Spring is almost here, and that means a few things. Winter will be over soon, and we can pack away our winter coats. Spring cleaning will work its magic and help us purge the things that are weighing us down. Beach weather and vacation season are waiting in the wings. But it’s also a reminder that our lofty fitness resolutions may not have panned out the way we wanted. The thought of having to take off our shirts in public might strike a deep pang of fear. That photo of the Rock and Zac Efron tire flipping makes us feel like tubs of lard. Well, before you buy an economy size bottle of fat burning pills or join that crazy, cult-like crossfit gym downtown, take a minute to think about your body image. Are you working out for you or to achieve the body that other people think you should have? Are you aiming to make some small improvements to better your life or are you hoping to make a radical transformation to turn heads at your high school reunion?
Recently, upon joining a new gym, I had one of those free workout sessions with a trainer where the gym tries to convince you that spending $600 a month on 4 hours of training is sensible. That trainer praised me for how great my body was but let me know that if I really focused, it could be so much better. Then she pushed me through a killer workout that left me winded and embarrassed. She really kicked my ass and reminded me that I had a lot of work to do to get back in peak shape. When she tried pressuring me into signing up for her package right then and there, I refused. Not because I couldn’t afford it. Not because I didn’t think I could handle the intensity of the sessions. But because she was trying to convince me that my body wasn’t good enough. That I needed her services to reach my full potential. Any service that tries to reinforce negative body image is not a service that any of us need. I realized that I’d come a long way from the body insecurities that consumed my 20s. I realized that I was well on my way to loving my body the way it is. And we can all be there together with the following realizations.
1. Accept that aging is a part of life.
You might be able to slow it down. You might even be able to erase its effects. But you're no magician, and you can't stop aging from happening. And when you see it happening, you have two choices. Choice 1-spend A LOT of money filling lines, tucking things, and using your face as a biology experiment for really expensive creams. Or choice 2-learn to love the changes. They're part of what makes you YOU.
2. Stop comparing yourself to other people.
The best thing about being you is that you're unlike anyone else. So what if your friend looks better in board shorts than you do? Let it be. Either let it motivate you in a positive way or let it go. You have a lot to be grateful for, and it's pointless to waste time crying about not having a six pack.
3. Be happy that you’re healthy.
You're alive. You're breathing. You're able to live another day to read these posts. If you don't look like Cristiano Ronaldo, does that make the beauty of life any less sweeter? It shouldn't. Work is work whether you're fat or skinny. Celebrate what you do have instead of constantly pining for what you don't.
4. And if you’re not healthy, make that a priority.
More than anything, we should use fitness as a way to prolong our lives and enjoy a better quality in that life. If you know you're not healthy, do something today to change it. Order a salad at lunch. Track what you eat today. Whatever you do to start the path to a healthy life, do it for the right reasons.
5. Avoid status gyms like the plague.
I love Equinox and Sports Club LA. Working out there is like hanging out on the set of a music video. But just like all the chiseled, pretty people in the ad campaigns, the same type is roaming the floors of its facilities. Do yourself a favor and join a gym where people care more about working out than being seen.
6. Understand the true meaning of fitness.
Fitness is defined as the condition of being physically fit and healthy. It's not defined as being chiseled or sexy or looking good shirtless at the beach. It's about your health! It's about battling four flights of stairs without dying. It's about cardiovascular activity three times a week. Understand what being fit really means, and that helps to erase the unrealistic expectations.
7. Realize that this person can be considered fit.
Being fit is not reserved for models. It's not about meeting the Western standards of impossible beauty and attraction. Do you work out three times a week and break a pretty considerable sweat? Well then, you, my friend, just might be fit.
8. And realize that this person can be considered unfit.
This is Zyzz. He died at age 22 from a heart attack. On social media fitness communities, he is idolized and viewed as an icon. He had a great body, but he either had some underlying conditions that weren't addressed or he chose unhealthy methods to attain this physique. You can't always judge a book by its cover.
9. Don’t weigh yourself everyday.
Weight fluctuates. Water weight gives the false impression of gain. Big changes in your routine can lead to dramatic weight loss at first and then plateau. Weigh yourself once a week and compare those results. Stepping on the scale every single day isn't just inaccurate; it's unnecessarily agonizing.
10. Set measurable goals for yourself.
Let's be real. "I want to look like Zac Efron" is not a goal. And wanting to look like him by your Spring Break vacation is also not realistic. Get some measurable goals down on paper. I want to reduce my body fat percentage by 2 points or I want to lose 1 pound a week. Be specific but also be honest. This is hard work, and nothing serves a more crushing defeat to your progress than missing a target because it was completely out of reach to begin with.
11. And reward yourself when you achieve them.
I don't know about you, but envisioning French fries at the end of the treadmill is always a solid motivator for me. After you lose that one pound a week, how will you celebrate? A cheat food? A new pair of jeans? Don't forget the importance of rewarding yourself. Don't go crazy. Every small victory is not a life-changing milestone. Eating French fries for every meal for the entire weekend will erase your progress in record time. But do take a moment or a few bucks to positively reinforce what you've achieved.
12. Look in the mirror every day and find one thing you love about yourself.
It's so easy for most of us to see what's missing. I'm not cut enough. My arms aren't big enough. My chest is too flat. Looking in the mirror shouldn't be a welcome invitation to rip your body to shreds. Turn this quality time with yourself into something productive. Pick one part of your body that you love and tell yourself why. Walk away from that mirror feeling good.
13. Realize that imperfection is part of who you are.
No one is perfect. And perfect is a very subjective word. Once you love yourself and pursue your health goals for all the right reasons, imperfections are reinvented from something that makes you less desirable to something that makes you the best.
14. Don’t use celebrities as motivation.
Thanks for the support Ru! I've said it before and I'll say it again. Celebrities are paid to project a certain image. Being fit isn't so much a hobby as it is a necessity that comes with the territory. Unless there are loads of models reading this, odds are your physical appearance is not a major part of your work. So stop aspiring to look like people who do have this job. Have a cheeseburger for Christ's sake.
15. Remove people from your life who criticize the way you look.
When people judge you for the way you look, it's a sign of insecurity and emotional weakness. Not only do you need to find the courage to celebrate your body, but you need to eliminate people from your life who make you feel bad for doing so. As you're removing them from your life, be sure to recommend this article to them. They have some serious work to do.