Unless you’re living in a cave in the Himalayas, the weight loss messages that abound are hard to miss each January. A quick, informal scan of the current newsstand reveals a nation that’s obsessed not just with losing weight, but with getting thin at warp speed, too. “Lose Two Inches In Two Weeks!” “Burn 300 Calories in 15 Minutes!” shout the covers of two popular women’s magazines.
To counter this hysteria, the Healthy Weight Network has declared the third week of January, Women’s Healthy Weight Week. Their goals? “To celebrate healthy living habits that last a lifetime,” and to help you “eat well, live actively, and feel good about yourself and others.” These are concepts we promote year-round at One Medical Group. We know that health is not simply a matter of the way you look or the numbers on your bathroom scale. It’s your entire physical and emotional existence. Health requires having a positive self-image, making wise choices day after day, and setting and attaining realistic goals.
So, in the spirit of celebrating Healthy Weight Week and starting this year off on positive footing, we’ve asked Margarita Tartakovsky, editor of the eating disorder and body image blog, Weightless, to share her top tips for boosting body image.
1. Be in awe of your body.
Our bodies are amazing machines that help us walk, run, talk, and kiss and hug our loved ones. (Oh, and they take care of that other important stuff, like breathing, so we can focus on enjoying life!) Take a moment to think about how your body helps you do what you love. For instance, my body helps me write, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Maybe your body helped you give birth, helps you run marathons, enables you to take groceries to your grandma, or to practice yoga. No matter how big or small, our bodies help us in so many incredible ways.
2. Remember that thinness doesn’t equal happiness.
We’re conditioned to believe that thinness is the path to everything beautiful and wonderful in life–the secret to success, beauty, sexiness, and satisfaction. This is an illusion. You don’t become more self-confident or more adventurous by becoming thin. You still have the same family and the same job concerns. Your inner self doesn’t change, and your problems don’t magically disappear once you lose weight!
3. Find a greater purpose.
Realize that there’s more to life than thinner thighs and a smaller waist. Find something you’re passionate about. Remember that you’re more than a set of body parts. You’re a person with real qualities and exciting quirks. Channel those qualities into creating something amazing, instead of turning inward and shaming yourself.
4. Take a break from negative media.
Much of the information that surrounds us contains detrimental advice and messaging about diet and exercise. It tells us that we should exercise solely to burn calories and lose weight, that we should look a certain way, and that we should ignore our bodies’ signals. But if we become aware and listen, the body offers clear cues when we’re hungry and when we’re full. Ignoring those cues by dieting is unsustainable and unhealthy.
5. Seek out positive sources instead.
Spend your time reading things that are inspiring and uplifting, instead of those that make you feel guilty and ashamed. Check out the many fantastic body image blogs that celebrate all shapes and sizes.
6. Create an inspiration board.
Visual reminders are great for boosting body image. Try creating an inspiration board that inspires you to build a positive body image. Gather up inspiring quotes, favorite photos, accolades, and anything else that makes you happy. Get as creative as you like. If you have kids, get them involved. You can do this with your friends, too.
7. Open your eyes.
Beauty is all around us, and it comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and silhouettes. Most of us hold a very narrow view of beauty, and when we don’t fit that unrealistic ideal, we’re crushed. But open your eyes to the different types of beauty around you. Think about beauty in the tiniest of things, the way a photographer would. Seeing beauty in others will help you see the unique beauty in yourself.