The Space between the Inhale and the Exhale
Women changing the conversation around movement
Photo taken at the 2017 Women’s Health and Fitness Summit
New Year’s Day feels a little bit like the space between the inhale and the exhale, don’t you think?
A little gap between the crazy that was 2017 and the starting of 2018.
The gap between what was and what can be.
In the fitness industry, this amounts to a bombardment of offers and deals to make good on folk’s New Year’s Resolutions – which always inevitably include “loosing weight” and “getting healthy.”
Now I am not adverse to reflection and setting goals, in fact I have done this many time with Thea Baker. In fact, I think she is the Queen of Goal Setting and has even created this amazing tool to help you do it.
We all feel the pinch of guilty pleasure that has come from over indulging at Christmas and then again at New Year’s. In fact many welcome back the routine that will see their eating and exercise habits get back on track. Myself included. However, it is better to think of our health and fitness like giving pets for Christmas – they are for life. Not just for the short term.
What I do mind though, is the inevitable bombardment of unrealistic images and fat shaming that can come from the health and fitness industry.
And that does affect us.
Unrealistic and unethical images
As women, even though we are wise of photoshop and the marketing ploys, their effects are no less powerful. In fact research* tells us that one out of two women report feeling worse about themselves after looking at images of attractive women in magazines. Even though 77% of women studied blamed unrealistic standards set by media and advertising as the key perpetrators.
We know that these images are unrealistic, we know how they make us feel – but like passing a car accident, it is difficult to turn away. It is difficult to be objective about them.
Unrealistic images of women do not automatically lead to eating disorders, or disordered eating – otherwise every woman on the planet would be sporting one. However, it can impact greatly on those who are already in the grasp. And the spectrum of disordered eating and eating disorders is vast.
But, I would go so far as to say – that using unrealistic photoshopped images of women to sell your health and fitness products or services is unethical.
Body Positive New Year Resolutions
So in the space in between indulging and restricting, I would like to share some body positive tips with you to help manage the New Year.
- Make the algorithms work in your favour.
You have more power than you realise over your social media newsfeed. Create a New Year’s clean up. Start by looking objectively at your newsfeed. What proportion of people or businesses that you follow promote one kind of look and messaging (the unrealistic kind)? Compared to a diversity of health and fitness images and messaging? Use Facebook algorithms to your advantage. Unlike and report those who do not serve to make you feel good.
- Good health habits may be kicked off at New Year, but adopted for life.
Choose a health and fitness provider that ethically understands this. Be a critical observer of their images and messaging. Choose the ones that show diversity of body images and has messages about how health and fitness makes you feel, rather than make you look. If they use “before” and “after” – is it just about weight loss? Or does it also include before and after health benefits?
Aesthetics may drive us to start, but how we feel will keep us engaged.
- Bad parts of our bodies. Good parts of our bodies. Get the balance.
How many conversations have you been a part of, where women will isolate body parts and complain about them? I decided a long time ago to stop entering into these discussions and steer the conversation away from this endless rabbit hole. It was a very conscious decision.
This is a challenge to be sure. My own eye tracks immediately to the places of my body that I don’t love as much. In the past, a good or bad day could be set by how I perceived these to look from the morning reflection. These are tough habits to unlearn. A strategy I have learnt to deal with habits that don’t serve me is to instead berate myself for doing it, acknowledge that this is a habit and then replace it. This means for every time I acknowledge something negative about my body, I must find something positive.
- Avoiding comparisons.
I think this is the most difficult one by far. The unrealistic images we see affect us, because they are subtly (or not so subtly) asking us to compare our own bodies to these images. Hence, the reason why these images have such an unfavourable outcome on our mental health. However, it also conditions us to do this in our day to day lives with our interactions with real people.
This is what can give people licence to discuss and criticise other people’s perceived bodily faults.
Again, this is a habit and can be dealt with by acknowledging and replacing. If you find yourself searching the mirror at the gym or yoga studio looking for someone to compare yourself favourably or unfavourably against; acknowledge what you doing. And replace it with a more positive habit. For example changing the self talk to appreciating the diversity of bodies that are enjoying exercise with you. Or a reminder that your work out is for you, and how it makes you feel.
These points are not new. Just like the images you are going to be seeing (or have already since the start of summer) – but it is your choice what you read and fixate on.
So take the moment between the inhale and exhale
and set some body positive intentions for 2018.
Postive Affirmations for 2018:
I know that spending more time on reading and consuming images and messages that serve me,
are better for my long term mental and physical health.
I know that images and messages that serve me, keep me fit and remind me that eating well
and exercising are neither a chore or a punishment.
These habits are just a positive and a routine part of my life.
I have power over what images and messages seep into my life.
And I understand the power they have over me.
So I choose the ones that best serve me.
If you would like to read another 10 tips that can keep you focused on adopting fitness routines for a life time – read this excellent blog written by Donna.
—————Extra note from Mish —————-
One of the reasons that I have moved to Curves, is there messaging 100% resonates with me.
There messages are just as much about how fit and healthy feels as much as the aesthetic value.
*More than 10,500 women and girls were questioned as part of The Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report, which took answers from candidates aged between 10 and 60 and from 13 countries around the world. Their responses made up the statistics that formed the largest study the brand has ever commissioned.
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