A poor body image gets in the way of reaching fitness goals. Whether it’s the appearance of wrinkles or the lack of six-pack abs, when you focus on minor imperfections, it lowers your self-confidence. Identifying what causes this poor body image is the first step to accepting and appreciating who you are.
You Spend Too Much Time on Social Media
Take note of the types of social media accounts you follow. You may be subjecting yourself to unrealistic standards for beauty, which may affect how your think of yourself. We were once only exposed to this when watching television or reading magazines, but social media increases how often we see these unrealistic images. Follow accounts that motivate you, and unfollow those that leave you feeling less than perfect.
You Are Stuck in the Past
Past failures can cause you to feel as though you will never succeed. Not fitting into your ideal dress size by your wedding or dropping out of a distance race can be difficult to get over. Remind yourself that you are not the same person you were then. Your body isn’t the same either, and this isn’t a bad thing. It may respond to exercises differently than it did, which can lead to more adventurous and enjoyable activities. Today, you are ready both mentally and physically to accomplish your goals.
You Have Unrealistic Goals
Everyone has a unique body shape. There may be areas of your body that will never look exactly the way you would like. Stop comparing yourself to others, and focus on being the healthiest you can be. As you reach your fitness goals, you will grow to love those areas of your body that may once have seemed imperfect.
You Surround Yourself with Unsupportive People
The people around you have a strong influence on your attitude. Negativity spreads easily. Those who put their bodies down or make negative comments about your body will cause you to do the same. Surround yourself with peers who maintain a positive outlook and celebrate even the smallest accomplishments.
Self-care is any action you take to improve your mental or physical health. It is a form of stress management that includes everything from a 5-minute reading break to a 5-day vacation.
How does self-care influence health?
Self-care is often viewed as pampering, but it is an essential part of your well-being. When we don’t take care of ourselves, it is more difficult to manage responsibilities. Feeling overworked increases stress, reduces productivity, and puts a strain on relationships. Simple acts of self-care can improve your focus and positively influence how you interact with others.
Tips for better self-care
Self-care should not be forced. The activities should make you feel refreshed, energetic, and motivated. Find what works for you. While some may feel better after a 30-minute run, you might enjoy a hike, a massage, or reading a novel instead.
Choose activities that you can do right away. If you put it off or make promises to do it later, you may never find the time to do it. Choose an activity you can do the moment stress begins to build. For example, if you can’t leave the office for a walk, shut the door, and stretch for 10 minutes.
Make it simple. Self-care doesn’t have to be lengthy or expensive. Prepare a cup of hot tea. Take a 20-minute nap. Perform strength exercises for 10 minutes. Set the timer and read a novel for 15 minutes.
Unplug. You might underestimate the influence screen time has on your health until you take a break from it. Emails and social media notifications keep you on edge with the constant need to be accessible and responsive. Avoid associating your self-care activities with screen time. Instead, set time limits for when you’ll check email, or turn off all devices while you read.
Goals are an important part of adopting a healthier lifestyle, because they help us measure our progress. By breaking down your goals into manageable steps, you can stay motivated and set achievable goals.
Start by thinking long term.
What would you like to accomplish this year? Maybe you want to be 30 pounds lighter, run your first half marathon, or get off blood pressure medication. Make a list of everything you can think of. You will use this list to create short-term goals.
Identify what is most important right now.
Make a short list of health priorities. What must change immediately? Maybe your doctor has said you are prehypertensive, and you need to lower your blood pressure. Perhaps you have an old injury that needs to heal and strengthen before you can start a training program. Your stress levels might be through the roof, and you need to exercise and meditate to control the effect this stress has on your health. Write down your top two priorities for the month.
Consider how your goals are related.
We often overlook how closely related our goals can be. Most changes in one area of health will also improve another area. For example, if you begin training for a half marathon and you are currently overweight, the extra calories burned through more activity will help you drop pounds. Improving your nutrition by eating more plant-based foods can also help lower cholesterol levels. If a goal like losing 50 pounds feels overwhelming, take your focus off the scale, and concentrate on other changes that will influence this long-term challenge. Setting small goals to cook more at home, switching from soda to water, or taking lessons to learn a new sport will all influence your body weight in a positive way. Weight loss then becomes more natural and won’t feel like hard work.
Set regular short-term goals.
Once you’ve identified your long-term goals and health priorities, begin to outline your short-term goals. During the first month, set two goals per week. These goals should be related to your health priorities. Choose goals that motivate you to change your daily habits but that are achievable. You don’t need to go from no exercise to hitting the gym six times a week. Getting there three times the first week might be a more achievable goal. Set two new goals each week, and then build on the goals you’ve already accomplished. For example, if you used to put three teaspoons of sugar in your morning coffee, and last week you used two teaspoons, this week try using only one teaspoon.
These minor adjustments may seem insignificant, but the gradual changes will be less of a shock and will prevent burnout. A more gradual method leads to lifestyle changes that are permanent. For example, in a month your tastebuds can adjust to having only ¼ teaspoon of sugar in your coffee, cutting 44 calories every morning. These small savings add up over time to improve your health and initiate weight loss. Of course, it will take more than changing your morning coffee to lose weight, but by tackling the small things, you will gain confidence to face bigger challenges down the road.
Regularly re-evaluate your goals.
Don’t stick with a goal that makes you miserable. If you thought you wanted to run distance races only to begin training and find you dislike every workout, set a new goal. There are plenty of activities that can keep you fit. Choose one you enjoy. The same goes for healthy eating. Not everyone has to love kale and broccoli. If you are trying to increase your vegetable intake, experiment with vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and mustard greens until you find foods and ways of preparing them that appeal to you.
Reducing your calorie intake will help you lose weight, but it is only one part of healthier eating. Nutrition must be a priority to give your body the fuel it needs. Eat meals and snacks that are balanced in protein, carbohydrate, and healthy fat. Include a variety of plant-based foods to increase your intake of dietary fiber and phytonutrients that protect health.
While a rigid training program keeps some motivated, the lack of variety can cause others to give up. Make your ultimate goal to move more, and try different workouts to identify your fitness style. Structured exercise isn’t for everyone, and it is not a requirement for improved fitness. If you dislike the gym, move more by hiking, taking dance classes, or practicing watersports.
Rest days should be a part of any fitness program. The body needs time to rest, recover, and refuel itself so you can make gains in both cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength. Work hard during your exercise sessions, and allow yourself a break one day a week.
Calm Your Mind
It’s true that exercise can relieve symptoms of mild depression and improve self confidence, but take an extra step to incorporate activities that focus on your mental health. Take a brain break, and meditate on your goals for 5 to 10 minutes a day. Add yoga to your routine to ease stress and improve flexibility.
You probably know that restful sleep gives you the energy to exercise and helps to regulate hormones that influence hunger and cravings, but getting 7 to 9 hours a night is a challenge. Improve your sleeping habits by tracking how much you currently get, and set small goals to go to bed 10 minutes earlier each week. Create a restful environment that promotes sleep. Stop screen time at least an hour before bedtime, and engage in an activity that relaxes you like meditating, journaling, or sipping decaffeinated tea.
Living a healthier lifestyle isn’t always the result of drastic changes. Often the small changes we make to daily habits have the biggest impact for permanent changes. Here are a few easy ways you can make simple changes to get healthy.
Cook with olive oil.
Extra virgin olive oil contains anti-inflammatory compounds that may help protect against disease. The monounsaturated fat in olive oil has been linked to improved cholesterol and blood pressure. Select olive oil over refined cooking oils. Use it to saute vegetables and as a base for salad dressings.
Eat a salad every day.
An easy way to increase your fruit and vegetable intake is to include a healthy salad every day. Skip the boring iceberg lettuce, and include more nutrient-rich ingredients like cabbage, spinach, beans, nuts, seeds, fresh fruits, and a variety of green and red lettuces. Keep dressings light and healthy by drizzling on a little extra virgin olive oil and flavored vinegars.
Switch to water.
When you are thirsty, reach for water. Calories from beverages can cause a significant increase in your total intake, leading to weight gain. Even worse, these calories don’t fill us up, so we don’t adjust food intake to account for the extra calories. If you need flavor in your drink, try club soda with a twist of lime or infuse your water with fresh mint and cucumbers.
Drink more tea.
Tea contains polyphenols that have been found to lower the risk for heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Decaffeinated varieties can provide a substitute for water when you want something with more flavor. Sipping hot tea also has a calming effect. Flavored, unsweetened hot teas can be used as a treat to unwind at the end of the day.
Watch the snacking.
Mindless snacking is an easy way to consume more calories than you need. We often overlook the handful of crackers grabbed after lunch or the munching done while cooking dinner. These calories add up. Limit your eating to meals and portioned snacks, and avoid grazing throughout the day without tracking each bite.
Skip technologies that make life more convenient, like escalators and moving sidewalks, and choose walking to improve your health. Instead of sending coworkers emails or text messages, walk to their offices to deliver your messages.
Start the day with a 10-minute workout.
Even if you can’t get in your full workout every morning, start every day with a mini-workout. Just 10 minutes of marching in place, strength training, or yoga are enough to get the blood flowing and improve your outlook for the day.
Squeeze in 5 minutes of meditation.
Giving your brain a break and reducing stress only requires 5 minutes. Find time throughout the day to sit quietly and meditate on your goals, or repeat an affirmation.
Flexibility improves your range of motion to keep you mobile. When you are flexible, everything from walking to strength training becomes easier. Whether you stretch in your office during a work break or hit the mat for a good stretch after your workout, treat your flexibility with the same importance as other aspects of your health.
Make sleep a priority.
Adequate sleep is often the forgotten part of the weight loss equation. Sleep plays a role in the regulation of hormones that influence our hunger and stress levels. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. When you skimp on sleep, you can experience hunger and cravings that may have been easier to control if you’d gotten more rest.