New Year, New Approach to Health and Body Image

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New Year’s is the time for the perennial get-in-shape resolution and Shape Smart, a British company specializing in weight loss products, recently did a survey about women, food and dieting that showed most of us will probably make the resolution with another long-suffering sigh this January 2. The results (written up here in Time magazine) were that, of women in relationships, half were uncomfortable undressing in front of their partner and 60% were embarrassed to eat in front of their partner. A full 40% felt like they were always dieting.

Yeesh. That doesn’t feel very good. And surprisingly enough, if you feel badly about your weight you’re more likely to have poor health than if you’re fine with it.

A 2008 study by the Colombia University Mailman School of Public Health found that people who were unhappy with their weight had more unhealthy days than people who were fine with their weight whereas those who were happy with their weight had fewer sick days – mentally and physically. Women who wanted to lose 1, 10 and 20% of their body weight correspondingly had 0.1, 1.6 and 4.3 unhealthy days, but those “who were happy with their weight experienced fewer physically unhealthy days (3.0 vs 3.7) and mentally unhealthy days (2.6 vs 3.6),” according to Science Daily (the report also controlled for age and actual BMI).

Does that mean you should throw in the dieting towel altogether? Not necessarily, but nor should you feel that if you’re not eating Lilliputian lasagna and running like Forrest Gump that you might as well not bother. A little exercise goes a surprisingly long way, especially toward your self-image which – as we just mentioned – is a big key to health and happiness.

A 2009 study by the University of Florida’s Heather Hausenblas found that people who did even a little exercise felt better about their appearance and that that uplifted feeling didn’t necessarily increase the more exercise that people did. Just getting up and doing it seems to be what counts, at least as far as attitude. And on a personal note, many of us have had the experience that once you get that little exercise ‘Oooh-I-look-good’ high, you want it again the next day.

The key then, would seem to having a gentler attitude toward yourself and to approach the gym (or dance studio or walking track) with moderation in mind. Just getting up and doing some kind of enjoyable workout (because if you enjoy it you’ll do it) will be a big help, both to your body and your mind – and that will be a big help to your health.

As for not wanting to eat or undress in front of your partner, not to be flip but – this is just a guess- they are with you because they like you, or they would be with someone less you-like. Just some food for happy thoughts – and those are carb, fat and sugar free.

2 comments

  1. That last paragraph made this whole article a real keeper. In fact, I might just have to print it out and keep it handy. Thanks for that!

  2. I’m so glad you liked it, Lola! People are very tough on themselves sometimes…I think if we saw ourselves through the eyes of the people who love us we would all worry a lot less. :)

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