by Liz Riesen, RD
We are constantly surrounded by social media and advertisements telling us we need to "improve" ourselves. The message may be related to improving our life, our success, our happiness, our health, but more often than not it is our body.
Now it is not necessarily a bad thing to want to improve yourself, but what if you don’t want to? What if you are happy and content with who you are?
Sounds pretty wonderful to me! I believe this is what we are all striving for whether or not we know it. Unfortunately, it is easy to get caught up in the self-improvement whirlwind. I am guilty of it myself, especially when the new year comes around. The issue arises when our desire to constantly improve ourselves leads to higher stress and anxiety—which is by no means an improvement.
So the question becomes how we can get to a point of feeling happy and comfortable in our body so that advertisements no longer have such a strong effect on us. As a registered dietitian this is a question I have worked hard to answer and share with my clients.
First and foremost, I agree we need to physically feel good. This means when there are chronic symptoms of pain, inflammation, digestive issues, or other problems, we should focus on healing those ailments. I agree that excess weight can contribute to symptoms and increase our risk of serious conditions like heart disease and diabetes. So we also want to work toward a healthy weight, but that doesn’t mean we all need to be an ideal body size. When it comes to a goal weight, I always ask my clients what is a weight they remember feeling comfortable and healthy at? Each of us is the expert of our own body and will know what our own healthy weight is.
Health does not stop there, however, and neither should we. It is also important to consider our mental, emotional, and environmental health. Are you finding healthy ways to manage stress? Are you sleeping well and being active on a daily basis? Are you treating yourself with the same kindness and respect you show others?
These are all questions that you do not need to tackle on your own. I would even go as far as to argue you cannot sustain a happy, healthy life without the right people by your side.
Choose to surround yourself with positive people and relationships. If you like group settings, join a support group or class. If you prefer individual interaction look to a friend, relative, or health professional.
Health professionals can play an important part in your journey to health and happiness. Take your time choosing health professionals you fit well with and enjoy talking to. This can include a behavioral therapist, dietitian, life coach, physical therapist, or personal trainer.
While you are working on building your supportive environment, I encourage you to take the pressure off yourself by ditching the idea of “self-improvement.”
No, I’m not recommending you stop exercising and eating vegetables, and please don’t stop showering! Let’s take a minute to make the distinction between self-improvement and self-care.
Self-care (aka. self-love) should always be a priority in your life. It is a common myth that self-care is time consuming. There are plenty of daily habits you can incorporate into your routine that take five minutes or less, and can have a significant impact on your health and happiness!
To start, I want you to focus on nurturing a positive mindset. Easier said than done, I know, but by changing inner beliefs about ourselves and quieting the negative voice inside our mind we allow the positive voice to grow.
Repeating a simple positive affirmation periodically throughout the day can be an easy way to nurture your inner positive voice. One of my favorites is the mantra, "I love and accept myself." Repeat this mantra daily and anytime you feel or say something negative about yourself.
Remember to be patient with yourself. It takes time to change our thoughts and beliefs, but I promise the more you strengthen the positive voice in your mind the weaker the negative voice will become. So stick with it, especially during the tough battles, and remember the ultimate goal of feeling confident and comfortable in your body!
Article first appeared in Gritty Faith Volume 11. Click here to access all past issues.
|Liz Riesen from Venture Nutrition helps women naturally balance hormones, manage PCOS, and heal the gut through a whole body nutrition and lifestyle approach. If you feel disconnected from your body and food feels like a burden, it’s time to make a change. Find guidance, education, and support in healing and supporting a healthy mind and body at www.lizriesen.com