I noticed one thing when I jumped into the health and fitness industry: everything is about the body image. All of the health and fitness magazines that you see boast photoshopped men and women with cut abs and defined muscles. Headlines promote new fad diets or exercises that promise to help you drop 10lbs in a week or give you a bikini body in time for the summer. That’s great and all, but have you noticed that no one promotes working out or eating healthier just because it’s better for you? When someone tries to sell you a personal training session, gym membership, meal prep subscription, or weight loss book, they always make sure to tell you what your body will look like, but they rarely emphasize that eating better and exercising is just plain good for you. We live in a culture that promotes tiny waists or defined abs. It’s all about body image. Sure, those things I mentioned might be marketed as healthy, but people most often seek those things to change the way their bodies look. Health is just a runner-up benefit. But what if we stopped trying to get a different body by forcing ourselves to be healthy and just started trying to be healthy? Like I say, “chase health, not a body image.”
Let’s talk a little bit about body shaming. We’re pretty great at it, aren’t we? We look at ourselves in the mirror and tear apart our love handles. We tell ourselves we’re too fat. We think our butt looks awful in those jeans. We believe our arms are too flabby to wear a tank top. And the list goes on! We literally convince ourselves that our body is shameful, and now that we’ve done this, we’re ridiculously insecure in our own skin. This is what the health and fitness industry feeds on. They know that you hate your body. They know you wish you would look different, so they market products and services to you that will make you lose weight. Rather than promoting something healthy, they promote something that says it can change your outward appearance. This is what I hate with a burning passion. Stop trying do something healthy only for a surface level fix. Health goes much deeper than some extra fat on your tummy. Health will keep you alive. Health can help prevent disease. Health can prolong your life. Health can make life less stressful. Health can give you a better night’s sleep. Health can give you more energy in the afternoons. Health can make you stronger. These benefits far outlast the shedding of a few pounds! So lets stop saying you want to eat better and workout more so you can lose weight. If that’s your only motivation you’ll never stay committed, because those are superficial results. They’re valid and great to have! I set weight loss goals too! But we have to dig a little deeper and find the lasting reason for seeking health and fitness. Otherwise, when the motivation starts to fade, you’ll stop making it to the gym and start making poor nutrition choices because your “why” doesn’t reach deep enough.
Why is this such a big deal to me? Because I’ve been in that place, and there’s moments I still catch myself there. The whole reason that I decided to start working out and to teach myself about nutrition was because I was insecure about my body. I felt overweight and never liked myself in a bathing suit. I would look at girls I went to school with and was jealous of how skinny they were. That was my “why” for working out and eating more fruits and veggies, but wanna know something? My goals were too shallow to last long. I got to college and the “freshman 15” turned into the “freshman 20.” I was on my own with no accountability, ate pizza and ice cream on the regular, and didn’t work out as often. My only motivation to “get healthy” was to lose some weight, but when the unlimited unhealthy choices of college presented themself, I didn’t have a strong enough reason to make good choices. When your “why” is an image, you won’t last. When your “why” is about bettering your life, choosing healthier options becomes 10,000x easier. When I finally decided I wanted to eat better and exercise more for the sake of feeling better and having a higher quality life, I was able to make the hard choices when I didn’t feel like it. I started to choose grilled chicken over pizza and went to the gym even when I didn’t feel like it. Slowly but surely, I developed discipline, but I would’ve never had it if I didn’t have a reason that went beyond my body image. I hate when clients come to me and their only reason for wanting to get fit and healthy is so they can drop a pant size. That’s a great goal! But it should be secondary to a bigger reason.
This mindset shift is actually a pretty big deal. It determines your commitment. It decides whether or not you can stick to it for 6 months or for 6 years. It changes how you think about yourself. It causes you to look at yourself differently. There’s time when I might be 5-10lbs heavier than I’d like, but when I know that I’m making good and consistent choices for the sake of my overall health and wellbeing, I can still be confident in my body. If you are feeling insecure about your body and want to lose some weight, I want to encourage you to find a bigger reason. This might be to sleep better, to relieve stress, to live longer, to reduce risk of disease, or to keep up with your kids. Keep your weight loss goals, because those are important short-term goals! But you need long-term goals to keep your work grounded in something bigger than yourself. When you reach outside the lines of body image goals, you are reaching beyond you.
Being able to see more than a body image is what makes health and fitness a life changing thing. But how often do we fail to tap into the bigger picture? I want to challenge you to find a deeper meaning to health. Answer these questions before you go to the gym or make yourself a snack:
What makes healthy choices worth my effort?
How are healthy choices going to impact my life?
Am I insecure about my body? If so, am I trying to be healthy to change the way I look?
What end result will make me be able to consistently make healthy choices for the rest of my life?
Let’s chase health, not a body image.