In a world obsessed with appearance, with the constant barrage of media featuring digitally perfected human beings, it can be challenging to feel good about what we look like. Should we be tall, curvy, skinny, or muscular? All the focus is steered toward our exterior. Yes, there is a correlation between body shape and health so it’s important to get plenty of exercise and eat a balanced diet.
But at what point are we encouraged to be a better person by concentrating on our interior? Our kindness, compassion and patience? Surely these traits would help us become a better person, but more than that, they would help us to feel better about ourselves. Instead, we are taught that skin, hair and being attractive will make us successful and popular with the promise of making us happier. But, more often than not, this is far from the truth.
Even Olympic athletes like Jessica Ennis, while attempting to be the fittest and healthiest they can be, are sometimes accused of being fat or not what a female should look like. Which is what, exactly? Not only those in the spotlight, but women and men in general are put under extreme pressure to look a certain way which sadly can drive a beautiful and admirable person to extreme behavior that can be so costly. The media interviewed a poor mother this week who lost her precious daughter to a diet pill overdose. A tragic end to a girl who thought the person she was, was the body she was in.
Aside from over-exercising and extreme dieting, negative body image can lead to an overwhelming lack of self-confidence and fear of getting to the gym or being seen to exercise. I really admired the film produced by Sport England which featured women of many different sizes giving their all being sporty. I’m fortunate that I never had this trepidation of going to gym class as I was sporty at school. But not being good at something or worrying what we look like should never stand in our way to move and be healthy. It’s key to get to the root of why we want to exercise. Making clear goals. Goals like “look better” or “get skinny” are a bit vague and focus too much on body shape as opposed to the other physical parameters influenced by exercise such as strength, sleep or heart rate. There’s nothing wrong with wishing to get leaner as lower body fat levels are linked to other positive health outcomes. But let’s not forget the other parameters too.
Some of us, possibly the minority, can get motivated to exercise purely because we enjoy it. If movement is not our thing, creating objectives will help to break up any apathy for getting fit. Take running for example. Be specific: don’t just run, aim to run five kilometers. Numbers are great because you can track them. Time yourself. Then, have a specific timeframe in mind to improve. But it’s probably best to give yourself eight months to train for your first marathon rather than eight weeks. And, be realistic about your situation. A brand new mum should think again if she’s aiming to row across the Atlantic any time soon. Choose what you enjoy. If you don’t like it, try out something else, and keep experimenting until you find a fit that feels good. Life’s too short to be miserable jogging in the rain.
And, of course, when it comes to physical appearance: there’s nothing wrong with shining your apple a little, as long as our intention to experience a happier existence comes from the core.