Many of us have a vision of what we would look like in our ideal bodies. We can see ourselves like that if we suck in our bellies, or in that flattering picture where we think we look “thin.” Each day we try to make ourselves into this perfect body. We suffer through workouts in a desperate fight to ward off fat. We judge ourselves for everything we eat. We tell ourselves we’re lazy slobs when we skip workouts. And even when we are committed and seeing results, we still compare ourselves to some future, better, thinner self, one we really can become someday if only we can keep up the intensity. But we never live up to our expectations.
I don’t think it has to be this way.
What if you decided that you are already in your ideal body?
Think about it. What if you realized that nothing you DO will ever make you feel good about yourself? What if you recognized that feeling good about yourself has nothing to do with how you look? In reality, if you want to feel good about your body, you have to think good things about your body.
Get meta with me. Look at yourself in the mirror. Notice what you are saying to yourself about yourself inside your head. Are you smiling at yourself? Are you identifying your flaws? Now ask yourself: would say those things to your best friend? Would you tell your bestie that she could stand to lose the cellulite on her thighs? That she would look better if her face was thinner? No way! You best friend is beautiful to you, a perfectly imperfect person you love unconditionally.
Look at yourself again. You and the body in the mirror are going to be together forever. Why would you make your love for her conditional on how she looks? You need to take care of her, get to know her more deeply, and respect her for all she does for you. In spite of any perceived flaws or limitations, real or imagined, she deserves to be treasured and uplifted like a best friend.
Look at yourself again. Smile at yourself and thank your body for being there for you. Thank your strong legs for getting you through a tough workout. I’m not saying you need to suddenly start telling yourself that your cellulite is beautiful if you’re not ready to believe that yet. You just absolutely need to stop being mean to yourself. When you find yourself ready to criticize your body, step back and see yourself as your best friend, worthy of love. If you practice this long enough, your self-perception will slowly change. You will realize that it is a total waste of time and energy to spend time thinking and feeling bad about yourself.
This might sound strange coming from a trainer, but I believe that accepting and loving your body as it is can actually lead to a healthier lifestyle long-term. Accepting yourself as you are releases you from the shame spiral of eternal failed weightloss attempts. When you aren’t worried about how you look, you have more space to focus on how you feel. And real, lasting transformation comes when you find joy inside your body. You find this joy when you experience your body doing great things, recognizing the powerful, positive emotions that physical exertion brings.
This way of thinking can transform how you approach your fitness lifestyle. When I focus on feeling good first, I want to go for a run because of the buzzed and breathless feelings I know I will experience. When I focus on feeling good first, I don’t order that third margarita, because I have plans to workout in the morning and I don’t want to waste that workout feeling like garbage.
True love for yourself starts inside your mind, and then it spreads to your heart.