By Tia Norris, June 2016 Issue of Echo Magazine in Phoenix, AZ.
When my editor suggested writing about “taking pride in your body” in honor of LGBTQ pride month, I was a bit intimidated. This is a hot-button issue within our community and beyond. And, as a fitness professional, I face this dilemma every single day with my clients.
On one hand, it is important to take pride in your body by exercising, eating properly and improving overall conditioning. However, on the other hand, it is also important to take pride in your body by not becoming neurotic or overly critical of minor or imagined flaws.
So, how do you strike a balance between self-discipline and self-love? How do you achieve contentment both inside and outside? These are the questions I’ll attempt to answer this month with three simple tips.
1. Know that you are not always your body.
The outward appearance of your muscles does not define you. That must sound odd coming from a trainer, but, muscles are just a temporary reflection of a temporary period of work. Muscles can be an outward reflection of dedication, discipline, grit, persistence and confidence on the inside. However, even if I lost all of my muscles tomorrow, I would still exhibit those characteristics because they cannot be lost. Muscles can be conditioned or deconditioned, but character generally does not change. Anyone out there who views themselves as not currently “in shape,” must know that you already have all of the traits that you need, inside of yourself. The “look” is fleeting, but if you latch onto the character traits of what fitness does for your character on the inside – and not exclusively onto the outward appearance – it will save you a lot of pain and heartbreak over the years. Objects in the mirror are far, far deeper than they appear. And if you’re cool with your appearance, then go with that! No one can make you feel inferior unless you let them. Your character is what really matters, after all.
2. Remember that working hard on your body is a good thing.
If you are unhappy with the way you look, feel or move, then the straightforward solution is that you need to change something. How much you need to change depends on how badly you want to change. You must be honest with yourself in your assessment of your current comfort level within your own skin. If there’s a chance that the results of your assessment reveal that you are not proud of your current state, then it’s time to make changes to obtain the changes you desire. Transformation will only occur when the pain of change, is less than the pain of staying the same. If you want to gain more pride about the outward appearance of your body, then you’ll just have to work for it. No excuses. And hitting the gym three times per week is the minimum requirement.
3. Be aware of your own unhealthy or neurotic behaviors.
Everyone is different and everyone handles criticism differently. If you know yourself to be more prone to negative behaviors in this realm, then we need to dig deeper than the external reflection in the mirror. What does “fit” mean to you? Why do you feel the need to be “fit”? This is a heavy topic with deep implications. My best advice is to talk to a nutrition or counseling professional who can help assess and provide coping mechanisms for these types of behaviors. Everyone needs help with certain things in their life and there is no shame in talking to a professional here. If this applies to you, then the first step toward achieving more pride in your body is far beyond the reach of this page. You have to make the choice to take care of yourself, no one else can do that for you.
If you want to change, do it. You must earn the appearance that you desire, and the work you put in will not only yield results, but also instill the confidence and pride that you seek. On the flip side, if you’re in touch with yourself, you’re content with where you are with healthy and fitness, then never let anyone tell you that you’re not worthy. In either case, be proud of who you are and celebrate it.