"There's no way I can run a 5K."
"At this rate, I'll never reach my goal weight."
"I can't do a pushup (or a pull-up, or a sit-up…)"
"I would look terrible in that dress."
When you're on a journey to transform or improve your body, it's natural to identify those areas that you'd like to change. But while it's good to set specific goals, hosting a constant inner monologue of self-criticism won't help you reach them any faster.
It's easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what your body CAN'T do: It can’t shed pounds fast enough, it can't move quickly or nimbly enough, it can't look like it's "supposed" to in certain clothes, it can't lift the same amount of weight as the slimmer, fitter person next to you at the gym. But when you remain laser-focused on those perceived flaws and weaknesses, you'll ultimately lose sight of your body's many strengths and capabilities.
And yes, while it may not always seem so, there are many.
Whatever stage you are in your journey, no matter what the scale says or what size jeans you wear or how long it takes you to climb a flight of stairs, there is always something to be grateful for. We know, it's not always easy. But by adopting some positive-minded strategies, you can look past what's "wrong" with your body and see all of the admirable—and even downright miraculous—things it does for you on the daily.
Focus on movement goals.
Morit Summers, celebrity trainer and FORM Fitness gym owner, says that fitness journeys tend to be based around goals that are tied to weight loss or physical attributes—and when we don't hit those goals as quickly as we'd like, our instinct is to blame our bodies. This blame can take the form of self-critical remarks and thoughts, which can turn into a mantra of negativity.
To prevent this outcome, Summers suggests reframing the fitness journey so that it's based around a movement goal instead of a weight-related one. Rather than continually staring down the scale or squeezing into those goal jeans, work toward getting better at something, whether it's walking a mile or finishing a spin class.
"The body is capable of so many things—we just have to give it a chance," she says. "It takes time and effort, but if you decide you want to be able to do something, the journey there can be really fun."
When setting a movement goal, Summers says to be realistic about the timeline. If you've never run before and want to complete a marathon, be aware that it could take a few years to cross that finish line. "Be prepared for hard work—for most of us, these things don’t come easy," she notes. "But if you want it, it will happen."
Celebrate your successes—big and small.
Before you start thinking the journey to a better-looking and healthier body is impossible, fitness trainer Jill Brown says it's important to remind yourself of your greatest successes.
And they don't always have to be tied to weight loss or fitness. Did you ace an exam that almost everyone else couldn't pass? Did you save the day when your company was going through a crisis? Did you win an award for something other people thought was really awesome? "We often don't give ourselves credit for big wins because we did them, so how hard could they have been?" Brown notes. "They were hard, but somehow you got into the zone and rocked it. The same is true for weight loss and fitness, except the results come in a series of small victories."
Those small victories deserve fanfare, too. As Brown points out, most of us have a "win" each and every day. This might be choosing the steamed broccoli instead of fries when out to dinner with friends, or managing to fit in a 20-minute walk after a late workday derails plans for an evening spin class.
"Take a moment to honor yourself for those small wins," Brown says. "All of those little choices add up to the big win of making a permanent lifestyle change. Showing your body appreciation rather than punishment is an act of kindness and love."
Shop for clothes that flatter your current form.
Shop for clothes that flatter your current form.
Most of us have "goal clothes" in our closets that serve as physical benchmarks of what we're working toward. And while there's nothing wrong with occasionally trying on those smaller sizes to gauge your progress, it's also important to have pieces on hand that complement and flatter your current physique, not just the one you wish you had.
When you invest in properly fitting clothing, rather than settling for too-baggy or too-tight apparel, you just may be surprised at how pleased you are with what you see in the mirror. And the instant confidence boost will help motivate you to keep working toward those "aspiration jeans" that have been waiting for their moment to shine.
Build your support network.
While you ultimately have control over your own mindset, those around you could be influencing how you see yourself—maybe without you even realizing it. If there are friends, family, co-workers or other people in your life who tend to focus on your flaws and limitations, have a frank discussion about how their opinions are affecting your health, happiness and progress. If the behavior continues even after you've called it to their attention, it may be time to rethink the relationship.
After you've purged the negative influences, you can focus on building a supportive network of people who encourage you to work toward your goals for self-improvement, while also learning to recognize the positive things that have been there all along.
Show your body self-care.
It's easy to get stuck in a cycle of working (and sometimes punishing) your body with grueling gym sessions and strict diets, but it's just as important to make time for some physical TLC. This could take the form of scheduling a massage, taking a relaxing bubble bath or spending a few minutes stretching. It could also mean taking a rest day from your exercise regimen, opting instead for an afternoon nap, a yoga class or a rejuvenating walk outside.
By slowing down and giving your body this type of focused, indulgent attention, you'll ultimately be more energized, less stressed, less susceptible to sickness and better able to work toward your goals.
Stop the comparison game.
You may not even realize you're doing it, but it's one of the most destructive practices when it comes to body image. Comparison comes in many forms, from social media posts to television shows to magazine photos. Every day—practically every minute—we're bombarded with picture-perfect portrayals of fit, skinny people who show us how we're "supposed" to look.
And the effect is the exact opposite of being grateful to your body.
While it's impossible to completely shield yourself from all media and external images, you can make an effort to filter them somewhat. If you find that a certain social media account is making you feel bad about yourself, unfollow it. If a reality show is making you question the quality of your own life, take it out of your rotation. This goes for real-life relationships, too: If someone continually makes comments that highlight where you are supposedly lacking, stop having the conversations.
As a bonus perk of quitting the comparison game, you just might find yourself with a surplus of time to spend on activities that will help you practice body gratitude, such as exercising, relaxing and preparing healthy meals.
Focus on the marathon, not the sprint.
In our current society, where everything is just a click away, most of us expect immediate gratification—and it’s easy for this to extend to weight loss. When we don't see results fast enough, we get frustrated and blame our bodies for their sluggish response.
"That's just now how the body works," Brown notes. "We're not computers with supersonic processors. Our systems take time to adjust and adapt, so appreciate that you have made the decision to do what is good for your body and health."
If you're not happy with the state your body is currently in, Brown says to remember that it didn't take you three weeks to get into that shape—so it's not realistic to expect to get back into the shape you want in that same amount of time. "The key is to do a little better every day," she says. "If you have a lot of bad lifestyle habits to change, each day just try to do 10 percent better than the day before."
And remember: If you are taking steps to take better care of your body, the benefits aren't always visible to your eye (or the scale)—but that doesn't mean they're not happening. "Even if it doesn't show in the mirror immediately, the change is happening under the hood," Brown says. "Eating broccoli instead of French fries, skipping the dessert at dinner, adding a half-mile to your walk or jog—they are all changes your body will love you for because you're giving it what it needs."
Start a body gratitude journal.
The written word is powerful, especially when it comes to finding ways to express gratitude. At the end of the day, take a few minutes to jot down in a journal the ways in which your body has served you. You might thank your hands for composing an important report, thank your legs and feet for walking you where you needed to be and thank your arms for carrying your toddler or hugging your grandkids. And exercise counts, too—your glutes deserve some praise for making it through that tough spin class!
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