My soap box, and what you can do to improve your health (and confidence)!
If you took the minute and a half to watch the above video, you might have experienced one of many emotions. Maybe you were fascinated by the technology. Or maybe you were disgusted with the way we feel we need to alter our bodies to achieve perfection. Perhaps you felt sad that someone - or many people - that you know struggle with body image issues because of artificial images like the one in the video. Me? I felt angry. In my opinion, the model was more attractive to start off with, and her anatomically impossible airbrushed self sets an unachievable standard for young women all over the world.
Let's phrase this a little differently: I don't want young women - like my daughter - to struggle with body image issues the way that I did (and sometimes still do).
We place enough unreasonable standards in ourselves without having to strive for something that's not real... After watching that video, if you continue to fight for those size zero jeans, I hope you also start hunting for unicorns.
Why should we feel we need to be “perfect” anyway? Here’s my soap box: we all have a set height and weight that our bodies are happiest at. For some people, that might mean a very low BMI, and for others, a wider waistline might be more natural.
Weight is important - but it’s not everything. It’s true, there are many diseases associated with being overweight. And it’s also true that having more mass puts unnecessary stress on joints, possibly leading to early osteoarthritis. But having said that, if you’re carrying some extra poundage, but you are otherwise healthy and happy, why should you have to feel like a failure in cultural standards? Check out this video, it's amazing (disclaimer: I'm not posting smut, there are pole dancing classes which are an excellent workout and help build self-esteem!)
Clicking here will take you to my Facebook page where you will find an impressive video of a lady who would be classified as significantly overweight. However, she demonstrates amazing athleticism and grace, and exudes confidence despite cultural standards.
We judge ourselves quite harshly - both women and men - but we judge each other even more so sometimes. Why do we do this? Where does passing judgement on someone else get us? And it goes both ways - we scoff just as much at those who are skinnier than us as we scowl at those who could lose a few pounds.
I hope to raise my daughter with a strong enough sense of self that she doesn’t need to confine herself to the standards which our society currently uphold. I hope to raise a child who is healthy, active, and aware of what she puts into her body. I hope she can equally enjoy healthy food and decadent treats without guilt or hesitation. Most of all, I hope she grows up with the belief she is beautiful and smart, and that she has something to offer the world - and that it has nothing to do with her pant size.
And for those of you who have, and still do, struggle with body image issues, weight issues, or confidence issues… here are a few tips to help you get past it.
1. Go shopping!
Maybe the problem isn’t your waistline… maybe it’s your pant size. A few years ago, I was feeling rather frumpy and unattractive (because that’s how society told me to feel). I realized that since marrying my husband, I had put on a few pounds - likely the result of enjoying my life with my husband (I have no regrets there!). I debated briefly about dieting, but I was already eating pretty well. So I determined that the best answer was to buy some better fitting clothes, take the stress out of dressing, and continue to enjoy good food and drink. So that’s what I did (Much love to stores like Old Navy, New York and Co, and Macy’s for having ridiculous sales!)! Then I had a toddler, and have since dropped 2 sizes from chasing her around (yay, shopping again!). Such is life….
2. Go to the gym.
Everyone can benefit from exercise. And the older you get, the more you need to actively try to stay strong and healthy! Stop making excuses - I know you don’t have the time, but you will be more productive if you take a few hours out of your busy schedule to exercise. And stop worrying that everyone is judging you… a) they’re probably not, b) if they are, they probably have their own internal struggles that lead them to being critical of others, and c) if not a or b, then they are jerks and a waste of your time, so WHY THE HECK WOULD YOU CARE WHAT THEY THINK ANYWAY?? I’m just sayin’...
Here's an interesting letter I saw floating around the interwebs that might help a lot of people.
No money for a gym membership (really? You can join LLB for as little as $30/month, or gyms like Planet Fitness for $10/month - $10/month is a few less coffees out each month!)? No gym, no problem! This link lists 50 exercises you can do anywhere (some of them are really hard, please don’t overdo it!). And don’t rule out walking, running, biking, playing games, and housework!
Need some inspiration for the gym? Watch this short video:
3. Go for a walk with a friend.
You might be surprised how good it can make you feel to enjoy a walk - particularly in nice weather or surroundings - while enjoying friendly conversation. If no friend is available, pop on some headphones and listen to some tunes, or just listen to your surroundings and space out!
4. Stop weighing yourself!!
Personally, I feel we put way too much emphasis on a number. I may feel this strongly since, despite always being athletic, healthy, and skinny per cultural standards, I have always been 10-15 pounds heavier than my peers of equal size. There was a period where I was embarrassed by this (visualize the old weigh ins in gym class where they shouted out your weight across the locker room), but I learned to embrace it (I started taking bets on my weight in my college years - no one could ever guess it!). There is a piece of me that will always be saddened by the fact that my husband can’t gracefully swoop me up like a dainty princess, but it’s decidedly more fun to use my extra mass to occasionally body check a deserving individual. ;)
5. No more dieting!
“Dieting” is usually unsuccessful as a long term solution, because most people go back to their usual eating habits after having some success. The term itself denotes effort and suggests lack of flavor and fun. For long term health (and weight loss too, if that is your goal), you need to make a lifestyle change. This includes being more aware of the food choices you make - you don’t have to quit the junk food, but set yourself a limit on it and make healthier choices during the week.
In the food department, Pinterest has saved my life! You might be surprised to know that I don’t have much free time to spare with a toddler and my own business… (shocking, I know). There is a goldmine of quick, healthy, and cheap meals that are DELICIOUS! Check out marthastewart.com and one of my favorite cookbooks, Jamie Oliver Food Revolution. You will find a plethora of easy and impressive meals that will make you look like a culinary genius while helping you be healthier (and, if you’re carrying any extra weight, you might just find it falls off!).
Here are a few of my favorite quick meals:
This recipe is minimal prep, easy, healthy, and full of flavor. If you don’t think you like Brussels sprouts, you haven’t had them like this - they caramelize for a fantastic flavor! Substitute them if you must, but it’s your loss.
Seriously, this is amazing! It’s got great flavor and consistency, and it it has minimal cooking or prep time.
Umm… it’s wrapped in bacon. Anything in bacon is good. Just do it.
This is easy, and so full of flavor that no one ever guesses it’s made of turkey. Not that there’s anything wrong with a turkey burger. But it’s quick and relatively healthy, and a staple during our grilling months.
Don't get me started on desserts! I could go on forever. I love food. What’s your go to recipe after a long work day? Or, perhaps more importantly… how do you deal with body image issues in your world - with yourselves, or with your children?
I’d love to hear your comments!