By Sharon Jane Akinyemi
We all may have our days when we feel awkward or uncomfortable in our bodies, but the key to developing positive body image is to recognize and respect our natural shape and learn to overpower those negative thoughts and feelings with positive, affirming, and accepting ones.
Do you like what you see when you look at the mirror? For me it depends on what time of the day I look! I certainly see a nicer reflection after a little makeup and hair styling. Nevertheless, I don’t think I’ve ever thought, “Now that’s perfection. I finally just look right!”
The good news is that my appearance just isn’t as important to me as it used to be. I have learnt to maximise my assets and minimise my liabilities using a few wardrobes and makeup techniques I’ve learned over the years. And by God’s grace, I have overcome my eating issues and maintained a reasonable body weight.
This has certainly helped me improve my overall body image. But most importantly, I am learning to celebrate with gratitude the body and appearance God chose to give me, despite the fact that this “body” is starting to give in to gravity.
Body image is a part of our total self- image. As we’ve already discussed, how we look seems to have more significance than who we are in today’s culture. We are bombarded with magazines and television adverts that say we need to look a certain way. For women that image is a “lepacious” model. For men the pressure is much less, but is there nonetheless. However, only about 10 percent of the population have bodies that even closely resemble the standard our society has placed on us.
Think about your early experience as a teenager or a young adult. What shaped your thoughts and feelings about your physical body? What messages have you been playing to yourself about your outward appearance? Women in our culture are under extreme pressure. Many men have higher expectation about their wife’s or girlfriend’s appearance than there own. Most men don’t realise that the best way to help a woman reach her potential is to affirm her even when her body isn’t perfect.
I had an interesting experience few months ago that illustrate this point perfectly. I was invited to be a guest on a local radio station for an evening health and fitness segment. My topic was Eating rightly and healthily . They called my number up on air and I offered a free counselling for anyone who was interested . Over the next few days, so many calls poured in. Later that week , I picked up the phone at our office and began a conversation with a fellow who had listened to the radio segment. The conversation went something like this:
“Hi, I’m calling to get some time from you to advice my girlfriend. She has some weight issues, I hate to see her thighs these days” he began, “Okay,” I answered. “Did she ask you to connect her to me for counselling?”
“Well, not exactly. It’s just that well…uh…I kind of think she would need it.”
“Oh, I see,” I replied.
“Well, will it work? I mean, do you really have ideas that can help her get rid of her lumpy thighs? Am sure the excess weight gain around that region could be due to her unhealthy relationship with food. He said excitedly. “Sir, if I get you right, she has cellulite (lumpy deposits of body fat especially on women’s thigh etc) on her thighs? “Yes am sure you can help her fix it,” he said. ” Alright sir but there is no magic cure for cellulite. The ideas I gave during the radio program can definitely help reduce the appearance if they are implemented consistently. But many women are genetically predisposed to store fat in certain areas. Some very thin women can still have a fair amount of cellulite on the back of their thighs and buttocks. In general, women were designed to ‘jiggle’ a little. It sounds like this ‘flaw’ of your girlfriend’s is really bothering you.”
“Well, she would sure look better without it!”
“May I ask you a question?
“Is there anything about your physical appearance that bothers you? I asked.
“To tell you the truth, I am coming up gradually with a little pot belly. That kind of disturbs me.
“Great!” I replied enthusiastically. I have the perfect solution!”
“You do?” he asked skeptically.
“Sure ! This is what you do. Make a pact with your girlfriend. She’ll never look at you from your chest down….and you’ll never walk behind her again.”
Silence. Not the answer he was looking for.
But think about it. The disproportionate amount of time spent seeking the current “look” is really a matter of focus. And one of the best things we can do is to change our focus. As they say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Will you behold society’s image? It’s difficult avoiding the constant bombardment of messages that influence how we perceive ourselves. However, it’s essential if we are to celebrate with gratitude who we really are.
You must decide to invest time and energy in thinking differently. Look around you. How many of the people you see everyday look perfect by today’s standard? Not many. Just imagine if you didn’t pick up one magazine, news paper, or catalogue in the next five years. What if you never watched one minute of television? What would your physical expectation be of your self? It would be much easier to accept and celebrate your body and appearance if you stopped comparing it to an unrealistic “standard.”
As a young woman, I was terribly self conscious about my thighs. I thought they were extensively fat and that everyone noticed my “saddlebags.” I wanted nothing more than acquire the long , lean, “Barbie doll” legs I have come to believe were the model of perfection.
I was obvious to the reality of my naturally narrow waist and flat stomach. All I saw were my fat legs. Little did I know that all the girls who had thicker waist envied mine and never even noticed my “thunder thighs”! Ahh…the power of perspective.
Most women do not see themselves accurately. Like me, they become obsessed with what they view as their flaws. When our body image is warped, it’s very difficult to let go of what you think you should look like and accept what God designed you to be. This is not to say that it is wrong to desire a leaner or healthier and more toned body. The key is to do the right things that promotes reasonable fitness and health and accept the result with gratitude. To change your perspective, change your focus.
EXERCISE FOR HEALTH & FITNESS
4 sets 10 reps push ups
10 vertical jumps
20 `leg raises
20 knee crunches
Do this five – six times a week.
But you must seek doctors advise to commence an exercise regimen especially if you are above 35 years.
People with negative body image have a greater likelihood of developing an eating disorder and are more likely to suffer from feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem, and obsessions with weight loss.
Benefits of Exercise
Doing regular physical is immensely beneficial for health. Some of the health benefits of exercise are as follows:
Heart Diseases: Regular physical exercise strengthens the heart muscle, lowers LDL levels, improves the blood flow to the heart and prevents heart disorders.
Obesity: Daily dose of physical activity considerably reduces body fats, uses up excess calories and in general controls the body from putting on weight.
Back Pain: Exercise improves the muscular strength, helps you maintain good posture, reduces fat levels, and thus prevents back pain and related conditions.
Better Sleep: Good exercise regime helps you sleep faster and get good quality deep sleep without any dream sequences. The natural downscale in body temperature after a strenuous physical workout may help you fall asleep faster.
Sex Life: Daily exercise could help you get energized and can have good positive result on your dull sex life. Exercise improves blood circulation and better sex performance. In recent studies, it has been found that men who do regular work outs are less prone to sex related problems such as erectile dysfunction.
Depression: If you are feeling depressed, then a good round of physical exercise can stimulate the brain nerves and make you feel elevated, relaxed and happier. You can feel really better after an exercise session. It helps boost confidence levels and reduces undue stress.
Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to do it out of force; a dance session is also a form of exercise. Going trekking, playing around in your child’s play room or just dancing in the rain-everything counts as a healthy physical work out.
Accept yourself, Accept your body, with gratitude.