Ah… New Years… the time for fresh starts and lofty goal setting. Unfortunately for most people, that means setting the resolution to drop the obligatory “last 5 pounds” or starting the juice cleanse at the stroke of midnight because what could be more important than fixing your socially unacceptable and “broken” body in 2016? (Insert sarcasm here).
Every year around this time, the commercials on the radio and television switch from those warm and fuzzy holiday feel good moments to “How to bust your belly fat in 7 days!” or “Get your body back after the holiday binge”. As enticing as many of these plans might sound (because that’s what good marketing is all about), there is something very important to keep in mind; these businesses want to make money and they want to do it at the expense of your self-shame and self-loathing and then disguise it as helping you.
DON’T LET THEM FOOL YOU.
Instead of going down the New Year’s resolution road of body shame by means of near starvation through liquid diets and endless hours of burpies motivated by an instructor telling you how fat you are (or will be if you don’t do exactly what they say), I’ve put together a list of New Years resolutions that have nothing to do with body hate and everything to do with celebrating and honoring the amazing body you already have. Here are your 5 body positive fitness resolutions for 2016. Enjoy!
1. Throw out your activity tracker
“WHAT?! I just got one for Christmas!”
Yep. I know, sounds a bit harsh. Here’s the thing. Most of these so-called motivational activity trackers use guilt and shame as a way to motivate. And if you know anything about human nature, doing something when you’re being negatively reinforced to never lasts long because it doesn’t come from a place of empowerment. Do you really need one more thing in your life telling you, you suck? I sure hope not.
Fitness trackers are also another way to disconnect from your body, meaning you are relying on an outside source to indicate whether or not you’re doing “enough” rather than listening to how you feel and what your body is physically telling you. This severing of communication between your mind and your physical body not only facilitates further disconnect in other areas like your ability to notice hunger and fullness cues when you’re eating, but it can also be physically dangerous in that you may ignore important signals in your body to take it easy and slow down in order to avoid serious injuries or illnesses.
Another notable reason to throw that tracker in the garbage is that they also track calories burned which eventually turns your workout into a way to either bank calories for future meals or burn off the “excess calories” you fear will turn you into the stayed puffed marshmallow man overnight. When exercise is only seen as a way to give yourself permission to eat, you set yourself up for a disordered relationship with food and exercise. (which isn’t a lot of fun let me tell you…)
2. Find a new activity you like to do regardless of its popularity or calories burned.
Most people make the decision to take on a new class or activity because they are sold the idea that they will “get results faster!” AKA lose weight quicker in order to achieve the aspirational body the company is marketing in their obligatory advertising. (which, lets face it, is another way to make you feel like crap so they get your money). I’ve had so many past clients with ache upon ache and injuries upon injury ask if something like HIIT (high intensity interval training) or cross fit was a good idea for them. Even though they suffered with multiple past injuries and conditions that currently hampered their ability to move, they were still in the mindset that in order to “get better” they needed to lose weight. In case you are new to my posts, more and more studies are emerging that prove weight has no more influence on your health than your shoe size. Our health is determined by our behaviors not the number on the scale. However, this belief of healthy = skinny in so ingrained into our culture that even clients of mine who suffer from a lot of chronic pain still make weight lose their priority over healing their injuries which usually ends up with them in more pain and new injuries or too tired and weak to do any type of exercise because of crash dieting. Not all workouts are appropriate for your body and the conditions that come with it. Honor your body enough to take care of it by first alleviating any serious pain and focus on healthy habits rather than the number on a scale to improve overall health.
3. Find an activity that is unstructured and social.
Most of the time we think of exercise as heading to the gym or taking a class or going to extremes in an outdoor boot camp. News flash – playing tag with your children is exercise, playing a pick up game of basketball in your park is exercise, walking the mall during these insane after Christmas sales with your friend is exercise. Movement does not have to be structured in order to get the health benefits and in fact, interacting with your children and/or friends when you’re exercising, increases the healthy factor because you’re spending quality time with people you like and enjoy and that’s an increase in serotonin for sure! I define unstructured activity as something that is done without an instructor and without an end goal in mind (think miles run, laps swam, reps and sets accomplished). It’s joyful movement for the purpose of movement and fun. Not all exercise sessions have to have a hard start and stop time or even a serious goal. Make fun and enjoyment the objective more often to improve your mental health along with your physical health.
4. Get rid of the fitness magazines – ALL OF THEM.
Most of us aren’t fools. We are well aware of the airbrushing and photo shopping on all those perfect photos of “flawless” women in these magazines. We have been educated that these do not look like the real person that is actually in the advertisement, however with the amount of images like these that are thrust in front of us on a daily basis, our mind still sees these as real (and attainable) and we internalize these images as what we should look like in order to be happy with our body’s and with our lives. There is very little difference between a fashion magazine and a fitness magazine these days and I would even go as far to say that most fitness magazines have content that can be more harmful than the content found in fashion magazines. With article after article of dieting tips and tricks or secret moves to tone your “problem areas”, the articles in these magazines only help to influence negative body image and instigate harmful and possibly destructive behaviors. Throw them out and cancel your subscription. And if you’re still looking for some good reading, pick up a copy of Yoga and Body Image to start your body positive year off right.
5. Develop a heart body practice
Most of us have heard of the mind body connection but I prefer the heart body connection. Most of the negative self talk and body shaming we internally say to ourselves happens at the level of the brain or the mind. The mind is easily influenced to want external validation to feel worthy or enough. It is in the heart, where our true self and our authentic self really resides. It’s from our heart where we feel worthy, loved and enough just be merely existing but it can be difficult to access this when it hasn’t been practiced. Yoga is a wonderful way to cultivate this heart body connection but there are many other ways to establish this practice. Just by sitting still and taking a few moments to check in with how you’re feeling both emotionally and physically will do wonders for your health. It’s also a wonderful idea to do this check-in before an exercise session; asking your heart if you are coming at your exercise from a positive and empowered place rather than a place of needing to “fix” or having to “burn off”. It’s a mindful practice that can go a long ways in starting your 2016 on the body positive path.