Too tall, too short, too fat, too thin, too bald, too hairy... The list of things we’d like to change about our physical appearance grows in proportion with the number of social media influencers and platforms.
Intellectually, we may know that targeted ads are designed to agitate our emotions and arouse envy. But who among us can claim to be immune from clickbait? So here are five easy ways to retake control of your body image.
1.How do you feel?
Going on fad diets and hardcore exercise can reflect an obsession with an ‘ideal’ look rather than aspiring to be healthy. Being healthy is something we feel from the inside out, rather than look for in the mirror. It’s about cruising through daily life without feeling breathless or overwhelmed. Our physiques become more well-toned and agile as a byproduct of our good health; in other words, we don’t become healthy just by losing weight or gaining muscle.
2. Ditch the fear and self-loathing
It’s a basic human trait to want to be accepted as part of a larger group – to belong, and find family. But with it comes a fear of fitting in and measuring up to the standards of the group. To remedy the self-loathing, remind yourself of #1.
3.Work (with) that body. Not beat it up.
Our bodies respond best to exercise when we’re at ease with ourselves and our muscles are relaxed and flexible. Conversely, trying to “enhance’ the parts our bodies we don’t like with forceful exercise leads to rigid muscles that are prone to self-inflicted injury. That’s what naturally happens when we work against our own bodies. Take it easy and watch your health and fitness soar to a new high.
4.Spark joy in the gym
#3 happens because our nervous and muscular systems are extremely sophisticated networks that respond in wonderful ways to joyful sensory input rather than mechanistic exercise. This means going to gym because we feel good about continually striving for better, and not out of a feeling of inadequacy.
How to do #4: Thoughts lead to emotions, and our emotional states affect our physical states and well-being. (Anger and resentment lead to high-blood pressure, for example.) Notice your breathing: is it shallow and rapid, or quiet and gently rhythmic? Slowly, calm your system down by relaxing into your breath that keeps you – and your body – alive. Seen like this, our good looks suddenly become that little bit less important.