Do you obsess over “fitspiration” photos, featuring images of perfect fitness models sweating and yet somehow looking perfect? Do you hang these photos all over your mirror or vision board, wishing you could be them? Do you compare your stomach to the washboard abs in the pictures, only to be disgusted with yourself? At one time, I did too. I totally understand the idea that these images may inspire us to work harder or exercise or eat right when we don’t feel like it, but when it becomes an obsession or a source of constant frustration, you might consider trashing these photos like I did.
You Can Never Compete With Carefully Crafted Perfection
The images you find online and in magazines feature models who yes, are in really great shape…but have also been carefully treated with flattering lighting and poses, tans, makeup, and even Photoshop retouching. They probably dieted down for their shoot to ridiculously low body fat percentages, and carefully reduced any water weight to make their muscles appear even more “cut” using professional tricks.
You then end up comparing your imperfect self that you see everyday in the mirror or in pictures to someone else’s perfectly calculated and masterfully created modeling portfolio. Just like you, these models have days where they are bloated, have pimples, and I’m sure many have stretch marks and cellulite that have been hidden. You may also be a mid-thirties mom of three comparing yourself to a teenager (guilty!). While you may feel temporarily inspired to work harder, I promise you that it is a perfection that you will NEVER be able to reach, because it’s NOT YOU nor is it all that real.
External Gratification Won’t Last
What ends up happening is we decide that we aren’t good enough and must change our external appearance to look more like the models. We label it a goal, we think of it as positive thinking and inspiration, and off we go, killing ourselves to reach that level of fit. We may make massive changes in our bodies, and find that gratification momentarily, but then we check ourselves against those fitspiration models again and dammit, it’s still not good enough. So we either kill ourselves some more, going to extremes to reach that “goal”, or we give up out of frustration. The idea that we aren’t good enough unless we have that six pack or those perfect glutes (guilty!) ends up making us absolutely insane. Self-loathing follows, and long-term happiness and gratification are impossible to come by.
If you start your physical transformation from a place of caring about yourself, loving yourself enough to treat your body well and stop abusing it, the changes are so much more likely to be permanent. You won’t be on this constant quest for something you can never find, but instead you’ll just be doing what feels truly good every single day. You’ll jump off the endless cycle of Must-Fix-Self–>Work-Hard-To-Fix-Self–>Yay-It’s-Better-But-Not-Perfect–>I-Give-Up–>I-Hate-Myself–>Repeat. Instead, you’ll fall into a daily routine of self-care, which will lead to a physical transformation that will be permanent and APPRECIATED by you.
To do this, stop judging yourself against pictures of perfection. If you need a visual for inspiration, use quotes or even photos of you at YOUR best. Start being thankful for what is looking back at you in the mirror, no matter how hard that is to do. Start to appreciate all the things you can do, have accomplished, and the beauty and wonder of YOU. Tell yourself in the mirror every single day “I accept myself exactly as I am right now”. Re-frame your perspective on low-quality junk foods as abuse to your body, not a reward or a comfort. Re-frame your perspective on exercise as a way to feel good, not a punishment. Re-frame healthy foods as preventative medicine and energy for your life. It’s a daily process that won’t always be perfect, but with daily practice will improve over time.