What are the four cornerstones of a happy, healthy body image? So far we’ve talked about thought control (which I think is the most important!), media literacy, and healthy eating, and today we’re going to talk about body movement.
I grew up not being very athletic. I did ride horses from about 10 to 14, and of course I liked riding my bike around the neighborhood, but great feats of athletism weren’t something that were highly valued in my family, and I didn’t feel great about my skills, so I didn’t do much.
Finally, in college, I realized I need to start moving to stay healthy (and yeah, okay, I was trying to lose some weight). Ever since then, about 14 years ago (!!!), I’ve been much more active. Sometimes it’s by using a gym membership, sometimes it’s long walks on the beach, sometimes it’s using an exercise video (everything from Cathe Friedrich to Physique 57 to Denise Austin), and sometimes it’s just me dancing in my living room. The point is: now I like to move and have made it a part of my life, period. I’ve been lucky that exercise never turned into something I was obsessive about, and it’s also something that I enjoy, so I’ve found a good balance with it.
I think of this as a cornerstone for a happy, healthy body image for a couple of reasons. First, humans were designed to move. We all know sitting will kill you, and there are many, many, MANY benefits to exercise. If you’re not moving your body regularly in some way, you’re missing out on tons of good stuff, and living a highly sedentary lifestyle goes against what your body was designed for. Therefore, when you actually do take the time to move regularly, you feel better physically and emotionally, which, in my opinion, improves your body image.
The second way this works is that when you set and reach new fitness goal, whether it’s to bench press a certain amount of weight, run a 5k, or walk 15 miles a week, you feel proud of yourself and, more importantly in this case, feel better about your body and what it’s capable of. Instead of constantly fighting with it and telling it what it’s doing wrong (not looking like a supermodel), you praise it for what it’s doing right (gaining muscle and strength, becoming more flexible, etc.). In other words, setting and achieving even small movement-based goals helps you take the focus off the external crap that really doesn’t matter and helps you internalize the idea that your body is awesome (because it is).
And that’s really all I have to say on the subject. I could go on and on, but I don’t want to. Pay attention to your thoughts, learn how to change them, notice how the media is influencing you and the way you think about your body, eat enough food to support your health, eat a variety of delicious whole foods plus some yummy foods just because you plain love them, and take care of your body by moving it regularly. It’s pretty straightforward, but can also be challenging. Just keep it up, you can do it! You only get one body, so you might as well love it and take good care of it and think good thoughts about it.