By Sherry Steinman
There is nothing like the confidence and sense of well-being that follows a vigorous workout or fast-paced walk. By exercising regularly we not only shed pounds and develop muscles, but our bodies become more fun to live in again – more responsive, more flexible, stronger.
Psychological benefits are clear, as well. How one feels physically is certainly a big part of one’s self-esteem and self-image. It is generally said that, “When you think you look good, you feel good.” However, it is also true that just because a person is in shape doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t feel obsessed with looking better. It’s easy to be continually dissatisfied with appearance because it is one of the major ways we’re judged by others.
Self-esteem and body image are linked, but one should not be exclusively dependent upon the other.
Women especially link body image to self-esteem, and are more likely to take up fad diets or short-term diets of all kinds as a remedy to their perceived weight problem. Putting it bluntly, fad diets are destructive and they don’t work. They stress your body for a short time, during which your body tries mightily to hold on to what you are trying to take away. In the process, these diets almost always:
- Eliminate some fat but also consume a measure of muscle;
- Lower metabolism;
- Offer inadequate nutrients in imbalanced combinations;
- Tax the entire body, making some dieters subject to dire consequences such as heart problems;
- Ensure that the dieter gains fat more quickly once the diet has ended.
Paying the Toll
Becoming obsessed about your weight is also detrimental to your psychological health because you:
- Internalize the standards of what others think is attractive;
- Emphasize how you look over how you feel;
- Are kept in a vicious cycle of weight loss followed by unavoidable weight gain once you are off the diet;
- Perpetuate negative emotions like disgust, frustration, or even anger.
The Long-Term Approach
So, what’s the answer to maintaining a healthy body image and self-esteem? Are you meant to go through life feeling that you are a hopelessly out-of-shape, underachieving slob? Absolutely not! Starting today, take an objective assessment of yourself from the inside out. Then, do the same with that exterior view. Now, build on the positives and don’t let yourself be sidetracked.Ladies, from the inside – are you musically talented and thoughtful? Do you have great legs but a thick waist? Are you beautiful but overweight? Do you have a great sense of humor? Accentuate your positives, and work on the weight gradually.
Men, are you creative and computer-savvy but soft in the upper body due to a desk job? Concentrate on your creativity and then start picking up some free weights. Use them! Are you balding but beautiful? Your perception of how much hair you have is probably much harsher than the reality! In fact, your window on reality is a reflection of how you see yourself.There’s nothing like the confidence and sense of well-being that follows the long-term approach to fitness. Commit to it and it will become a healthy habit.
Starting today, take an objective assessment of yourself from the inside out. Then, do the same with that exterior view. Now, build on the positives and don’t let yourself be sidetracked.