Strong vs. Skinny: Are you addicted to wanting the “perfect” body?
WARNING: There is probably a rant ahead. I gave you fair warning. So look away before you get sucked into my madness!
How do you measure how healthy you are? Do you look in the mirror and compare your body to those in magazines? There is a rampant, but not new, trend of sharing “before” and “after” pics on social media of women’s bodies. A lot of women are sharing this and so are personal trainers. I recently got some of these pics in my inbox from some popular personal trainers regarding their clients “transformation” and was appalled to find that the before pics were of beautiful, healthy looking women and in the after pics those same women looked emaciated. Why? How can this be? Why didn’t these women see just how beautiful and healthy they already were? I wanted to scream out to them, to all women, “Hey, beautiful put down that magazine and log off of the internet for a little while. Sweetie, it is time to rethink what your goals are because I don’t want to see you hurt yourself!”
I think part of the problem is the incessant posting of these pictures. Women are seeing these pics and just don’t feel like they are “measuring up.” (And by the way, men also feel the pressure, too). It is hard not to think you aren’t measuring up when we also see cover models looking very skinny, too. We begin cognitively creating a “rule of thumb” in our head that creates this “skinny look” as the norm and then we compare all others against it, including ourselves. And if you didn’t get the memo, all the pics in magazines are retouched and photoshopped. These images are absolutely unattainable because they don’t even exist. That’s right. They are not even real. A couple of years ago a model in a Target advertisement had her legs trimmed down and when they did it they also cut out part of her crotch so they could make her legs look even longer. Her arms were also lengthened to the point of disbelief. If you don’t believe me, click here to check out the pic. It is really quite laughable and the model even showed up on an episode of Ellen donning long fake arms making fun of the pics herself.
Why is this comparing yourself to other people hurting you?
First of all, if you are trying to measure yourself up to something that doesn’t exist you are wasting your time and at the very least there are better things you can be focusing your time and effort on. Like whether to buy the cute running shorts in blue or pink. Enough with the black ladies! Or extra time to make that healthy smoothie in the morning.
Wasting your time, however, is not all you are doing when you buy into these “ideals.” You also create an internal struggle. A struggle that says you are not good enough. When we come from the place where we believe we are not good enough, guess what, we treat ourselves like we aren’t good enough. If we believe it we end up acting that way, too. Doubt and erosion of our self-confidence start building. Then we wonder why we feel lousy all the time. Feeling down about your body starts to spill into the rest of your life; negativity feeds more negativity and then you are down in a hole and you believe the only way out will be to lose more weight so you can be “happy” with yourself. Do you see the vicious cycle ramping up? Ya, I thought so.
So what should you do?
First, I want you to stop comparing yourself to other people and even to the younger, skinnier version of yourself, too. Our bodies are works in progress and you can’t compare yourself to anyone, even to that previous version of yourself.
Next, I want you to find other things you love about yourself and about your body. I want you to focus on more than your exterior self. My little mantra, when I get sucked in by the models in the magazines, is to say, “I am grateful for my thighs. They helped my body carry around 3 growing babies in my belly.” Think about what you are grateful for and why. Instead of thinking about what you look like, think about the actions and behaviors that are connected to your values. You show love, give your heart, play with children, smile and contribute so much to the world. Be grateful for all of you!
Lastly, and here is the important thing, is that if you are focusing on how you look you are probably not focusing on health. You might feel like you would do anything to get the body you want. Hey, I’ve been there too. I cancelled my appointment for liposuction on my thighs several years ago and broke out in a cold sweat and realized, like a junkie, that I was going to have to go through withdrawal, that I had to give up the struggle with how I looked, and I had to start focusing on my health. Yes, getting sucked into comparing our bodies to impossible bodies is like an addiction. I am not kidding. I literally had to make a conscious effort to stop it and when I did I became happier with not only my body but with MY LIFE.
Focusing on strong works for me
I lost a lot of weight as a teenager and was sickly skinny. I never want to go back there. I love being really strong. That is my personal measure of health. That and knowing that I’ve eaten foods that have nourished me throughout the day and that nourishment varies depending on my activities. I feed my activities to support my body. So if I am strength training I am going to eat certain foods before and after and time out when I eat. It’s my little way of thanking my body for doing the work that will keep me healthy. Recently, I was at the gym and noticed I was lifting heavier weights than half the guys there. That was a lot of fun! But I believe it is important to cultivate not only physical strength, but emotional and cognitive strength and flexibility, too. Because those are the kinds of things that will ultimately allow us to meet our life goals. If you are so focused on what you look like you might be missing out on the fun of creating an amazing life. So if I can sum this up for you I will say this, BE YOU, embrace you, love you and share your beautiful self with the world.
hugs & bicep curls,