Ashley Heher running in a traithlon. Photo courtesy of Ashley Heher.
Love the bod you’re with
It doesn’t have to be this way, and in fact, the tide could be turning. France has banned anorexic models from runways. Celebrities like Kate Winslet, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Lorde are speaking out against Photoshopping their pictures. Plus-sized model Ashley Graham appeared on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue last year, and will be included in the 2017 issue as well. And on social media sites and blogs, more and more women are speaking out and saying, Enough! I will not apologize for my stretch marks and scars and lumps. These are souvenirs of my life, and they are a part of me.
“Here’s the deal with a bikini body — everyone has one,” says Ashley Heher, a weekend warrior triathlete who leads group runs in Chicago — and wears a size 16 or 18. “It doesn’t matter your shape or your size or your curves or your lack of curves. You get a bikini body by wearing a bikini. Simple as that.”
So instead of feeling anxious about ourselves, let’s celebrate our bodies. They carry us through the world and make it possible for us to do all the things we love — taste strawberry ice cream, swim in the ocean, hold a baby, and dance and sing and laugh and love and play.
Let’s focus on strong, not skinny. Health is about more than weight. It’s about feeling good, being able to do the things you’d like to do, and being confident in who you are. Somewhere along the way we’ve lost touch with that idea of health. Let’s reconnect with ourselves and banish body anxiety. Here’s how.
Let go of the numbers
Even though we like to measure and quantify things, there’s more to health than just digits on the scale. Other things, like stamina and strength, count for a lot. In fact, people with a few extra pounds — especially when they’re older — tend to live longer than skinny people. In that group, muscle mass may be a better predictor of health than overall weight.
Sarah Castimore, an Alaska mom, is an aficionado of Crossfit, a workout that emphasizes teamwork and lifting. She describes herself as 5'2", 210 to 220 pounds, with "great" blood pressure and "terrific" cholesterol.
"I think there's been this massive misconception for decades that any overweight person is lazy and unhealthy," she says. "Athletes come in all shapes and sizes. You don't need to be a size 2 to be active and healthy."
Experts support her view.
"When someone says a person is strong, I think of someone who has stamina and is physically active and makes the right food choices," says Maya Feller, a Brooklyn-based nutritionist.
Ways to be strong and fit
- Eat right. Yes, calories matter, but our bodies process 100 calories of sugar and 100 calories of tomatoes differently. The tomato is better fuel and will probably make you feel better. As the experts say, go for lots of whole grains, veggies, and fruits. Don’t be afraid of healthy fats like olive oil, but stay clear of empty calories.
- Move your body. We’re designed to move, and most of us don’t move enough. Any little bit counts, even dancing with your kids or running a block. A good rule of thumb is 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week (or half as much if you’re running or doing other tougher stuff).
- Get enough rest. Yes, there are lots of fun things to do in the quiet late-night hours, like catching up on Facebook or Game of Thrones. Just make sure you get enough sleep to keep you going through your day. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours to function their best.
- Work on strength. Weight-bearing exercises build stronger bones, especially in women. Lifting weights builds muscle, which burns more calories, creating a healthier balance in your body. You’ll also feel, well, stronger — and likely more confident.
- Create a healthy home. A healthy environment builds success, Feller says. Cook at home. Stock your pantry with good options like fruit and veggies, so you don’t reach for fast, processed snacks.
- Speak up. “I actually got really cranky at a local store in town for advertising ‘summer body’ yoga,” Heher says. “I replied to their Facebook post by saying: ‘Hey guys, bodies are seasonless.’ “
Traps to avoid
While working on the positives, like eating right and getting enough sleep, it’s also important to watch out for doubts and anxieties that can derail your efforts.
- Don’t set impossible goals. You may never hit the low end of your weight range, and your 130 pounds might not look like someone else’s 130 pounds anyway. Crash diets rarely keep the weight off long-term. Focus on reasonable changes you can stick with. Can you start walking more? Eat more veggies? Those are wins.
- Don’t worry about what size you are. Ignore the size on the clothing label, especially since one brand’s L can be another’s XL, and even different styles in the same size might fit differently. If you find clothes that are comfortable and flatter your shape, you’ll look and feel better.
- Don’t give in to excuses. You know those voices that say you can't find the time, you'll never be thin, why bother. Flip your script. "Ask yourself this question: Is what I'm about to say going to lead me towards, or away, from my goal?" says Roy Taylor, a personal trainer in Florida. Refocus your mind and your body will follow.
- Don’t be hard on yourself. You wouldn’t call your friend chubby or blimpy, so why say it to yourself? It’s hard enough to juggle the demands of work, family, and everything else in your life — so be kind to yourself. You can do better tomorrow.
- Don’t give up. Just because you’re a few pounds over your goal weight doesn’t mean you should throw up your hands and binge on chips and ice cream. A few little changes can make a difference over time. It’s true!
- Don’t hide. Even Sarah Castimore admits to feeling self-conscious sometimes. That doesn’t mean she stays home. “I'm just not going to be what holds my kids back,” she says. “I'm not going to make them stay home just because I don't want to wear a swimsuit.”
Edited by Deepi Brar
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