It happens. Health stuff. Family stuff. Work stuff. Life stuff. Most of us will face changes or difficulties at some point resulting in consistent exercise falling down or completely off the priority list. For some, it’s forced rest due to surgery, injury, or a medical condition. For others, it’s a matter of planning or mindset due to changes in life circumstances. Whatever the reason, if you’ve found yourself without fitness on your priority list for months or years, this post is for you.
It’s natural for us to reflect on the previous months as the year draws to a close. I’m sharing some of my own and my clients’ thoughts on what was learned or shared this year that would be beneficial to keep in mind as we enter a new year and decade!
On Body Acceptance
I didn't actually appreciate my body and how it was functioning until it wasn’t. I was focused on the wrong things. I worked out to “fix” body parts I didn’t like rather than to make my body stronger and more resilient; those are the things that really matter.
Bigger, smaller, muscled or not - healthy bodies come in various shapes and sizes. The ideal body type changes through the years and it doesn’t necessarily indicate greater health and longevity. How does your body feel and what can it do? Strive for improvement if you aren’t where you want to be and know that your healthy may look different than someone else’s.
The more I catch negative self-talk and re-frame it, the easier it becomes. The negative self-talk may never go away completely but it's much more quiet!
My favorite quote from the book Secrets from the Eating Lab,
“You were not put on this earth to mold yourself into a perfect physical specimen. As writer Glennon Melton says, ‘Your body is not your masterpiece, your life is.’"
At a doctor’s appointment in my early 20s, I asked what a healthy weight goal would be because I was once again in the midst of trying to lose weight. The doctor said, “Anywhere is better than where you are right now.” I remember it so vividly because it angered me, yet simultaneously validated my desire to be smaller. I weighed around 175 pounds at the time. He added, “You could get to 140. You’d be pretty thin.” At 5’10”, I had weighed anywhere from 160 to 190 since my teens…140 wasn’t a weight I had seen in many years. I don't think that doctor had my health in mind when he mentioned that number.
Questions I've heard more than once: How do I shrink my belly? How do I get rid of arm “flab”? How do I get six pack abs? How do I get toned? How do I get smaller legs? These questions are similar and quite familiar to personal trainers. Of course the answer is: it depends! Many factors will come into it AND honestly, sometimes the answer is...You don’t! You focus on other things instead. For the most part, you likely have a pretty good idea of what you need to do and may have attempted and even achieved your desired results previously …but it’s not that simple, right? I’m not gonna lay out a weight loss or six pack abs plan for you here. But I will present a few important areas of consideration. Before you lift a weight, break a sweat, or modify your caloric intake in an effort to change a specific body part, consider the following questions.
Why do you want to change that particular body part?
In order to sustain the effort needed to make these types of changes, it’s important to have a strong and defined why. Sometimes when we delve into the desire for change, we discover it is based on a previous negative experience, comparing our bodies to others or the bodies of our youth, or something deeper like improved health, self-confidence, strength or endurance. You may find that your desire isn't so much the arms or stomach or legs, it's what they represent to you.
Body image issues and negative focus on specific body parts is pretty much a universally-shared experience among women. It’s okay to seek change or "improvement" but at the same time it is necessary to practice self-acceptance, self-compassion, and the realization that perfect bodies, especially as seen on Instagram, don't exist.