Emergency: We are facing a “body” crisis! Startling statistics about the obesity epidemic in our country are all over the news, and yet at the same time we are bombarded with images from the media of the “ideal” body that is unattainable, unnatural, and unhealthy for many. I believe both the pressure to be too thin, as well as dealing with being largely overweight, contribute to low self-esteem and low self-efficacy, perpetuating the problems.
It seems that America is out of tune with our own bodies. We need to function on a physical fitness philosophy revolving around self-respect. Self-respect means giving your body the exercise it needs; not over exercising and not under exercising. I’m not dismissing the many other environmental and psychological causes of obesity and eating disorders, but these body crises might be better dealt with if people became more introspective and aware of what being healthy means to them—not their families, cultures, friends, or any other demands life puts on them. Living in the extremes, over or under eating and/or exercising, negative self-thinking, and obsession are not conducive to overall wellness.
Being a fitness instructor and personal trainer, I am encourage my clients to spend a significant amount of time working out. I sincerely applaud those who are working hard to stay in shape to be healthy. However, at the same time I see people in my classes or around the rec center who stay there for three hours at a time every day of the week and appear to be only a set of bones. It saddens me to see the damage these people are doing to their bodies. They will likely never be satisfied with who they are, no matter how many pounds are lost. This lifestyle corrupts the natural good and joy in exercise and is the antonym of “physical fitness.”
As someone who has struggled with my weight and disordered eating patterns in the past, I understand the difficulty of seeing exercise as a means of achieving and maintaining good health. It can be hard not to count calories every minute or not to think about needing to burn off everything that you just ate. Whether overweight, underweight, or just right, concern about weight is a constant thought for most females. This is not a correct frame of thinking. I finally said, “Enough is enough,” and once I understood how to find balance, my mind was free to start loving who I was created to be.
But how do you teach someone (or teach yourself) to love her body? For me it was finding a fitness goal to accomplish, rather than focusing on pounds. I love feeling successful and strong when I attain my goals. Regular exercise plays a huge role in helping me feel connected to my body. Once I got into a continuous and challenging routine, other healthy decisions followed suit, each one reinforcing the love and respect I deserve. It’s not about being what other people want you to be, but knowing who you are and becoming what your body needs you to be.