Remember when you were five, and you wore any outfit you found in your cupboard, regardless of how it made your backside look? Remember the days when you didn't think twice about bodysurfing in a bikini, when you didn't care if your hair was tangled or if you ate too much or if any part of your body jiggled when you ran? Remember when you still loved your body?
Maybe the last time you felt this confident was at age 3, 5 or 8. Then things changed. You began to admire beautiful, thin, flawless women on magazine covers. You and your friends counted calories as a way of life. Eventually your body became something that never quite measured up.
It's no secret that young girls grow up with such outrageous subliminal messages. I, too, beat myself up over not being skinny enough or not having the right hair or whatever came under par.
Maybe it's time-finally-to take a big step back. Maybe it's time to try to regain some of the carefree confidence of that girl (you) who ran around so comfortably in her young body. Here are some ways to make it happen:
Make Peace with your Genes
Women come in all shapes and sizes, and you have your own unique shape. Instead of pining away for a different body type, accept your genetics. We women are beautiful precisely because we don't look alike. We can't all be carbon copies of fashion models. Each of us has a certain genetic code. As long as we're healthy and the right weight for our body type, then we should get to a place where we think our bodies are okay.
Look at other women whom you consider attractive especially those who are rounder than the norm. How do they accentuate the positive? Realize that beauty has more to do with your smile, posture, confidence and style than it has to do with the size of your thighs.
See the Positive
Don't waste time calculating how long you have to run to burn off the calories in the cream cakes you ate last night. Instead, visualize your heart, lungs and leg muscles growing stronger with every step. Remind yourself of all the things that your strong body can do: climb stairs without feeling winded; re-arrange furniture without needing help from an army of friends; cut the grass in record time. Running has made your body strong, fit and healthy. Be proud of it.
Look in the Mirror
Spend a few seconds in front of a mirror every day. First look at yourself with all of your clothes on. Try to block out any negative thoughts about your body and find at least one positive attribute. Each day you do this exercise, wear less clothing until you can admire yourself comfortably for a few minutes while naked.
Dress for Success
Wear running clothes that make you feel attractive. If you think you look good, you'll run with more confidence.
Be Polite to Yourself
If you wouldn't say something out loud to a friend, you shouldn't say it (or think it) to yourself, says Kevin Thompson, psychologist and author of Exacting Beauty: Theory, Assessment and Treatment of Body Image Disturbance. So when you catch yourself thinking ‘I look terrible today' or ‘My thighs are so flabby,' stop the thought in its tracks and replace it with something positive. Here are some suggestions:
When you think, ‘I look terrible' or ‘I'm so-fat,' tell yourself, ‘I have many good body parts, like my strong calves and quadriceps.' When you think, ‘Everyone thinks I'm a whale,' tell yourself, ‘I am my own worst critic. Others see my strength and power.' When you think, ‘If I were thinner, I'd be more successful,' tell yourself, ‘I am healthy because I run and take care of my body.'
Ignore the ‘Magic Numbers'
Many women pick a random number of kilograms that they want to weigh and spend their entire lives trying to force their bodies to reach that weight. Problem is, a number of factors affect your weight, from genetics to muscle mass to the time of day and month.
In short, you can't trust a scale. Plus, those numbers don't matter anyway. Exercise and a healthy diet are the most important keys to living a long life, not some arbitrary goal weight.
I rarely step on a scale, because my body image suffers when I assess my appearance by my weight. I carry myself as a strong and fit woman. And the feeling comes entirely from within.
Enter a Race and Run for Charity
Setting a running goal will help you focus on fitness instead of weight control. And a goal that supports a charity renews your running with a higher purpose. So register for running, walking or cycling events that support causes and stop comparing yourself to others.