False Body Positivity and What to do Instead

People think that I’m immune to certain things because I’m a dietitian. Well let me tell you, I’m not! I think it’s important to be real and honest about those things.

body-imageI often notice a girl who goes to the gym about the same time I do. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for her continuous work to build strength and athleticism. Despite this, I realized I began comparing myself to her and feeling negative about myself. “You need to work harder to be leaner like her,” and “You need to lift more to be as strong as her,” were thoughts that crossed my mind. As if simply comparing myself to her weren’t enough, I caught myself at another, equally dangerous behavior: I started comparing her to myself. “She probably wishes she had my height,” I thought.

When I actually noticed those thoughts going through my mind and recognized what it was doing to me, my stomach turned.

“What’s so bad about that? She probably does wish she had your height,” my champions would cheer.

Well, maybe she does and maybe she doesn’t wish that. What that other girl may or may not envy about me is beside the point. I aim to be okay with myself as-is, no questions asked, unconditionally, in any situation. That means noticing when I’m making comparisons, and digging deeper to find out from where that comparison is coming. Taking a compassionate, non-judgmental perspective can help me explore what I’m feeling and why I’m assessing myself in that way.

Cutting myself down by comparing myself to another person is a slippery slope that will surely to lead to discontentment. Do I really want to feel good about myself by diminishing someone else? If finding fault with another is the only way I can be okay with myself, I need to do some serious work figuring out why I’m in a rut of negativity.

Many who struggle with self-acceptance have heard “body positivity” sayings such as, “Everyone has something they’re insecure about,” or “Even the most attractive person in the world would probably be jealous of something about you.” I am here to tell you these are nonsense. Yes, they might be true, but do they matter?

Essentially, relying on others’ insecurities means that you cannot be content unless others are dissatisfied. Why avoid your own insecurities by taking solace in the fact that others have them, too? Why would you need the most attractive person in the world to be jealous of something about you before you accept yourself? Each of those statements are false body positivity. They are backwards comparisons masquerading as foundations for improved body image and self-esteem.

By relying on false body positivity, you hinge your happiness on something external over which you have no control. What if that foundation is shaken? Where will you turn for your true, unwavering body positivity?

Even I, as a dietitian and someone who encourages self-acceptance and a confident body image, fall prey to these comparisons. I have found two methods to help myself internalize self-acceptance rather than seek it from outside of myself:

  1. Be thankful for what your body is capable of, thankful for the aspects of your health that are good, thankful for the opportunity to improve the negative aspects of your health. Focus on the things you love about your body, not because anyone else should love them, too, but simply because you love them.
  2. Speak for yourself, not against anyone else. Strive to focus on your own merits and improve in the areas where you are weakest. This goes for nutrition, fitness, and health in general, in all aspects of your life. Eating one brownie when your friend ate two does not make you a better person. Stick to one brownie because you feel satisfied and are honoring your hunger, or eat a second brownie if that’s what your body is telling you! Drop the comparison, and listen to your individual needs.

When it comes down to it, how you feel about your body or mind or soul or decisions has no bearing on anyone else. Build your own self-acceptance from the inside for a resilient confidence.

Please share your experiences with comparisons and self-acceptance in the comments section below! How do you practice internalizing a positive self-image?

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Then & Now: What It Means to be an Athlete

Then & NowAs I basked in the afterglow of a recent workout, I found myself reflecting on why exercise matters to me and what it really means to me.

I love to feel like an athlete. Several words help illustrate what my perception of an athlete:

Strong

Capable

Determined

Hardworking

Sweaty!

The more I thought about it, the realization dawned on me that I have always sought these feelings through exercise. As a tri-sport athlete in a small-town high school (I participated in volleyball, basketball, and track & field annually), I got my fill of feeling like an athlete through sports. As an adult, I have much less directed or structured athletic endeavors.

From the time I was in high school sports to adulthood, my drivers to reach that feeling of athleticism have changed substantially.

 

Competition with Others vs. Competition with Myself

In high school sports, being an athlete was very much geared toward being a better athlete than my competitors from other schools. I needed to be more than another person – more strong, more capable, just more. Now, I don’t much care where anyone else’s fitness skills are in relation to mine; if I can compete with myself and improve myself and my own fitness compared to where I was yesterday or last week or last year, I’m winning!

 

Stats vs. Health

In order to determine which of two people the better athlete is, sports statistics are used: race times, distances thrown, shots scored, wins/losses, etc. These days, I’m only comparing my statistics to my prior statistics. For me, fitness indicators include running pace, frequency of exercising, and pounds on the bench press bar. A few other numbers have been thrown into the mix, too – mainly, blood labs such as cholesterol and blood sugar that let us know if our bodies are healthy on the inside.

 

What I Can’t Do vs. What I Can Do

In competing with other athletes, it is important to find deficits and correct them to become a better contender. This results in more of a focus on can’t rather than can. For example, “I can’t consistently shoot free throws,” or “I can’t swim as fast as my competitor,” or “I can’t hit through that blocker.” When I compete only with myself, I get to focus on what I can do. Lately, my list includes, “I can run faster than before” and “I can lift more weight than last month” and “I can hold downward dog without wondering when the yoga instructor will let us change positions.” (That last one is a pretty fantastic accomplishment for me!)

 

Don’t get me wrong – sports are great! This simply reflects how my perspective on athleticism has changed over time

Whatever your reasons may be for seeking your version of athleticism, know that those are great and keep fueling that spark!

Give a Little Body Love

Give a Little Body Love

Give a Little Body LoveThis is a shout out to everyone who may get down on themselves. We all have our quirks, whether we are shopping and the most adorable pair of pants is the wrong size or because we can’t run as far today as we did yesterday. It is easy to be critical of ourselves and to forget all the fabulous things we can do.

Today I ask you to be your own best advocate. Nobody knows what you need or how to take care of yourself better than you. You experience your body’s pains, and its pleasures. Here is to being self aware and recognizing and meeting the demands of our bodies and minds. Here is some body love from me to you. I use these to treat my own body with love in a way that fits my life experiences, but yours may be quite different. Most importantly, find what makes you feel good and do it for yourself.

  1. Appreciate what my body does. Those feet you hate because they look funny, spend every day supporting your weight and helping you get from one place to another.
  2. Note my positive physical attributes. When I am in a group of women I have noticed that it is easier to recognize what we don’t like about ourselves and talk about that than it is to talk about what we love. I combat this by stating what I like about myself as opposed to what I don’t like, even if that isn’t how the conversation is going.
  3. Health is an individual goal. It isn’t based on my bodies shape or how many times I deprive myself from certain foods. It is a balancing act of finding what I like and what I can do for myself while creating a lifestyle that fits my needs. This is why I disregard those popular motivational quotes “Strong is the new sexy” or “Thin feels better than food tastes.” We don’t have to put down someone else to feel healthy and beautiful and promoting body punishment is not acceptable. We can be healthy at any shape and any size.
  4. I realize that I am the only person that can take care of me. If I have a migraine or a hurt foot, I am the only person that can decide I need a break. I value myself enough to recognize my pain and do what it takes to heal. It can be really hard to not push myself, but I know that I won’t get better unless I take care of myself.
  5. I want to be the best I can be, and this means knowing I have room to improve without being negative about myself. It is okay to want to change how I look and to be better, but in the process I want to appreciate all the things I can do right now. Check out Jamie’s quote from Jen Widerstrom!

I want to end with a quote from Miss Jamie – this is my new favorite mantra: “I am big because I have muscles, I have muscles because I am strong, and I am strong because I work hard.”

Please share with us what you do to take care of yourself and appreciate the body you have right now!

 

About the Guest Author: Hi, I am Jackie! I am a University of Wyoming graduate with a BS in Family and Consumer Sciences. I am also a yogi, dog lover and extension agent in Montana. I am just starting 9 month yoga training adventure to become a certified teacher, I have been practicing yoga for 10 years. I am so excited to be a guest blogger for Miss Jamie!

To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.

Ways to Get Your Exercise Outdoors

As the weather warms up, we all want to get outside and enjoy it! When daylight is limited, it can be tough to decide between working out inside the gym or relaxing in the sunshine. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive, though – try these ways to fit in your physical activity while playing outside and you can enjoy the beautiful weather without missing your workout.

Even better, you can take the opportunity to play outside as just that: time to go back to your playful childhood days when you stayed out ‘til dark. Here are some outdoor exercises you could try, some serious and some just to have fun and get your body moving:

  1. Go for a walk.girl riding bike
  2. Go for a jog.
  3. Go for a run.
  4. Ride your bike.
  5. Go window shopping downtown – make it into a scavenger hunt!
  6. Play catch with a baseball or a football.
  7. Look for a nearby park with a walking path and fitness stations to test your strength with various obstacles.
  8. Walk to a friend’s house for a visit.
  9. Lay out your yoga mat on the lawn.
  10. Intersperse your walk/jog/run with 30-second intervals of bodyweight exercises like skipping, lunges, burpees, pushups, or anything else you can think of.
  11. Take your dog to the dog park and run around with him/her.
  12. Climb every set of stairs you can find on your walk.
  13. Use a park bench or picnic table for step-ups, jumps, or inclined pushups.
  14. Play tag.
  15. Play volleyball, basketball, soccer, street hockey, tennis, or another sport.
  16. Go surfing.
  17. Jump rope.
  18. Return to your childhood and play hopscotch.
  19. Swim in a local lake.
  20. Grab some friends and do relay races in the backyard – do moves like running, crab walking, and leapfrogging.

So throw on some shorts and get outside to enjoy that sunshine! What are your favorite ways to get exercise outside?