How To Stay Body Positive Throughout Your Fitness Journey
Written By: Melissa Fiorenza
We’ve all been there. You embark on a new fitness adventure, fueled by a long pent up determination to make significant changes in your life—whether it’s to your appearance, your mental health, your energy levels or overall health. You start off feeling good. You’re finally doing something! And then, you get frustrated.
Your abs aren’t flattening. You’re not yet losing weight. Maybe you get self-conscious in a class surrounded by veteran gym-goers. Whatever it is, we’ve all done it: took a wrong turn in the aisle of body positivity, which is the acceptance of the skin you’re in and appreciation for the figure you’ve got. And that’s not good, because if you can’t break out of that slump quickly, you risk quitting altogether. (Did you know that out of the 45 percent of New Year's resolution makers each year, only 8 percent succeed?)
So the obvious solution? Stay. Positive. It takes work, but it’ll be so worth it. Here’s your body positivity plan:
First of all, understand what it means to be body positive.
Body positivity is about holding two fundamental beliefs simultaneously, says Sarah Anne Stewart, a holistic health practitioner (AADP). “The first belief is ‘I am enough’—smart enough, beautiful enough, capable enough. The second belief is ‘I am continuously evolving (and growing) into more expanded versions of myself.’” Think that accepting your body 100% doesn’t mesh with your inner desire to change? Here’s the distinction, according to Stewart: “You’re not changing your lifestyle/habits because you aren’t enough; you are making changes to increase your well-being and become more of who you are. If you can affirm these two mindset shifts daily, you’ll begin to embrace body positivity and start to enjoy the process regardless of how long it takes to hit your goals.”
Praise yourself for your work versus your results.
Instant gratification is what we all want, but the truth is, results take time. In the meantime, feel good about the fact that you’re showing up and putting in the work. “By honoring your progress, you’re working with intrinsic motivation, which makes your desire to stick with changes about feeling good on the inside, as opposed to only feeling happy when you can see physical changes,” explains Stewart. Is you goal to, say, lose 10 pounds? Stewart says you think that’s what you want. But underneath that is the desire to feel confident, happy, and free. “The more you allow yourself to experience those feelings now, the faster your goals will be achieved!”
Stay off the scale.
It’s sooooo tempting, isn’t it? It’s right there in the bathroom. And you feel like it might be okay. So you step on this make-or-break-you, itty bitty platform, whispering “please be good to me, please be good to me,” and then one number flashes that can make you think a million things at once. “We often use the scale to determine our progress or how ‘in shape’ we are, however the scale gives inaccurate descriptions,” says Tiffany Toombs, fitness and nutrition expert, and founder of Blue Lotus. “When we start working out, initially yes, we will lose fat, however we’ll also gain muscle. So often times the body shape is changing, but the scale doesn’t move (or it even goes up). My advice to my clients is to stay off the scale, especially in the beginning.”
Focus on how your clothes fit.
As we start to strengthen our core and develop other muscles, our bodies become ‘tighter’ and more toned, says Toombs. Which, as you can imagine, leads to our clothes feeling baggier. And that’s a good thing! “A better metric for progress in the journey is to stay focused on how our clothes fit as opposed to what the scale says,” she says. So when you realize you’ve gone from an 8 to a 6 in jeans, that’s a huge shift that you can feel good about. Tops are sometimes harder to judge, so pay close attention to how your blouses feel now and how they feel in a couple months. Stay positive.
Find a workout you enjoy.
Here’s a great tip from Melody Pierce, a licensed eating disorder coach and body acceptance expert in Phoenix Arizona: “I always say that working out should be a celebration of what your body can do, not a punishment. For example, if you absolutely hate running, find something that has a cardio aspect that makes you happy like Zumba or boxing.” It makes total sense, but it’s easy to forget. You don’t want to dread your workout, right? “Taking an approach of loving your workout helps you not focus so hard on the weight loss and more on just having fun,” she adds. (Need help choosing? Read about the differences between HIIT, CrossFit, TRX, and PiYo.)
Celebrate your wins.
The main goal isn't always the most important goal, says Kenya Moses, a well-being coach and founder of Be A Fit Mama, Inc. “Create incremental goals along your journey, and when you reach them, celebrate! Whether it's an afternoon pampering session or even just a lazy day off, treat yourself to something that feels good in your mind and body.” And another tip: give yourself big and small milestones—achievable ones. Maybe it’s run a 5k, or maybe it’s just run for 15 minutes straight without stopping. Both are equally commendable and deserve to be noticed. Check out a few other ways to love working out.
Stretch, stretch, stretch.
Stretching often gets neglected in the journey to fitness; but don't let that happen to you, advises Moses. By stretching your muscles throughout the day (not just before and after a workout), you not only increase flexibility and blood circulation, but you also increase energy levels which support you in accomplishing everything you desire on your fitness journey, she says. Plus, it feels really, really good.
Good luck on your journey. And if you ever find yourself feeling not so positive despite employing the tips above, tell someone—there’s nothing like a good friend lifting you up, motivating you to get back on the treadmill, and encouraging you to just keep going.