It happens every year, circa April.
The weather gets nicer, vacation season approaches, and my personal body-hating monster emerges from hibernation. The one that reminds me how terrible my eating and exercising habits were throughout the winter and how much I’m going to dread wearing a swimsuit if I don’t change my ways.
It doesn’t start as a negative thing. At first, it’s motivational. “I, too, can look like Scarlett Johansson with just a few minor diet changes!” (No, no you cannot.)
I switch out chips for carrots, stop indulging in Ben & Jerry’s, and start running four times a week instead of twice. Then, because I’m a human, I “slip up” and eat donuts or pizza or a burger and hate myself for a couple days.
Before I know it, it’s the middle of July and I look about the same as I always do (which is, fine). This process repeats itself year after year, and I still have yet to obtain a nice set of abs. When that happens, I’m sure I will let everyone know via social media (hint: it is never going to happen).
There’s nothing wrong with me, and it’s not like I allow any minor insecurities or fitness goals to get in the way of the big picture of my life. However, it’s something I’ve noticed I do, and it’s something I’m sure many people do. Specifically women. Specifically American women ages 15 to 30.
I’m not going to launch into a rant about self-acceptance and body image, because we’ve all heard it. We all know we’re supposed to love ourselves and not worry about our appearance, but we do it anyways because we’re bombarded with images of perfection every day. That probably isn’t going away, unfortunately, but what we can do is be realistic.
I am very goal-oriented, so I will always strive to be better than I currently am in a multitude of areas. It’s always good to push yourself, and I see nothing wrong with wanting to be more fit, even if it is just so you’ll look better in your swimsuit. What I’ve learned, though, is to go easy on yourself. That’s what I mean by being realistic. It is ridiculous for me to think that if I simply eat less cookies and go on a short run a few times a week that I will magically get the dream body we’re all dying for. All that does is discourage me and ultimately make me feel like a failure for not reaching my fitness goals.
The truth is, most of us are never going to look like anyone in any superhero movie. People who look like that make sacrifices to look like that. They workout constantly. They hardly ever eat donuts or ice cream, and I would probably just waste away if I could never eat donuts or ice cream. If you aren’t willing to make those sacrifices, then stop expecting your body to transform.
The best part of all of this, though, is that we don’t need to have abs and Michelle Obama arms to feel fit and proud of ourselves. I’ve discovered that my body never changes very much, but when I give myself nutritional food regularly and workout moderately, I like what I see in the mirror a lot more. For me, this means:
- Eating wholesome meals throughout the week and allowing myself to splurge on weekends
- Choosing healthy snacks such as nuts, fruit, granola bars, and Greek yogurt (because snacks are a huge part of my diet)
- Limiting my sugar intake (because sugar is my largest weakness)
- Going on a 30-minute run or going to the gym for an hour every other day
- Primarily drinking water and, once a day, coffee
THAT’S IT. None of the things I just listed are very difficult, and none of them are going to get me the rockin’ body engrained in the back of my mind. However, when I follow this regimen, I feel good about myself, and I feel on track. That’s all that matters.
Listen to your body, and only make health changes that are going to fit in with your lifestyle. Maybe then we can all start feeling a little more self love.
Cover photo found here.