There's More to Fitness than Achieving the 'Perfect' Body
Perfect; it's the word we need to ditch for 2023. The perfect body, perfect weight, shape, face, and the list goes on. I haven't even touched on the material perfectionism we are bombarded with on a regular basis as we compare one another's perceived lives through social media channels.
When it comes to fitness and training goals, I am all for working towards a target - be that ideal weight or shape because let's be honest, it's motivating and helps us to get up and commit to the training process. In my experience, once my clients begin to trust the process and get deeper into their fitness journeys and see results (mentally and physically), then the connection and the drive starts to run much deeper. As our bodies become used to the routine, the expectation of training, of working hard, the hormones we pump out will alter our body's chemical balance during these periods of exertion, and so we crave the experience for the feeling it gives us, often more than the aesthetic results, and the more we get into it mentally, the more those physical results will come as a pleasant byproduct of our hard work and commitment. You just have to trust the process.
'Body image is a combination of the thoughts and feelings that you have about your body,' according to the National Eating Disorders Collaboration NEDC. From perceptual to affective, cognitive and behavioural, there are many ways that we perceive our body image. Body image is so personal, and having a lack of control over changes can be very difficult to those who constantly compare their present shape to earlier versions of themselves, which can of course take a toll on one's mental health over time - forever striving for that 'perfect' body. And then what? You achieve the perfect body, does that mean you will be happy? Does your happiness therefore hinge on how long you can sustain that body? Because that's a pretty dangerous place to be in, purely because there are so many factors that can affect weight and body shape that will ultimately be out of your control, so you have to be at peace with fluctuations and set goals that benefit you from both a mental and a physical standpoint.
'When a person is able to accept, appreciate and respect their body, they may be described as having a positive body image. This is not the same as body satisfaction, as you can be dissatisfied with aspects of your body, yet still be able to accept it for all its limitations,' says the NEDC.
For the average gym-goer, attaining the 'perfect body' will take some time, not to mention serious commitment to training and eating strictly in accordance with these goals. Quick-fixes are short-sighted in my opinion, and they rarely create long-term change because they are simply not sustainable. So please don't be afraid to wear those shorts, or that bikini, or your favourite crop top if your body isn't as picture perfect as you wanted it to be at this point. Sometimes we just have to accept that this is the stage our body is at. We have to make peace with the normal fluctuations our bodies go through - particularly women, throughout our 28-day cycles: hormonal fluctuations, water retention, weight gain, weight loss, strong days, tired days - you name it, it's all part of the cycle. So let's try to be a little easier on ourselves and think of the bigger picture. Think of the strength your body gains through training, the endorphin rush you achieve, the discipline you maintain. Think not of how we look in that bikini while playing volleyball on the beach, instead, how do we feel playing volleyball with friends on a sunny day, in that bikini at the beach. It's about reframing the narrative a little and changing the perspective here, or refocusing the intent and rethinking the priority, because the more we strive for that 'perfect' state of being, of looking, of living, the less we actually experience and enjoy it in the moment.
What really matters:
You maintain a healthy BMI - (Body Mass Index). 'Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health and can help you prevent and control many diseases and conditions.'
You exercise regularly, at least 30 minutes of walking per day and strength training 3-4 times per week.
Don't compare yourself to others - particularly influencers on social media. They may use filters, or cosmetic surgery, or maybe they just have good genes and don't have to work as hard for that 'perfect' body you are trying to replicate.
Body fat percentage - we want to look not at the weight on the scales, but the ratio of fat-to-muscle mass, relying less on the numbers on the scales, instead focusing on how our clothes fit and the shape of our bodies more specifically. A lot of emphasis is placed on the numbers, but remember that those numbers may actually be indicative of your goals going in the right direction (gaining muscle mass), even if you see them creep up on the scale.
You consider both physical and mental health goals.
You focus on being in the moment, feeling the experience, rather than simply seeing it through the lens of an Instagram filter. #nofilterneeded
Be more concerned about visceral fat (that accumulates around your organs), not so much on a bit of extra softness closer to the surface.
Your genetics will influence how and where body fat is stored. Work out to feel strong (and be strong), to move effectively and with intention, and give your body its best chance at longevity and a healthy lifespan.
For more personalised tips on training and achieving your personal goals, book a consultation and we can talk about your health & fitness journey in more depth.