long time that body acceptance and changing your body were mutually exclusive. It wasn’t until I realized that in order to change my body, I needed to love my body, and in order to love my body, I needed to change it a little, that I actually started feeling better, and seeing the results I was looking for. I realized that it was okay to be nice to myself, while also striving to make the physical changes I wanted to make.
Restricting and binging, over-training, and beating myself down did not fall into the category of being nice to myself. So I stopped doing those things, and started eating and exercising in ways that made me feel good. Sometimes that meant skipping breakfast. Sometimes that meant eating a big breakfast. Sometimes it meant really pushing myself in the gym, and sometimes it meant skipping a workout to focus on recovery. Body acceptance isn’t just about positive self-talk. It’s also about treating your body in a way that you would treat someone else’s. If someone else told you they were hungry, you would tell them to eat. If they told you they were tired you would tell them to rest. It’s amazing that we can provide such sound advice to others, but rarely give ourselves the same respect.
So, if there are healthy changes you want to make to your body composition, that’s great! But while you’re working toward making those changes, don’t forget to be kind to yourself. When you look in the mirror, say something nice. When your body tells you it’s hungry/tired/full/energized – treat yourself the way you would treat someone else. You have the power to change your body and love your body all at the same time, and once you discover how to do this, it’s a beautiful thing!
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