Harboring a poor body image can do more than just hinder your weight loss efforts. It can make you downright miserable. Your journey to becoming a healthier person will benefit greatly if it is preceded by self-love and self-respect.
Start by recognizing that the only opinion that matters is your opinion. Self-respect originates from the self – not from others.
Break the vicious cycle of dieting. In order to do this, you need to first recognize the cycle, which typically follows this pattern:
You have feelings of inadequacy and discontentment with your body.
You start a crash diet in an attempt to lose weight.
You are not able to maintain the unrealistic requirements of your crash diet.
You regain the weight that you lost (and oftentimes surpass your original body weight).
Your feelings of inadequacy and discontentment with your body are worse than when you started.
There is one simple secret to avoiding this trap: Do not crash diet. Crash diets are not sustainable and they do nothing to teach you healthy habits. Instead, try to convert your existing lifestyle into a healthy one. Luckily, you are already on the right path by using MyFoodDiary.com.
Chronic dieters who have experienced repeated failure commonly bash themselves with negative self-talk. Re-wiring those negative self-talk tapes is the first step in learning self-love.
A good place to start is with positive affirmations, which are statements that affirm positive characteristics about you. This can provide a gateway to achieving self-love. We don't fully understand how positive affirmations work, but we know that they do.
Take a few minutes at the beginning of each day and repeat the saying out loud to yourself -- preferably while looking in the mirror. Affirmations should use words and phrases such as respect, cherish, care for, love, dignity, beautiful, treasure, worth it, whole, complete, esteem, confidence, health, acceptance, and responsibility. Create your own uplifting affirmations that have meaning for you. An example may read something like this:
"I am beautiful, complete, and whole. I respect and cherish my body and its amazing and miraculous functions. I love and care for myself at all times."
Repeat them throughout the day, especially when you recognize negative self-talk replaying in your mind. Affirmations gently remind you of your focus, and help you dismiss destructive thoughts.
Start journaling your thoughts and feelings. This is another powerful tool for identifying negative self-talk, and challenging it. Each day, commit to writing something in the Personal Notes section of your account. You do not need to write about anything specific -- just write at least 3 paragraphs a day. Sooner or later, ideas and feelings will start to surface and you can confront them in writing. Always end your journal entry with a positive affirmation.
Be patient and gentle with yourself. Take special time out on a daily basis, and allow yourself to decompress. Remind yourself that you are more than what is on the outside and that people come in different shapes and sizes. Refuse to succumb to the shallow criteria often put forth by society. Explore your interests and talents, and focus your energies on experiencing life through those channels. Instead of concentrating on how you look, direct your energy and thoughts to how you feel when you eat well and move your body. Always view your dietary intake and exercise as ways in which you are caring for and nurturing your body -- not as a way to simply lose weight.
If you continue to struggle, consider finding a counselor or a therapist to help you work through some of these issues. Oftentimes, having an objective party to challenge your self-defeating beliefs can be helpful. Know that each of us has a purpose and a reason for being here, and rarely does it have anything to do with how we look.
Chronic dieting can result in a numbing of hunger signals and an inability to recognize fullness. If you don't respond to hunger knocking on that internal door, eventually it will stop knocking. Eating then occurs in response to stimuli other than true hunger, and that's when the troubles begin – oftentimes resulting in emotional eating and rebound binges.
With a little attention to the task, you can re-train yourself to recognize and respond appropriately to hunger and fullness signals. Hunger should be embraced and treated as a valued communication with your body – not something to be feared. Listening to your body and taking the time to care for its needs are critical steps in learning to love and care for yourself.
The first step in recognizing hunger signals and eating intuitively is to be present in the moment. This is difficult to do in our current society where we are constantly looking to the next task even before finishing the prior one. Taking the time to slow down will provide you with a multitude of health benefits. Realize that it is normal for hunger to occur 3 to 5 hours after eating. Start familiarizing yourself with the different levels of hunger and the individual signals that your body relays to you at various stages.
Initiate this process by listening. Check in with your body throughout the day and rate your hunger. A common way to rate hunger is on a scale of 1-to-10 with 1 equivalent to a state of starving and 10 being a state of extreme fullness.
Ideally, you want to initiate a meal when you are in a state of hunger but not completely famished (a scale rating of about 3), and finish a meal when you are in a state of fullness but not completely stuffed (a scale rating of approximately 6).
0 = Starving, famished, headache
3 = Need to eat something, hunger pangs
5 = Comfortable, lightness about you
6 = Somewhat full, satisfied and content
8 = Overfull, need to loosen clothing, must sit for awhile
10 = Nauseated, vow to never eat this much again
It takes a while for the signal of stomach fullness to reach the satiety centers in the brain so it is a good idea to stop eating before you feel full. In other words, if you stop eating at a rating of about 6, you will ultimately end up at a fullness rating of about 7 shortly following the meal.
It may be helpful, to associate numbers on the rating scale with situations in the past. For instance, if you have ever fasted for a religious occasion, try to remember how it felt to be truly hungry and correlate that empty, rumbling feeling in your stomach with a rating of 1.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, recall a time when you've really overeaten, maybe a Thanksgiving dinner, and correlate a number 10 with the feelings of overeating. Likewise, remember a time when you thoroughly enjoyed a fantastic meal and were able to stop eating when you had met your hunger needs. Remember how comfortable and satisfied you felt and mesh this memory with a number 6 on the scale.
Although individual differences exist, the list below can provide some common hunger symptoms:
Feeling of emptiness in stomach
Gurgling, rumbling or growling in stomach
Dizziness, faintness or light-headedness
Irritability, easily agitated
Lack of concentration
After a while you will be able to identify patterns in your hunger symptoms and correlate them with how often and how much you've eaten at your last meal. It may take some time for you to get comfortable with identifying normal levels of hunger and to recognize the pattern of eating that is best suited to you individually. Be patient with yourself and your body. Take the time to listen and care for yourself, and to get back in tune with your body and hunger.
Negative self-talk is that little voice inside your head telling you that you can’t do it. These self-defeating thoughts are not only inaccurate, they limit your potential. Take control of your negative self-talk, turn it into positive affirmation, and start reaching your goals!
Identify the type.
The Mayo Clinic identifies four types of negative self-talk – filtering, personalizing, catastrophizing, and polarizing.
Filtering – You focus on the negative.Scenario: You gained one pound this week. You focus on this, and ignore that you have already lost 25 lbs.
Personalizing – It’s all your fault.Scenario: Your workout partner cancels at the last minute due to a sick child. You think the real reason is because she doesn’t enjoy exercising with you.
Catastrophizing – The worst will always happen.Scenario: This weekend you have to attend a birthday party and a cookout. You believe it will be a weight loss disaster before it starts – there will be no healthy options, you’ll have no will power, and you’ll have to skip your workout.
Polarizing – You must be perfect.Scenario: You felt sluggish during your workout and didn’t push as hard as usual; therefore, you failed the entire week.
Determine the source.
Does someone in your life approach situations with negativity? Has this rubbed off on you? Sometimes negative self-talk doesn’t originate with us. It is difficult to be around negative people and not adopt the same attitude. It is also difficult to overcome negative comments from others that may stem from their insecurity. Don’t allow their comments to become your negative self-talk. Discuss the issue, and try to get to the source of the negativity. If that doesn’t work, you may need to spend time away from this person so that you can change your outlook and approach your goals in a positive way.
Change your outlook.
Changing your outlook and attitude means you have to stay on top of negative thoughts. Pause and check your thoughts regularly throughout the day. Did you just criticize the way you look when you saw your reflection? Stop the negativity, and replace it with something positive.
When you are tempted to react with a negative comment, access the situation. Is your negativity based on fact, or are you jumping to conclusions? Giving in to a cookie at the office may not be the healthiest choice, but it will only add 200 calories to your week. You can cut back the next day, or push harder in your next workout. One slip up is not going to ruin all of your efforts.
Talking to yourself in the mirror or repeating a mantra in your head may make you feel silly, but it does help. Practice positive self-talk when you glance at your reflection or when you choose a healthy option. Saying to yourself, “You look great in this new shirt,” or “Great job choosing the apple. You are going to have a lot more energy this afternoon!” will have a huge impact on your overall attitude and determination.
A healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean giving up treats all together. Reduce how often you eat sweets, and it’s okay to enjoy a favorite dessert every now and then. That’s especially true when the dessert is under 200 calories! Here are a few ideas for treating yourself this summer.
Cinnamon chips and fruit salsa
Enjoy your chips and salsa for dessert by scooping up some homemade fruit salsa with cinnamon chips. For the salsa, combine ¾ cup of your favorite diced fruits. When made with ¼ cup strawberries, a ¼ cup peaches, and a ¼ pineapple, and served with 8 Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Sugar Pita Chips, this dessert totals 176 calories.
There is no reason to deprive yourself of dessert at the campfire. A S’more made with 1 graham cracker sheet, a ¼ of a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate candy bar, and 1 large marshmallow has only 143 calories.
Summer is the season for ice cream. Practice portion control, and you can enjoy a rich, creamy treat without getting off track. A ½ cup of Breyer’s All Natural Rocky Road ice cream contains 150 calories. Serve it in a cake cone and add only 25 calories more.
To reduce the fat in your frozen treat, choose sorbet instead of ice cream. A ½ cup of Häagen-Dazs Mango Sorbet will cool you off for only 120 calories.
Angel Food Cake with berries
Celebrate the season with fresh berries. Turn it into a treat by adding cake and whipped cream! One serving (28 g) from a store-bought angel food cake topped with a 1/2 cup fresh raspberries, and 2 tablespoons canned whipped cream has 120 calories.
It’s simple to make your own frozen treat with only 136 calories. Puree a ½ cup low fat vanilla yogurt and ½ cup blueberries in a small food processor, or blender. Pour the mixture into a paper cup with a popsicle stick, and freeze. Thaw slightly and peel away the cup before serving.
The structure provided by your weekly schedule makes it easier to stick to your plan. The weekend is when you are likely to relax your rules, and spend a little too much time on the couch. These tips will help make your weekend as active as your week days!
Be a weekend warrior.
Reserve the weekend to do activities that are more challenging. Take advantage of any extra free time. Play in a sports tournament or sign up for a tennis lesson. Team sports, hiking, indoor rock climbing, biking, an organized race, or a racquetball match are perfect for an active weekend.
Stay out of the seat.
If your weekend is full of seated activities, get moving! Are you a spectator at the sports complex? Walk around the field during the game, or climb the bleachers during halftime. Ask your friend to take a walk with you before or after you meet for coffee. Catch up on your favorite television shows while you are on the treadmill, or do a set of push-ups, squats, and crunches during each commercial break.
Complete a project on your to-do list.
You can torch hundreds of calories while doing household chores. If you have to choose between a lengthy workout and checking something off your to-do list, pick an active project and get it done. Rearrange the living room furniture, wash the windows, or organize the boxes in the garage. We often don’t think of these as workouts but, as long as you are moving, you are burning more calories than while sitting on the couch.
Stretch and relax.
A break from high-energy exercise is a good thing. Quiet activities such as stretching, progressive relaxation, and meditation are beneficial to health. Get the break you need, but use the weekend downtime for a stress-relieving activity that gets you ready to start a productive week.
Get seven to nine hours of sleep.
It is tempting to stay up late or sleep in on the weekends, but the more closely you stick to your regular sleep schedule, the better you will feel. Late nights disrupt sleep cycles, and leave you too tired to exercise. If you feel like you need more sleep, incorporate a nap. The National Sleep Foundation states that a 20-30 minute nap improves alertness and performance without interfering with normal sleep patterns.