Can you relate?
The other day, after rummaging through my closet, I found my pair of “one day” jeans. You know what I’m talking about — the jeans I used to keep in my closet because “one day” I know, just KNOW, I will be able to wear them. The jeans hung limply on their hanger, the button and zipper pulled into a tight frown, as if daring me to try them on.
It took me a while, but I eventually pulled them out of the closet, folded them up and threw them in the donation box. Ladies, this was NOT an admission of failure. It was an act of hope.
It’s possible I will one day fit into them — or maybe even already do! But it’s not even about that. It’s about throwing away false goals and deadlines and BMI numbers and embracing my own healthy, beautiful body. It’s about loving myself. Again — or maybe for the first time.
The social media dilemma
Our Facebook and Instagram feeds are flooded with posts full of “before” and “after” pictures that gloat — if only you tried harder, you could look like this. Unfortunately, it creates within us such deep self-hate that we end up hurting our own bodies in order to achieve unrealistic goals that other people have set for us.
Instead of embarking on journeys of health and vitality, we embark on obsessive exercise regimes, food restrictions and self-starvation.
4 things we do to look better that actually make us FEEL TERRIBLE
We all know that regular exercise is super important for our health: running, walking, strength training, step class at the gym, & sports are all good for our bodies and our minds.
Exercise becomes extreme and even potentially harmful when we obsess about working out for hours at a time and push our bodies to dangerous levels of muscle strain and exhaustion. People who start this kind of unrealistic exercise routine rarely can maintain it. It leads to burnout and may actually HARM your ability to establish a healthy exercise routine that you can stick to for life.
1. Find an exercise routine that fits into your life and that makes you feel good. Exercise should fit into your schedule, not take over your schedule.
2. Moderation is key. Don’t feel pressured to exercise every day. Don’t feel pressured to exercise for hours on end! Thirty minutes of HIIT, strength or running should be plenty.
Expert tip: make sure you incorporate a VARIETY of workouts instead of focusing on just one.
3. Drop those unrealistic expectations for quick results. Rarely does exercise alone lead to weight loss. Think instead of exercise as an essential part of maintaining a healthy heart, healthy lungs, and a healthy brain. It’s not just about body fat!
4. Listen to your body-if you are in pain, then you need to STOP! Build up your tolerance for exercise slowly.
5. Find exercises that you enjoy doing and that you will LOOK FORWARD to doing so you can establish a more sustainable routine.
EXTREME FOOD RESTRICTION
You know that gluten-free, dairy-free, carb-free, fat-free, sugar-free, alcohol-free, taste-free diet? The “all kale all the time” diet? The “take everything away that I love about eating and replace it with cabbage” diet?
These diets are non starters for establishing a life-long love of eating good, nutritious food. They starve your body of essential nutrients and, yes, CALORIES (important note: yes, you need calories to live!!!) And, most importantly, they rob you of your ability to enjoy food. Extreme restrictions also inevitably lead to extreme burnout, which can lead to feelings of failure and shame.
1. Stop labeling foods as “good” or “bad.” You don’t need to feel like you are “cheating” if you eat a certain food.
2. Educate yourself about the foods that make you feel good and give you energy. Eat more of that.
3. Play around with recipes and experiment in the kitchen. Add spices you don’t normally use. Try a dish that is new.
4. Learn the art of slow food. This is literally the opposite of fast food! Slow food is food that takes time to prepare, made with ingredients you can pronounce, that you relish and truly enjoy eating.
Oh, the cleanses. The detoxes. The juices. The elixirs. The promise of quick fixes and easy shortcuts to health.
Guys, any product or program that promises miraculous health in a bottle is a fraud. The juice cleanse is, before anything else, a marketing fad that has raked in millions of dollars, buoyed by promises of eternal health and youth. These products take advantage of vulnerable people who are desperate to fit into those “one day” jeans.
Let me be clear: there is no such thing as a detox. There is no scientific evidence that these products or diets remove any toxins. And Harvard Medical School even lists several dangerous side effects of some popular cleanse fads, including:
- Electrolyte loss
- Heightened risk of heart attack
Take these cleanses at face value. Ask yourself, “does drinking nothing but carrot juice for 5 days sound healthy?” Gut check it. If the answer is no, then move on. The road to health runs through regular, moderate exercise and home-cooked food that tastes good — NOT through potions advertised on Facebook.
No matter what anyone tells you, a growling stomach is a sign that you are HUNGRY and need to EAT. It is not a sign of will power.
TRUTH: Our bodies need nourishment and regular meals to function and be healthy. Extreme calorie restriction leads to muscle wasting and actually can hinder progress.
TRUTH: Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to be healthy inside and out. BUT you can’t exercise on 800 calories a day. Your body needs fuel to move
TRUTH: Depriving yourself of calories is NOT a long-term diet plan. Most people discover really quickly that restricting calories leads to feeling a. miserable and b. starving. This leads to so-called “cheating,” which leads to the shame spiral and “I am a failure” mantras. Cue the picture of the girl on the couch eating Ben and Jerry’s out of the carton, staring longingly at her “one day” jeans. Cue the crying.
1.Eat mostly healthy food. Regularly. Moderation is key.
2. Stop eating when you are full.
3. Get regular exercise that you ENJOY
4. Rinse. Repeat.
Maybe at some point, I will take those jeans out of the donation box and put them on. Or maybe not. The point isn’t the jeans. Or the number on the scale. Or the “before” picture in the Facebook ad.
I just want to love myself, exactly as I am.