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Positive Body Image

The best way to have a positive body image is to feel positive about yourself as a person. Stay active, exercise regularly, and feel strong and fit. Nurture your muscles, feed them healthy food, and maintain goals for your life and achievements. Wear clothes that flatter you; have friends who flatter you also. Avoid uncomfortable situations and people who are negative about weight and being healthy. Remember that body fat is healthy and essential to life, fertility, and bone strength.

A positive body image allows you to feel attractive and strong through your life and also feel good inside and out. Being successful, loved, and stimulated by life allows distractions from obsession about weight and dieting. Some people suggest even putting away the scale to prevent the moodiness that comes with everyday weight fluctuations and using the fit of your clothes as a size guide instead. If you must weigh yourself regularly, remember that body water plays a large role in weight. Both glycogen, stored after a high-carbohydrate meal, and sodium, from salty food, cause water retention so the scale might read a few pounds higher after such meals.

If you are really struggling with your body image and weight maintenance, try yoga, meditation, pilates, or regular relaxation strategies. Some people meditate while walking, stretching, or doing yoga. This will help you feel less anxious about food and more positive about your body. Learn healthy ways to control your weight, and if you must lose a few pounds, do so by cutting back 500 calories a day. This can usually be done simply by cutting out unhealthy snacks, desserts, alcohol, or sugary drinks. You can also increase your water and healthy fluid intake, reduce the glycemic index of your diet, and increase your fiber intake. If you have overindulged in unhealthy, high-calorie foods for a few days, cut back your portions and desserts for the next week. Do not panic and starve yourself! Remember, extreme reduction in calorie intake only slows down your metabolism.

Healthy Ways to Control Your Weight

  • Make sure you eat enough calories.
  • Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
  • Drink a glass of water before each meal or snack.
  • Eat a fruit or vegetable serving before each meal.
  • Do not deprive yourself of a food you crave for more than a week; eat a normal-sized portion of it.
  • Try to take small bites, chew several times, and put your fork down between bites.
  • Try to not skip meals.
Try to avoid sugary sodas, juice drinks, and sweets—these just contain empty calories. Try to eat healthy fats such as nuts, peanut butter, olive oil, or fish to keep you full and healthy. Control your stress so it does not cause you to eat more.

Do not allow people to pressure you to lose weight. If a parent or friend is pressuring you, tell them to stop or walk away when they do so. If you have a coach or trainer who criticizes you for your weight or weighs you frequently, do not allow this! Find another coach, and if this is a problem, speak to someone you can trust about it. A coach who pressures you when you are young can instill in you long-lasting attitudes and behaviors that are destructive to your body image and your health.

If you have a large shape and frame, take the pressure off yourself to look petite. Instead, focus on your strength. Focus on your health. Don't let people comment on your size, and if they do, thank them. Realize that big girls are stronger in all aspects—bones, muscles, and minds! Often just talking about these unrealistic expectations to be petite can help you put them into perspective. If you are feeling like you need to look like a super-skinny aerobics instructor, world-class figure skater, or supermodel, find a healthier looking inspirational role model. Look to competitive skiers, soccer players, basketball players, or women among your friends and family who are healthy, happy, and athletic at size 10, 12, or 14.

As a young athlete going through adolescence, changes in body shape, hormones, and flexibility might make sports activities temporarily more challenging. Consider changing sports if the one you are in requires you to be thinner than you can realistically be. A nutritionist or health-care professional can help you determine your healthiest weight and decide if the weight and body shape demands of the sport are realistic for you. Having an understanding coach is also essential. It is important to find sports and athletic activities that are easy for you; this will make it more likely that you will enjoy the activity and excel at it.

Remember, not everyone is built to be a figure skater. If you are not built small and light, you can switch to ice hockey, rollerhockey, skiing, or snowboarding. There are so many sports available to girls and women; you should find one that is just right for your body, that you feel comfortable with, and that you don't have to struggle with your body or diet to maintain. Finding a sport that allows you to excel at a healthy weight is best for your mind, body, fitness, and overall health.

Promoting Positive Body Image

  • Get involved in athletic activities with women of similar athletic builds.
  • Do not spend time with friends who make you feel bad about your size.
  • If coaches or trainers make you "feel fat," find new ones.
  • Remember that, as an athletic woman, you are stronger and healthier than most.
  • If you have trouble with self-criticism, find a nurturing counselor or therapist.
  • Choose relationships with people who make you feel good about yourself.
  • Try not to let weight rule your emotions; it is just a number, and it can change!
  • Wear clothes that flatter you.
  • Wear your favorite outfit on days that you feel low confidence.
  • Compliment those around you; they will give it back!
  • Get a nonathletic friend to exercise with you once in a while.
A healthy nutrition plan and realistic attitude toward body image will lead to optimum performance and confidence. Do not be discouraged if you fall into unhealthy habits occasionally; return to the healthy habits as soon as you can. In times of stress, give yourself some slack. Keep exercising regularly, and make sure you have the essentials of nutrition. When you lose inspiration, think of your athletic or performance role model and her strength, health, and beauty. Focus on how good a workout feels. If you must diet, do so in moderation with a well-balanced eating plan. Remember, the slower you change your weight, the longer it will last. Do not deprive yourself of calories, nutrition, or the occasional "treat." Drink plenty of fluids, control your stress, and make yourself as happy as possible. Maintaining a healthy body image and weight requires work and patience, just like anything that is worthwhile. In time, you will feel great about how you look and, therefore, how you feel—every day!
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From The Active Woman's Health and Fitness Handbook by Nadya Swedan. Copyright © 2003 by Nadya Swedan. Used by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon.


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