I know I am not the only one that since being in my 20s and finally feeling like a woman, the need to take better care of my body has been on the forefront of my mind. Unfortunately, this also includes the fitness aspect *sheds a tear*. Now I am self-care queen but the health and fitness aspect of it intimidates me. As like a lot of you, I have this ‘I can not come and kill myself’ mindset when it comes to fitness.
I have tried countless times to join the ‘fit fam’ community but it never lasts, and feeling bad about my inconsistency is inevitable. However, I decided to do something very countercultural and bold if I do say so myself. I called it ‘Operation; Embrace Your Fupa’. I know you are a bit curious about what I mean so stay with me, it will all make sense soon.
Over the course of six months, I was intentional about taking time off working out, restrictive eating and being critical of the way my body looked. I decided to give my body time to do its thing and use this period to figure out why I have been failing in fitness all these years. Now I am in no way recommending this for anyone but in this article I am going to be sharing with you the important role body image plays in our fitness journey, a few tips to help if you are suffering from body dysmorphia and tips on how to take your fitness routine from feeling like a punishment to something you enjoy and can stick to long term.
Body image is so important but rarely discussed in relation to fitness but realistically speaking, this is where for a lot of us, our ‘fitness journey’ starts. Body image is a person’s perception of the aesthetics or sexual attractiveness of their own body.
How many of us have ever been told to “watch our weight because we are getting big” ? How many of us have ever complained about not being a fan of our body type and the response we get back is “if you do not like it then change it”, or maybe you have insecurities about your body and you thought working out and eating clean was the solution to it.
I know a lot of us can relate to the above, but what we fail to realize these scenarios do is create the idea in our minds that fitness is some correctional program for the poor way we see ourselves. This in turn creates a love/hate relationship when it comes to exercise and eating well.
For an awfully long time I was working out and starving myself as a means of punishment without realizing, because I did not see my body as ideal or the bikini body type. I would go on a daily 50 calorie diet and stay on the treadmill for a total of 5 hours a day in intervals. Not because I wanted to, but because I wanted to reach the ideal of what I thought beauty and health looked like. This only kept the cycle going and I was utterly miserable through it.
During my experiment, I realized that the foundation for a healthy and sustainable fitness journey is positive body image. This is when you understand that your sense of self-worth does not depend on your appearance. This ensures that you are going on the journey from a place of self-love and not for validation.
Embarking on a fitness journey is not just a form of self-care, but is a requirement for proper functioning of our bodies, and when done for the wrong reasons and with the wrong intentions, you can be sure that you are in for a bumpy ride.
I have a few tips if you are dealing with body image issues. If you need someone to talk to, join our girl-gang community; a safe space where you can talk about anything and everything with other women like yourself.
- Ask yourself why: This is something looking back that I wish I had gotten to the root of when it came to my body image issues, because it would have uncovered the truth about the way I was feeling and why I felt so bad about myself. The truth will set you free. When next you find yourself talking down on yourself confront it with ‘why’.
- Comparison and trying to measure up will always leave you feeling insecure: Perhaps you are comparing yourself to girls you see on social media or even your friends, or maybe your boyfriends ex? We have all been there, but you can choose to lift yourself up out of that place of always feeling less than those around you. As difficult as it may seem, it is a choice you have to make. Comparison has and will always be a thief of joy.
- Take care of yourself: Treat yourself with tender love and care because you absolutely deserve it. Do not hesitate to give yourself that baby girl treatment. You will always feel better afterwards! sha don’t break the bank.
Time To Get Fit
Let’s face facts, we all know the benefits of working out and eating well and how good it is for our bodies, but we tend to run away from it because we believe it equates to living in the gym or eating salad for breakfast especially in Nigeria where our diet is made up of white rice and bread. Maintaining the internet version of health and fitness just does not seem practical in our society. In this section I am going to be sharing the basics of putting together a fitness routine regardless of wherever you may be in your fitness journey.
- Sustainability should be the core of your routine: I would repeatedly make the mistake of putting together routines that I knew I just would not stick to. Even the way I would plan and portion my meals was just not practical in any way. I would create hour long workouts that I could not even get through the first five minutes of, tried to get a gym membership when I know I prefer working out at home, and go on no carb diets when I am a bread lover at heart. There is no short cut in fitness. It is about progression not perfection, and the only way to make real progress is through consistency which is highly dependent on how sustainable your routine is.
- Get your body moving: Getting our bodies moving is essential for our health, but there are many different workouts to try and I am sure that you will find one or a few that you love and is doable for your lifestyle, preferences and mood. There are so many workouts to explore such as dance workouts, Pilates, Yoga, Jump roping, Aerobics, Cycling, Walking, even Swimming if you have access to a pool. And the beauty of all these workouts is that they achieve the same goal of getting your body moving.
- Moderation not restriction: I personally am not a fan of the phrase ‘eat healthy’ because it indirectly labels some foods as good and bad. It is about moderation not restriction. When it comes to food the best way to go is to plan realistically. If your goal is to lose or gain weight I strongly advice cutting or adding bit by bit as drastic changes are not sustainable. I do not believe in dieting unless recommended by a doctor. However, it is important to ensure that we are feeding our bodies with the nutrients that it needs to function properly and preserve our health.
- Remember to have fun: Regardless of where you are right now in your fitness journey, whether you have fallen off the bandwagon and are just trying to get back on, or maybe you have been at it for a while now. It is important to remember the goal is not to punish our bodies but to take care of it the best way we can, and no one said that can not be fun. Host group workout sessions with your friends, treat yourself, prepare meals you enjoy and encourage yourself with cute workout clothes.
The benefits of taking care of your body especially in the area of fitness are endless, but it is also important to ensure that you are doing it in a way that is enjoyable and sustainable for you. This makes eating well and working out something you look forward to as against something you dread doing. If you do feel like you need professional help with body image or even with putting a fitness routine together, please do not be afraid to reach out for help. Treat your body right and it will serve you to the best of its ability.