When it doesn’t work is the short answer, but there’s more to it.
You should move your body frequently (preferably including strength training as part of this regimen) and eat well because you love your body, not because you hate it.
“Work out because you love your body, not because you hate it,” is a powerful motto every woman should declare with force. I don’t know who said it first, but I credit Molly Galbraith with popularizing it. I’ve witnessed the profound effect it has on women, and experienced it personally. Loving your body and choosing to become the best version of yourself instead of constantly finding something to “fix” about your body is empowering, and provides freedom from self-hatred.
But, sometimes, “just love your body” is stupid advice, and I’ve realized that recently.
More specifically, work out because you love your body and not because you hate it should be considered an achievable goal, not something to add to today’s to-do list that you can check off with ease. It’s a tedious process for many, not a simple mindset change.
This is why I’m a fanatic of strength training and encourage every woman to include it in her weekly routine: Strength training is a tremendous tool that can help you love your body, but it’s not a quick-fix solution.
There’s a strong possibility you dislike something about your body. Maybe it’s your stomach, cellulite on your butt, arms, or another part you glare at with disdain when looking in the mirror. Society has conditioned us to view our bodies critically, and ruthlessly, and we’re encouraged to strive toward “better” standards of beauty.
So, yes, saying you should work out because you love your body, not because you hate it, makes sense! You should definitely do it. But problems arise when you’re not able to do that right away. Telling someone who has been displeased with her physical appearance for years (even decades) to love her body and stop hating it can cause more harm than good. “Nia, I know I should strength train because I love my body, because it’s mine, and it allows me to do incredible things, but I’m still disgusted with certain areas of my body. What’s wrong with me?”
This is when “just love your body” is stupid advice. It’s not always that easy. When someone fails to apply this mentality, they think there’s something wrong with them, and that’s simply not true. This was brought to my attention during a recent consultation when my client made the above statement. She still doesn’t like her body, and she feels like a failure.
We can’t simply tell women “just love your body” and expect them to immediately change. It’s no different than telling someone who is drowning in debt to “just stop accruing more debt.” These outcomes don’t happen immediately. Proper steps must be taken.
Loving Your Body is a Process
Doing things like working out and eating well because you love your body, and not because you hate it, may be more of a process than an immediate solution.
If you don’t like how your body looks and you work out exclusively for the purpose of “fixing your flaws,” a better approach would be to begin with a question: How can you get to the point that you work out and eat well because you love your body, and you want to discover and be proud of the wonderful things it can do? Specifically, what actions must you take to reach that milestone?
The answers to those questions will take you from working out because you’re not happy with your body to doing so because you love it. Here are some great actions to get you started.
Focus on your performance, not your “flaws.” This is where my journey began almost a decade ago. I put on 25+ pounds as a result of binge eating and other disordered eating habits; I hated my body and desperately wanted it to change so my workouts were about burning calories and punishing myself for a recent binge. This only made things worse and I knew something had to change. That “something” was no longer working out for the purpose of burning as many calories as possible or because I hated my stomach. Instead I vowed to make my workouts about one thing: doing a little better each time I repeated a workout.
To aide in this new goal I avoided looking in the gym mirrors during my workouts.
I was no longer battling my reflection — I was battling my training log. It was no longer about burning calories and chasing a future, leaner body. It was about improving my body’s physical abilities and doing my best on any given day.
I forced myself every workout to transfer the focus and energy I previously put on hating how I looked into increasing my strength. Gradually, over time, this made me love my body and appreciate it more than I ever had before. My workouts became solely about being the best version of myself.
Commit to practicing this powerful principle, and great things will happen.
Some days are better than others. Most days I strength train and eat well because I love my body. But there are days I feel like I’m retaining enough water to fill a children’s swimming pool and when I look in the mirror I don’t have the most positive thoughts (“If I get poked by a sharp object I’ll burst like a balloon.”). Loving your body is not an all-or-nothing thing; some days will be better than others. The goal should be to have more good days than bad days. When bad days happen, accept them as part of the process and don’t get emotionally invested in them. Know they’re only temporary. Do what you can to make the next day better.
Simplify your health and fitness regimen. Many women who struggle to reach the “I work out because I love my body” state of mind have something in common: the way they eat and work out is too damn complicated. Instead of following proven principles that fit into their life they attempt (unsuccessfully) to revolve their life around what someone has convinced them is the “best way.” This leads to diet-hopping, starting a program that’s too grueling to sustain, and shame from giving up, yet again, on another program.
It’s not their fault (or yours); much of the information nowadays needlessly complicates the process and contributes greatly to the mind-boggling bullshit of health and fitness.
Get back to the basics. Master the proven principles. Do them repeatedly for months and months.
(Important side-rant. Here’s the painful truth for many, but this must be said: they say they’re doing the right things repeatedly, but they’re not. They say they need more advanced information, but they don’t. Making good food choices consistently and strength training three times per week requires effort. You’re not always going to want to do these things. But I can’t help you love your body unless you apply the information I’m giving you. Do it. Repeatedly. Even when you don’t feel like it. Doing the right things for one week and then reverting back to bad habits the next isn’t going to cut it. Do them daily.)
If you can apply the “work out because you love your body, not because you hate it” principle today, then do it. But if you’re part of the crowd that finds that easier said than done, that’s fine. Remember this is a process that requires practice, persistence, and a hefty dose of patience.
This is your journey toward loving your body, and it may take you longer than others, or you may reach that goal very quickly. It doesn’t matter, so don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. Take consistent action starting today to make that mantra your reality.
Additional Articles You May Enjoy:
- Exercise is Not Punishment For Eating. You Do Not Have to Earn Your Food.
- 13 Ways Women Can be MORE, Not Less
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