“Health, just like houseplants and Tupperware, comes in all shapes and sizes”
Like so many of us, body image is something I’ve always been very aware of, but since becoming a personal trainer and working with different physiques on a daily basis, I’ve come to realise how unique we all are, how ‘healthy’ looks different on different people, and how we all have our own personal goals (which don’t always have to be about what we see in the mirror).
With TV shows like Love Island flaunting perfectly toned, tanned and chiselled human beings, it’s no wonder conditions such as body dysmorphia are on the rise. We’re comparing ourselves to other ‘better’ incarnations all the time, regardless of whether we know them or not. “I shouldn’t compare” we might say to ourselves, unaware of how the very act of comparison has already escaped our watchful conscience and is doing damage. Negative thinking patterns become internalised which, in turn, distort our perceptions of self so we feel inferior. Although I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered the art of body confidence (yet), like you guys I’m still working on it, but I have become more confident in my own skin in the last few years.
Since 2016, Women’s Health have been running a campaign called In Shape My Shape to inspire and empower people to love their bodies and focus on what they can do as a whole, rather than just what they look like. There are four cards in the magazine with four different body-positive slogans. They read:
“MY BODY, MY GOALS, MY HAPPINESS
“I STRIVE FOR PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION”
“STRONG. BALANCED. HEALTHY. HAPPY”
“I’M NOT PERFECT AND I’M OKAY WITH THAT”
The idea is to spread the message, whether that’s by sticking one up on your fridge door so your family can see it too, or sharing it via social media.
I chose “My body, My goals, My happiness” – it really struck a chord with me, reminding me how health and fitness is such a personal thing, and how our journeys are all so different. The others based on perfection are also very relevant, I’m definitely a perfectionist, which means I can be really hard on myself sometimes, but a gentle reminder that it’s OKAY not to be ‘perfect’ goes a long way.
I think having a slogan or a ‘mantra’ that resonates with you is so important (I have many!), something you can repeat to yourself to whenever you notice negative thoughts arising. Whether it’s a quote you’ve read somewhere, or a sentence or two you made up yourself, it can be a really good way of challenging your usual thinking patterns. If you want to go a step further, I suggest writing them down in a diary, or even on a post-it note and sticking it to your mirror.
Finally, I use this philosophy in my work, as well as my personal life. Viewing each of my clients’ bodies as completely unique, I encourage them to focus more on what they can do rather than what they weigh, or how many inches they have lost. “Strong, balanced, healthy, happy” sums up the approach I take with my clients and I’ve found it to have a really positive impact on peoples’ lives, improving both their overall body confidence and creating a healthier lifestyle that’s sustainable.