Thank You, Body
—In the Spirit Of Fitness—
“Geez, you’re a mess.” “You’re so (substitute perceived imperfection of choice here).” “You'll never change.” As we strive to alter our bodies, we’re not always kind in the things we say to them or about them.
Would we ever throw these insults at our child or a close friend? No. We understand that words can devastate. We typically don’t sum a person up, especially a dear one, purely in terms of their physical appearance. Often, though, we do judge ourselves this way. In fact, it can become a habit of rumination, repeating the same negative thoughts on a neverending, internal sound loop.
To put it mildly, this recurring negative self talk makes fitness (not to mention life in general) a far less pleasant process. We can feel defeated before we even make an effort or feel as if no effort we make is ever really enough. Here's the thing, though: We can both experience frustration with our progress and hold high expectations of ourselves WITHOUT berating ourselves.
It might sound silly, but an effective approach can be to treat ourselves like a child that we’re raising or teaching. Great parents & teachers gently but firmly bring out the best in their students. I believe they also listen and learn from the young people they shepherd. Perhaps our most promising approach to fitness involves treating our bodies this way—with kind, encouraging words; with steady, sustainable pressure to improve, while listening to what they’re telling us; and with gratitude for their presence and the incredible work they do daily just to BE.
Here are three simple ways to start breaking the habit of negative self talk:
Focus on the ways your body serves you each and every minute of the day and night.
The body is truly miraculous. Because we evolved to latch onto the negatives, we easily brush over what is going well with it—until it is not. But just think about the myriad tasks your body tackles 24 hours a day, many of which happen without our awareness. Yes, our bodies carry us to the bus stop and let us launch into dances when appropriate (or even when not appropriate!). They also generate cells, digest every food selection we make, sort memories, pump our hearts about 100,000 times a day, take approximately 22,000 breaths a day—You get the idea. Our spirit lives within a truly amazing body!
Practice, practice, practice speaking well of yourself and kindly to your body.
Why does it seem so easy to form not-so-great habits and so dang difficult to break them? No easy answer comes to mind, but there are a couple of things that can help shift negative patterns. One way to form a new habit is to repeat it regularly. It might not even be ridiculous to set a reminder on your phone once or twice a day that literally tells you something great about yourself. Also, replacing one behavior with a new one can be key. Have a sentence in mind to sub for the critical one when it pops into your head. Please note, that if a negative body image intensely hampers your lifestyle and ability to function (as it does for many, many people), it’s imperative to seek a professional who can help you alleviate this.
Challenge the negative thoughts.
This tried and true approach from the cognitive behavior therapy field can stop the rumination loop in its tracks. You may have to challenge them repeatedly, but often, when we start sincerely questioning the thoughts we're having, we defuse them of their negative power over us. When an especially self critical voice arises, ask if the judgment is really true. You might also ask if you'd ever criticize someone you love the way this voice is finding fault with you. Little by little, we open up space for self kindness.
We’re not guaranteed a perfectly functioning body or stereotypical beauty or even our next day. Why not sincerely appreciate the body that carries us through this day? Why not breathe a silent, “Thank you, body.”
Photo by Hassan OUAJBIR on Pexels