I used to be just a random kid with big thighs and small shoulders. At swimming practice, my mates used to call me ‘’pear’’ and make fun of me due to my appearance.
I know you might think:’’ What? Swimmers usually don’t have big legs’’ it’s true that swimming doesn’t particularly help you building a lot of muscle in the legs, but I was naturally given quite muscular legs. I can feel how those days have had an impact on my relationship with my body later on in my life.
In this article I will show you why body positivty won't help you feel more comfortable in your body and what will.
So what’s the relationship between ‘’us’’ and our body?
Body image refers to a person's subjective perception of their own body—which may be different from how their body actually appears.
Feelings, thoughts, and behaviours related to body image can have a major impact on your mental health and how you treat yourself.
It’s important to notice that you might actually improve your appearance, maybe by building some muscles or lowering your body fat and still struggle with having a positive relationship with your body.
In the late ’60, a few movements emerged in defence of all the people who got discriminated against based upon their appearance and size.
thebodypositive.org was born in 1996 and is an example of an organisation that helps people develop balanced, joyful self-care and a relationship with their bodies that is guided by love, forgiveness, and humour. The idea of ‘’Body Positivity’’ started becoming very popular with many influencing people taking an active role as ambassadors.
Body positivity means Appreciating your body in spite of flaws, feeling confident about your body, loving yourself, accepting your body’s shape and size, enjoying the body you have and not beating yourself up over changes that happen naturally due to ageing, pregnancy, or lifestyle choices.
Awesome! I love when humanity gathers to fight a current trend or social behaviour which is harmful to society and evolving to provide tools to grow and provide a brighter future for the next generations.
So let’s go back to my case for a moment.
Could have I solved the issue by just ‘’love myself as I am’’ or ‘’accepting your body as you are’’? I am not so sure about that.
I don’t think this is an effective strategy for the vast majority of people to have a healthier relationship with their bodies, here's why:
1.You might love yourself as you are and have really bad health.
What if you notice that your weight went up a lot in the last few years and you had to change clothes, people noticed you’re bigger and it seems a smart decision to lose some weight?
Now it’s a personal project.
It’s not anymore something you do just for other people’s acceptance or to buy those nice jeans.
It’s something you want to do because you want to grow and you just want to feel more comfortable in your own body.
You do love yourself, you know your body weight and body fat don’t define you as a person but you still want to lose weight for health and personal reasons.
It’s like a personal project, something you want to do just to see if you can do it and because, well you want to be healthier. So you are armed with willpower and determination and start doing what it takes to lose some weight.
In the process of doing this though you find some challenges.
Maybe you notice you’re hungrier than usual, or that you have less time to do the things you usually do and the old habits kick back in.
Implementing a new habit in our life not only CAN be challenging, IS going to be challenging.
Your Lizard brain will tell you: ''Slow down, don't rush, back off, be comfortable, be careful'' and will try to compromise anything you're trying to do that feels challenging.
For a writer thinking: ''Accept yourself as a writer and love yourself as you are'' might help not being judgmental with his work but won't inspire the writer to write more.
Focusing on self-acceptance and self-esteem is an amazing practice and healthy practice but ‘’love yourself as you are’’ shouldn’t be what guides your decisions in regards to your diet and lifestyle. You can love as you are and still find ways to improve and grow.
Adopting a growth mindset is an essential skill to live a healthy life.
By the way, there are actually several reasons why everyone should do some sort of physical activity such as:
up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer
up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer
a 30% lower risk of early death
up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis
up to a 68% lower risk of hip fracture
a 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults)
up to a 30% lower risk of depression
up to a 30% lower risk of dementia
2. What if you don’t love yourself yet?
Seriously, what if you don’t love yourself just yet?
You will not suddenly feel better in your body by mistake.
You will have to change something. You will have to do something.
Understanding that you are not defined by your appearance is a great start.
Looking for actionable steps to implement in order to achieve an end result is the second one.
You might say that you love yourself but your actions are not aligned with your words.
Now you are drinking a few extra beers, you’re smoking a few cigarettes, you’re not moving much and you eat a lot of processed food.
Your actions are not really aligned with loving yourself. Getting whatever you feel you need to satisfy an instant desire is not loving yourself.
I used to do the same.
When I tried to lose weight for the first time I would eat some extra food without telling my online coach.
I remember I was convincing myself that I had some metabolism or hormonal issues when I was eating just 200-300 calories too much every day, just enough to not lose weight.
Again, self-acceptance shouldn’t serve you to guide your decisions, especially when you’re trying to change some aspect of your life.
3. Self-acceptance and growth are not mutually exclusive
Have you ever got angry after a bad comment on your body?
I surely did.
''Francesco, you look like a bodybuilder, not like a swimmer!''
The worst thing about that comment coming from an old successful swimming coach made me feel like I didn't belong to that community.
People usually react badly to comments on their bodies when they have a fixed mindset. I took that comment like ''Swimmers doesn't usually look like me. I will never be a good swimmer''.
P.s. At the time I was Italian champion in the 200m butterfly so I WAS already kind of good.
Negative stereotypes say something like ‘’you and the people like you are going to permanently be inferior’’.
It’s hard to be objective and receive feedbacks when it comes to ourself.
Adopting a growth mindset usually take the teeth out of that comment and make people able to take the feedback and move on with their life.
Unconsciously adopting a fixed mindset is distracting. It confirms your suspicion that perhaps there’s something wrong with you or that people will always look at you in that way and that there’s nothing you can do about it.
People in the fixed mindset react in the same way even to positive comments on themselves because they start being scared of ‘’losing it’’ and so they start trying to be perfect.
Trying to be perfect is another perfect example of a fixed mindset, the same goes for a whole list of behaviours. If you're interested in learning more about the growth mindset definitely check the book ''Mindset'' from Dr Carol S. Dweck
If you feel like that it’s totally normal.
I used to think that no matter how hard I worked in math, I would never get good grades.
When I stopped skipping math homework I realised that instead, the reason why I was not getting good grades is that I was not putting in the real work.
Thinking long term is very helpful when it comes to your body and health.
When you adopt a growth mindset you will see the same comments through a different lens and won’t be distracted by them.
4. What about being responsible?
Do you want to buy a house? You work, save money for a few years and buy it.
Do you want a supportive partner? You can go dating, improve your social interactions skills and talk more openly about your priorities and values to your partner.
Do you want to improve your diet? You start preparing your meal and focus on whole and minimally processed food sources.
Anything in life requires some sort of work.
Thinking that things are ok as they are, that you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself or that you are not defined by your relationship, money, career nor health, is not going to make you fulfilled n the long term.
Learn how to keep yourself accountable for small actions that bring you a little step closer to your goal.
Starting exercising feels like a burden for most people who don’t exercise regularly so most people end up giving up after a few weeks or not starting at all.
I know how it feels to have to start a new habit, it can be hard and stressful but it doesn’t have to be.
You can choose an activity you enjoy or simply join a group exercise set-up and let the instructor do the hard work.
There are also many YouTube videos and free Facebook groups where coaches regularly share tips and workouts to implement
Just keep in mind that the most important thing is to do something you enjoy and be consistent with it.
Learning how to accept your body might be a long way for you. So sit comfortable and explore this beautiful journey without judgment and with responsibility.
Knowing that you might have to work on accepting you body regardless your appearance and progress is going to help you reduce the drawbacks and be more consistent with your approach.
Given the health-related benefits of physical exercise I would suggest to everyone to practice some sort of movement every week for 3-5 hours/ week.
The great thing is that you can combine these 2 practices, self-acceptance and improving your health. You don't have to choose one over the other.
It's also a good step to reach out for suggestions and tips on what you should focus on.
Anot only can give you suggestions on what's the best next step for you in terms of health and fitness but also on how to stay consistent with it.
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If you’d like a coach to help put a customised training plan in operation for you, then book your free consultation call today to see if you’d be a good fit for my Online Coaching.
If you know what to do, why haven’t you done it yet?
This is where having the structure and accountability of Certified Online Trainer comes in.
I’ll help you get the results you’ve always desired and make your journey much easier and quicker than doing it on your own.
What’s the purpose of the consultation call?
To deep dive into your health & exercise history, your goals and current struggles and from there decide if we’d be able to work together (note – I am not the right coach for everyone which is why I have consultation calls with potential clients of mine).
If we are a good fit, we can get working on your personalised program so you can finally make the changes you’ve always wanted.
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I appreciate your support! Coach Francesco