We are from all walks of life, have different genes and varying body fat percentages; we have different careers and levels of education, but I bet we can agree on one thing: Looking up workouts online makes us feel inadequate. I know I’m not the only one who has felt flabby, pale, and like a fashion disaster at the gym just by trying to learn some new moves.
Even things like the “Fitspiration” movement on instagram are empowering mostly for that individual, but for many of their followers, each photo reminds them of how they don’t look. I’m not against it necessarily, but I’m not for it, either. I try to encourage women and attract new clients by means other than photos of my body. Comparison is engrained into the female mind, and I don’t want to discourage anyone who struggles with a negative body image– especially since research shows one of the biggest shame triggers for women is their appearance.
Comparing your body sets you up for failure
It’s unsettling to me that people are trying to get others to exercise by (many unintentionally) destroying any confidence they have in themselves. Most of us are keenly aware of our physical flaws, and we don’t love being reminded while looking up a new crockpot recipe on Pinterest. I don’t believe those images and ads are all bad, but isn’t there a better way?
Another unsettling issue is that when people try the new ultra-challenging-bikini-ready-body-workout-extravaganza they found on pinterest or a popular fitness site, they realize it’s too hard. Not only do these people now think their bodies are disaster areas, they also feel like it’s never going to get better because they can’t do this workout. Heck, there are many of those workouts I can’t even finish- and last time I checked I’m a personal trainer!
The flip side is the workouts with the really skinny model lifting three pound dumbbells and telling you this workout will help you get sexy in ten minutes. What!? No. No offense to that lovely woman, but there’s a good chance she didn’t get that way from three pound weights and ten minutes.
Gut check: Our source of motivation could be hurting us
Are you guilty of this unhealthy habit? Many people put up pictures of fitness models (on a mirror, locker, fridge, etc) so they have “motivation” to make them exercise. Are we sure that’s healthy? Do you wonder if that “motivating” picture is doing more harm to your self-esteem than it is good to your waistline? We are walking a thin line between disordered thinking and self-motivation in our culture, and it’s time for a change.
I encourage you to think about what really motivates you and to analyze any unhealthy thought patterns that could be unknowingly creating a negative body image.
Perception vs. Reality
I know not everyone is guilty of thinking this way, and I know that many of these people designing killer workouts that we find online are NOT bad or immoral in any way :) They are awesome trainers with well-designed workouts (there are many that I LOVE!). They post pics of hot abs to get clients because that’s what sells in our culture. (And if they weren’t so fit or hot we wouldn’t want to look like them, so we have to give them some props- their hard work paid off!)
Although we possess the knowledge that a lot of fitness models have genes to allow them to look this way, get paid to workout, and (in some cases) graphic designers to airbrush them into perfection, we leave out this information in our comparison to our own bodies. We set their bodies as our goal and standard of perfection, which causes us to dislike and discourage ourselves with this so-called motivation, and most of us ultimately end our pursuit in failure.
If you are guilty of any of these things, I want to propose a better-than-swimsuit-ready-challenge: Change your thinking. Stop comparing yourself to people with different genes, a different schedule, and a different budget. Find a healthy goal weight for you, with a realistic time frame to get there, and then start working towards it. Set health goals, like exercising so you can be around for your grandkids, or to reduce your risk of heart disease or certain cancers. What about changing your motivation to having energy to chase your kids around, or to be able to carry in groceries without it making you tired? Set an attainable goal for yourself and reach it to build confidence. Confidence is ridiculously attractive.
Fixing the body comparison problem
Now is a great time to analyze your motivation (or possibly your lack of?) and see if it is healthy or not. Exercising to look better usually gets people off the couch faster, but it’s not sustainable for most personality types. Exercising for health is not as glamorous, but it’s more sustainable and the amazing by-product is that you should lose weight, get stronger, maybe even find your abs again, and feel great about yourself in the process. There are many days that looking good in my jeans drags me off the couch, but there’s no way that could sustain me long-term.
And don’t take yourself too seriously- there’s more to life than a six-pack!