If you are gearing up for swimsuit season by reading up on the latest crash diets and beach body exercise routines, you might transition the way you set goals to improve your appearance and your health. While looking better may motivate you to change your diet and exercise habits, it’s important to look beyond aesthetic benefits to the mental and physical perks of caring for your body. Shifting your focus from achieving the ideal body to improving your body image can help you feel confident when you show off your summer wardrobe and be happier with the results of your efforts. Beauty is not limited to what you see in the mirror—it is a state of mind. That’s why you should stop chasing the idea of someone else’s perfect body and embrace your own body with all its imperfections and quirks.
What forms your body image?
It’s not fair to say that your body image has nothing to do with how you look, but it is important to recognize that people with all different body types can have a negative body image. Those who do maintain this negative image of their bodies are more likely to suffer from eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and obsessive behaviors. They are also more prone to participating in risky habits – like crash diets and weight loss drugs – which can have a wide range of serious side effects from malnutrition to arrhythmias and heart palpitations. So what contributes to negative body image? There are many different factors, but one of the most significant is the portrayal of different body types portrayed in the media. Among both men and women, there are very few “acceptable” body types seen in films and magazines, yet only about 5% of North Americans have figures that fit in with these standards.
How can you improve your body positivity?
Rethink your role models – There is a changing idea of beauty seen in the media, but you might still have to make an effort to identify role models that promote body positivity. One strategy you could use is looking up to friends and relatives rather than celebrities. Identifying positive influences in your own life and spending more time with those individuals can do great things for your own attitude.
Start exercising (without the “beach body” goal) – If you start an exercise regimen with the goal to look like a particular celebrity or lose a certain amount of weight, you might end up disappointed. Recognizing the other benefits that exercise has to offer can help you keep on track. Regular physical activity has been shown to ward off depression, aid sobriety, improve gut bacteria, and extend life expectancy. Additionally, exercise can help you feel better about yourself and improve your mental health—even if you don’t actually lose much weight by working out.
Let yourself indulge – You’ve probably heard the phrase “nothing tastes better than skinny feels,” but people who say that have likely forgotten what chocolate cake even tastes like. While it’s important to focus on your nutrition, you should still allow yourself indulgences rather than feeling constantly deprived. Along the same lines, you should steer clear of diet trends and aim to form a balanced diet that you can sustain instead of a diet you consistently want to cheat on.