By: Lu Salgado.
I think it is time for us to talk about this, that mindset with which must of us approach the world of fitness and diets. This topic has been one of the most complicated for me, because I have approached it throughout my life in many ways: to look better, to look better and to look better. Always for others. Always to be seen, to be noticed, to call attention.
It never crossed my mind to do things for me and if you go through this, let me just say that you are not the only one, we are many relating to this world with the same mindset, the thing is that most of those who are tired of the world of fitness and exercise don’t express it because that implies getting out of “habit” and from “normality”.
We are living in a diet culture and that is actually easy to realize if we notice actually what we see on Instagram, most of our conversations with other people around our body or fit life, the approach that brands give to their advertising; everything around a single message.
“You are not enough as you are.”
When I talk about everything that “society imposes on us” or that society wants to put us all on the same basket, I refer to this. If society didn’t send out those messages from different sources maybe our actions would be more aligned to our intuition.
These messages unconsciously make you believe that your hair is not beautiful, that your skin doesn’t look good due to its color or its age signs or that ‘you would do better in life’ if you looked different and specially, that there is this ‘perfect body’ to which we must all aspire and if we don’t suddenly we are some sort of freaks and there’s wrong with us.
I bet someone will say “well, just ignore them…” that is exactly what someone who hasn’t realized the indirect yet flashy signs from society would say. Our heads are capable of unconsciously saving lots of information, our actions do have an origin that comes from the external constant information,
What do you think is what we see the most?
As women we tend to be guided by our mothers, by our friends — as if we were all in a sect where one begins and the others follow, by our boyfriends or simply by the number of external messages that transmit to us that our bodies are just too important. Dr. Renee Engeln in her book Beauty Sick names all this as a disease of beauty, where we usually see our bodies as objects that are supposed to be pretty all the time.
We have became part of this aesthetic system in which our culture operates and with that, it is not surprising the fact that there are so many trends about diets and 21 day challenges of people who claim to have “the absolute truth” about things. In the case of men it is an influence that comes from their parents too but in other cases it is part of the same culture of“macho man” where you are perceived as weak or feminine if you don’t look in a certain way.
We live so automatically that we do not question what we do out of habit or our way of relating to things.
How many times have you questioned your beliefs about exercise and good nutrition? What led you to start all this? or why do you think you haven’t started? Ask yourself that question several times, but leave the physical aside, why are you in this? How would you feel if you didn’t?
As kids we did physical activity to distract ourselves, to have fun and as we grew up that idea became distorted. When were younger we did things spontaneously, by intuition. While growing up our minds were “brainwashed” and we created all kinds of ideas linked to the outer world about possible reasons for our actions and all the ‘must’ and ‘should’ about our lives. We didn’t question, we just act, that’s how we got used to this automatic way. Is this past self of ours that has to heal the old perception of this and that in some cases has a toxic approach with the fitness and healthy world. This past perception that we took on this is the one we have to rethink and redefine , so that it aligns with our new way of being, as adults.
I guess this my way of expressing that I got tired of listening to all the external noise around this topics and that was actually the problem, that I believed those stories so much of all the “you should be…” that I stopped listening to myself.
My traveling body has gone through millions of changes of location, types of food and routines that it has had to get used to. I have let my body enjoy everything it eats without an ounce of guilt but I have also been too strict with using exercising as a ‘punishment’ for having enjoyed certain food, I have counted calories as a freak of measures, I have followed thousands of famous people as if they were sort of my gurus giving them the power to decide whats better for me — what does someone at the other side of the world would know about what’s better for me anyway? I have also joined challenges, bought products, I had done everything except listening to myself and questioning the external ideas. Two things so simple that they make a difference.
We are so disconnected from our essence that our culture leads us to act by impulse to get validated on the physical world.
When you rarely take the time to listen to your inner voice to finally connect with your genuine desires, the habits linked to those should be’s take over you.
On the other hand, we also have self-love, something usually related to our physical aspect. We constantly hear “love yourself, love yourself, loveyourself” alright, okay
…but how the hell do I love myself if all the time I feel that my body is not enough due to everything I see outside?
There is this current pressure to love ourselves all the time, so now, not only we feel pressure for the type of body we have but also, for not loving it all the time, it is a vicious cycle
I do not love my body - I constantly hear that I must love it - I absorb external messages and I have evidence that my body doesn’t look like the others I ‘perceive’ as perfect - I compare myself with others - I don’t achieve to love myself -I feel preassure.
But I’m going to tell you something, you might not like it though. Maybe we will never love ourselves completely or maybe we will, who knows. What is certain is that we can stop struggling with these supposed ideas on how we should look like and our actual reality, by deprogramming ourselves.
I paid a course on Body Confidence and one of the things that stuck with me the must is this concept of body neutrality. This involves moving away from hatred and rejection of our body without the pressure of necessarily loving it. It implies having respect for what your body is at the present moment, being at peace with it. The self-love process is anything but linear or stable. One day you love how you look and the next one maybe you don’t because it is inflamed, has a new scar or your cellulite is more visible. One day you are super active to exercise and others you’re not,
It is a process in which you may not be in love with yourself all the time but you always respect your reality and what your body asks for and that is also love.
It is true that a great pillar of self-love is the relation with our physical aspect and in this, sometimes some of our beliefs regarding self-love and exercise are neither aligned nor working for us. When you feel uncomfortable or frustrated doing something is a signal for you to question it. We tend to confuse self love with conformity in an effort to force us to love ourselves, so we think,
Why would I modify my body through exercise if I supposedly accept it as it is? I shouldn’t be changing it.
While thinking like that I also realized that suddenly I had a conflict with the fact of exercising and being healthy and the thing is that I had a completely distorted focus in my head about doing it. Exercising to look better. I indirectly denied my body the opportunity to feel stronger and better and I stopped honoring it for what it does for me. I didn’t realize that I had let the culture program my mind to think like that though. To question is one of the best acts of self love, because it is the only way to find your own truth. The sooner we redefine them and our approaches the easier it will be to start changing some of our habits, otherwise we’ll get unnecessarily frustrated by following a system that doesn’t make any sense to us.
There are actually tons of studies showing why a healthy lifestyle helps our bodies to feel better, thats not a lie. The thing is that society has changed the focus — to a better paid one, through marketing. Looking good is the result of a serie of actions that actually make you feel good. When you act by intuition you move some inner aspects within you and that gets reflected on the outside. However, guiding yourself by results, at least in this context, shouldnt be the motor of your motivation, doing so is accepting the fact that your worth lies on your physical aspect rather that on your inner values. Maybe in the short term it gives you results that you’ll like if you are based on what you want to see, but in the long term that mentality is not sustainable. The body and mind get tired of having to do something and not being listened to, eventually.
Maybe you wonder, how can I know that I’m guided by the results of my lifestyle?
- Notice your beliefs , maybe on an unconscious level you believe that your value lies on the photos you post or not about yourself.
- Notice your actions if you usually give others the power to decide whats better for your aspect out of fear of not being loved or fully accepted, if you compare yourself to others.
- Notice your relationship with your body, perhaps you identify so much with the way your body looks that you think you wouldn’t be you if it looked different.
At least this is what I discovered on myself once I started questioning.
How could you redefine your approach to this lifestyle?
- Educate yourself: How are you going to do something you’re not even sure works? Listen, I’m not saying you become an expert in nutrition and sports, but as we dedicate our time to other issues, I think it is worth informing us a little more about this. LEARN TO QUESTION WHAT YOU SEE AND WHAT YOU’RE RECOMMENDED TO DO. Not everything is good for everyone, remember we’re not toys for the same box?
- Discipline: I hated this word for a while to be honest, I guess I wasn’t ready to commit with it. I chose to change the approach too. Discipline is what gets you out of trouble, by reminding you the things that actually make you feel good but that you usually forget about and is also an act of self-love. It’s the to be your self love coach rather than a demanding foreman. The thing with discipline is that you learn by allowing yourself to do things, to gradually notice your limits. It’s a matter of daily small promises that send a strong message to your mind: that you’re trustable. This small promises can become habits and routines — which you’re able to change whenever you think necessary, the important thing is to always be faithful to what makes your inner spirit happy.
- Respect your rhythm: This is mainly about how you compare yourself to others. Some know a lot of things more because they’ve started before you, that will always be. If you decide to have this lifestyle, respect your pace, your new learning, your discoveries about how you feel. Comparing yourself is giving others the power to validate you.
- Experience different activities: This is my favorite part. Try as much things as you want until you find that “like home” sensation. Try without expecting or wondering how much weight you’ll lose, just act out of intuition, as if you were looking for missing parts of yours. The point of finding what you like is to spend time with yourself, honoring your body and getting surprised on what is capable of.
If you’re struggling with this as I did do not make the same mistake of denying your body the chance to feel even better (notice I didn’t say look). Make peace with your healthy life so you grow through the process accepting who you are in each part, without judging yourself.
What I want to leave you with is not my great experience exercising, is the inspiration to question, to focus on your inner side rather than on the outer. I believe that as you find your genuine reasons on why you do things, it becomes less difficult for you to resume your habits again, it’ll be like returning to who you truly are, but you have to discover them. You won’t have the perfect body — because it doesn’t exist — you will have your own body, which you’ll feel comfortable with by being at peace with it.
Letting go of your beliefs is a process that requires patience, accepting what you are now without ideas of what someone else would like you to be. None can tell you how to love yourself or force you to do it, you’re the only person able to decide what’s better for you.
Your body is your home, it is good that visitors feel comfortable on it, but they have no opinion on the structure, decoration or color, each one has their home, each one has their rules.
Love yourself, however you feel like doing it.