Looking Good Isn't the Real Benefit of Exercising
At this point, pretty much everyone agrees exercise is good for your body, but what if you're working out with the wrong mindset?
You can certainly work out because it makes you feel good and keeps you healthy, but you can just as easily do so because you dislike what you see in the mirror and desperately want to change. However, a truly healthy habit is more likely to stick when you go the route of the former rather than the latter.
Looking for balance
"I've been thinking a lot lately about the balance between liking the body I'm currently in during all my moments while I'm continuing to work on it," said Tsara Shelton, writer and personal assistant. "Loving our bodies means being willing to see when we need to make changes in order to keep them healthy. We are always evolving, and the health needs of our bodies change, too. I think the trick is keeping an eye on why we want to change something about our bodies."
Your mindset going into making these changes is key. Do you want to make them because doing so will make you healthier? Or are you doing it to fit into some ideal body type or look perpetuated by the fitness and diet industry?
No longer judging
"I confess I was once clumsy and unathletic," said Natalie Cecconi, creator of the Running Outfitters blog. "I hated exercise, the way I looked and many of the outfits I wore. My mind was filled with images of supermodels and I thought I could never compare. Those types of thoughts caused me to grow into an out-of-shape woman in her 30s."
Cecconi said after making a bet and training to become a runner, she ran the Chicago Marathon and has found a love for being active, which helps her remain healthy and happy.
"I am no longer afraid of supermodels," Cecconi said. "I no longer judge myself by how I look or what I eat. I compete for reasons other than just getting in shape. I no longer care what others think of my body."
Let's get started
Cecconi struck her perfect balance, but for many others, the lightbulb may not be switched on.
"Like any movement of culture, we can get caught up and take it too far and hurt ourselves and people around us," Shelton said. "When there is a whole group of people doing it with us, we are at greater risk of not seeing when it isn't healthy for us. Each person will have different reasons for caring about diet and fitness, and finding a healthy balance will look different for each person and family. I think it's important to keep an eye on yourself and not judge others too harshly in order to avoid a toxic culture."
While exercise isn't a cure-all for body image, it's not a bad place to start.