Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, there’s no denying this is the season of giving. Taking a look at this season from a fitness perspective, I’m suggesting we all begin with ourselves. My wish for all of us is that we strive for fitness for the sake of how it will improve us from the inside as opposed to how it will manifest itself on our exteriors.
When we make body image the primary reason for why we exercise and what we eat, we’re constantly in self-judgement mode. We compare ourselves to others and stress over every calorie. It’s no way to treat ourselves and doesn’t put us in an ideal position to pass along empathy and kindness.
In contrast, making our own health and well-being a priority results in a happier, more balanced life. When we take care of ourselves in this way, we’re in a better position to take care of others. What follows is my wish list for you in this season of love, peace and joy.
Love Yourself with Kindness
In a perfect world, mirrors would be used only to check for runs in stockings, spinach lodged between teeth and misbehaving locks of hair. Sadly, we often use them to tick off an A to Z list of perceived imperfections. Start a new habit in this season of love. When you catch yourself taking mental note of a flaw, find two things you like about yourself. Two positives for every one negative. Every time.
Similarly, feed yourself with quality food. Instead of being concerned with calorie count, think about nourishing your muscles, bones and organs. Focus on the goodness of foods. When you want a sweet treat, don’t sell yourself short by opting for hyper-processed supermarket fare. Get your indulgences from a real bakery. Or, better yet, make them at home from scratch with loved ones. And then, most importantly, savor and enjoy.
Feed your body, too, with movement. Whether it’s cardiovascular, strengthening or stretching, it’s all good for you and sustaining mind, body and soul. Every workout – no matter the mode, length or intensity – is a victory and should be treated as such. A missed workout is only a failure if you use it as an excuse not to exercise the next day.
Doing these things encourages you to appreciate what is good about you, the foods you put into your body and the things you do to keep it strong. It forces you to practice mindful eating which ensures you’ll make healthier choices more often than not and be satisfied with small amounts of the not-so-healthy ones. It trains you to challenge yourself physically when opportunities arise rather than focus on missed opportunities. And they’re a reminder that doing these things are gifts because you love yourself and not for the sake of a superficial ideal.
Be Comforted with Peace of Mind
What exercise and nutrition science is telling us, loud and clear, is scales and the Body Mass Index or BMI (a formula using a ratio of height and weight) are, at best, incomplete tools in assessing one’s health and risk for disease. Overweight and fit is healthier than normal weight and unfit and far healthier than underweight under any circumstances.
This is what I’m always reminding my clients. And, as such, I’m so much more pleased when a client comes to me with a story about running a mile without having to stop or carrying an object she once wouldn’t have attempted to lift as compared to telling me she lost five pounds. The weight-loss is a positive, to be sure. But it isn’t nearly the evidence of improved health and well-being as the other two scenarios.
Kindness and comfort described here lead to improved health and all three lead to happiness. And it’s all contagious. Watch these women, most of whom don’t possess society’s ideal body shape, and note the utter joy in being fit:
‘Tis the season. Begin with you and then pass along love through kindness, peace through comfort and the pure joy of fitness to everyone around you.