Every season is bikini season when you love your body
Are you ready for March Madness? No, I’m not talking about sports. I’m talking about the plethora of “get ready for summer” or “summer body” challenges, diet ads, fitness programs, and the like. With summer fast approaching and hopes of better times ahead concerning safe reopening, the likelihood of seeing more and more “lose weight fast” challenges is high.
Understand that this is done on purpose. Sales drive the fitness industry (and diet culture). There is a great deal of marketing research that goes into targeting buyers. The main goal is to get people to do what is intended — buy their product. These ads and programs often target people who may have “abandoned” their New Year’s resolutions to get fit. This year you might see an emphasis on potential weight gained during the pandemic and all the last year's stress. This isn’t right or wrong; it's part of business marketing.
Unfortunately, the reality is that stress has been high, and many people have put on weight. So the pressure for them to lose it might be equally high. The problem, though, is that people are often sold unrealistic and unsustainable expectations, paired with the perpetuation of beauty trends and heightened value of other people’s opinions. The good news is, you don’t have to combat or fight this aspect of any of it.
So, how do you approach and get through spring without feeling the pressure to exercise and diet ad-nauseam to make it to summer? Work on your mindset and mentality around fitness and health — and learn to love your body no matter the season.
Your mindset around fitness will dictate your success
When presented with an opportunity to do something that may result in change, try to bring awareness and insight to your desire for said change. Quite often, we are so focused on the how and the outcome, we proceed without understanding the why. Getting insight into your why will help you act from a place of aligned action. All too often, the mentality and mindset with which the summer season is approached stems from a place of fear, insecurity, judgment, and/or unrealistic societal standards of beauty. When we act from a place of self-judgment, self-criticism, self-hate, or try to fit into someone else’s mold, it blurs our vision of the beauty within.
When we act from a place of self-love, self-compassion, self-kindness, and self-acceptance, we are much more likely to align our behaviors with our desires: the desire to be a better version of ourselves, be it physically, emotionally, or mentally.
Move from a place of self-love
Movement is essential to our physical and mental wellbeing. There are many benefits to movement that have nothing to do with how your body looks. Movement doesn’t have to be difficult or complex, but it should be enjoyable. Find something you enjoy doing and build from there.
Practice movement or partake in fitness because you love and respect your body. Work out, take classes, dance, and go on walks because you are committed to being a healthier version of your current self. Do so because you want to increase longevity and vitality and also be more energetic and joyful. When we approach movement from a positive mindset, we are acting out of self and body love.
Loving your body and loving how your body looks are not the same
People mistake loving your body with loving how your body looks. It’s important to understand this distinction. You can absolutely love your body and not love how it looks. That’s ok! It’s also absolutely ok to love your body and want to make changes to your body if the right mindset accompanies those desires. But know this: it is impossible to love how your body looks if you don’t love your body. If you don’t love how your body looks, at least respect it enough to treat it well.
Loving, respecting, and honoring your body come in many forms. Body-love can look like this:
- Nourishment: make sure you are giving your body the nutrients it needs to feel its best
- Self-care: this can be applying a ten-minute sheet mask on your face, following your nightly skincare routine, or just giving yourself a few minutes of quiet
- Rest: this is the most underrated form of showing your body some love — rest and sleep are necessary for a healthy body and brain
- Grace: show yourself some self-compassion and kindness by realizing you are only human and are still learning; mistakes are simply lessons that show us what to do next time
- Mental health practices: make sure you are surrounded by people who support your mental and emotional well-being, such as friends, family, a therapist or counselor, and a support group; spend time doing things you enjoy
We are not meant to be like anyone else
The most important thing you can do for your mindset is to stop comparing yourself to anyone else. You are not them! You don’t know what they do, how they got to that level or their history. If someone inspires you to do something that will add value to your life, great! The good thing about all those "summer fitness challenges" you see on Instagram is that they get people moving, exercising more frequently, and are motivating. However, when the challenge ends, it is up to you to continue the journey to self-betterment. Ensure that your desires for change stem from a healthy place and your personal values of continuous improvement to be a better version of yourself.
When our desires and behaviors are in alignment, the path to change becomes easier and more enjoyable.
Your body is capable of amazing things! Love it enough to let it show you what it can do. It took longer than six weeks to get to this point, and it will take longer than six weeks (the usual duration of a challenge) to change that. Remember, change takes time, and patience is a must.
Aleks Zavlunova is a Holistic Behavior Therapist and Wellness Coach. She uses principles of human learning and behavior modification to help people develop sustainable skills and habits to lead healthier and happier lives. Aleks combines cognitive behavior psychology and nutrition science to help her clients begin to address maladaptive and self-destructive patterns and habits, build self-esteem, confidence, and self-love, by systematically improving their relationship with food. She strongly believes that our relationship with food greatly correlates with our relationship with the self, our emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing, as well as our relationships with others.