Have you ever noticed that the headlines on all those fitness and fashion magazines are telling you to be and do less in order to be acceptable? Eat fewer calories, lose ten pounds in one week, kill your cravings, 4 exercises for a flat stomach. Nia Shanks over at Lift Like A Girl has a great post on this topic. I want to visit some of her points, and talk about my take on them.
Did you know there’s a whole section of psychology devoted to studying motivation? Scientists study how to get people achieve in various ways, and they talk about things like internal and external motivation, material versus immaterial rewards, and language that encourages instead of discourages. This science gets applied in a variety of sectors, including parenting and advertising. In parenting, we talk about something called positive discipline. The theory is that telling kids what we don’t want them to do… don’t eat that, don’t touch that, don’t jump off of that, don’t hit the your brother…isn’t effective because it doesn’t tell kids what we want from them in terms of behavior. It argues that instead of telling kids what we don’t want, we should tell them what we do want. Instructions like use your gentle hands, please put that down carefully, please listen to my words are more effective because they tell kids what kind of behavior we want from them.
Some scientists argue that this method of demanding women be less is similarly ineffective, because it sets us up for failure. It doesn’t tell us how to change our lives in long term ways that contribute to our health and well being. When we fail at being less, as we inevitably will, we feel shame and guilt, and our emotional relationships to food are likely to cause us to â€œfailâ€ yet again. It’s a vicious cycle.
Nia asks, and I agree, what happens if we change the conversation and encourage women to be more instead of less? What would that look like? Here are the 7 biggest differences for us:
1. Put Down The Scale And Pick Up Some Weight.
When we think about being more, it gives us permission to measure our workouts instead of our weight. Can you do more reps this week than last week? Can you lift heavier? Can you increase the density of your workout? Are you ready to step up to the next level?
2. Trust Your Body, And Pay Attention To What It’s Telling You.
How do you feel after a meal? Do you feel physically satisfied without feeling overfull? Do you have energy? Is your digestion healthy? Then you ate a good meal. Do you feel bloated, tired, nauseated, or is your digestion all out of whack? Then what you ate isn’t helping your body stay healthy. Forget fasting, cleansing or starving yourself. Eat more of the meals that keep you feeling good, and fewer of the ones that leave you feeling sick.
3. Seek Out Resources That Make You Feel Like More, Not Less.
VixieFit, Lift Like a Girl, and other resources we cite here on the blog are devoted to helping women find inner strength and fitness, encouraging them to be healthier and stronger, whatever shape that looks like for them. Steer entirely clear of those lists that start with â€œA Real Woman Is -â€ unless the only thing on the list is â€œWhatever the hell she wants to be.â€ Apart from being incredibly transphobic most of the time, they’re just another way of telling women they don’t fit, masked by a fake layer of body positivity.
4. Focus On Your Cans, Not Your Can’ts.
Every time you find yourself saying â€œI can’t,â€ stop yourself. So you can’t do a full push up right now. What can you do to get yourself closer to a pushup, if that’s your goal? What can you do right now to be the healthier version of yourself?
5. Know Yourself, And Achieve Your Goals.
This is where having a personal trainer can be the difference between muddling through a workout and finding success on the other side. Especially if you’re pregnant, or recovering after the changes your body goes through after pregnancy, having someone who knows the ins and outs of recovery can make a world of difference. A personal trainer’s job is to work with you to create a set of positive goals that you can achieve, based on your own needs and wants. If you’re not sure how to get started, or if you’ve plateaued on your own, even a single meeting with one can help you revamp success and continue on your progress.
As you start giving yourself permission to love the body that you have right now, it becomes easier to see the ways that you are making your body’s job easier, and more difficult. No matter what the fashion magazines try to tell you, health comes at a variety of sizes. Even if your doctor has told you that reducing your body fat is going to benefit your health if you’re pre-diabetic, for example you can still focus on more instead of less to get yourself healthier.
At VixieFit, I want to help you achieve the goals you’ve set yourself. Get in touch with me today to see if our services would fit for your next step towards body positivity and strength.