What goals do you have for your body? What do you think of your body? What thoughts or words come to your mind? In a study conducted by LifeScience earlier this year, almost one-third of college-aged women surveyed said they would trade at least one year of their lives to have a perfect body—what they consider the ideal body weight and shape. A year of their lives! But it doesn’t stop there. Ten percent were willing to trade two to five years, and two percent were willing to trade up to 10 years of life away. Some of the women surveyed even said they’d give up a promotion, some of their salary, or time with partners or family! And the most surprising aspect of this study is that most of the women surveyed were of normal weight.
Whether in England or here in the United States, we know we have a culture obsessed with outer appearances and the perfect body. Just glance at women’s magazines on the newsstand. Even the photos of women who are on the covers of magazines are sometimes manipulated graphically (photoshop!) to look even more perfect. And speaking from experience as a fitness professional appearing in magazines and on TV, the lighting and the make-up have everything to do with how you look. I will admittedly say that as my body approaches menopause, I have moments of self-deprecation. So I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise to me that young women are actually willing to trade their precious time to have—what they deem to be—a perfect body.
Related: 5 Things To Toss For Your Health
It shouldn’t surprise me … but it does. We need to collectively shift our focus from this quest to obtain a perfect body (who determines perfect anyway?) and shift our focus to HEALTH. Let’s focus on living healthy—eating whole, fresh foods as close to their natural state as possible and exercising regularly. If more people focused on health, we’d have fewer people with eating disorders, fewer people fighting obesity and fewer people wishing they were someone different.
Don’t chase perfect, chase healthy. The best part about chasing healthy, is it’s achievable. Chasing some idealized vision of perfect doesn’t set people up to have healthy self-images or achievable goals. The perfect word can even be a trigger for some. It’s the all-or-nothing mentality…they want to be perfect or nothing at all. They give up and resign themselves to bad habits. Plus, focusing on health provides you with a whole bunch of bonus benefits: increased energy, boosted immunity, enhanced mood, more time alive…you get my point!
Focus on what you do like. I bet there are several things about your body you do like. Maybe it’s your shoulders or your hard calf muscles or your long legs. Focus on what you like about yourself and your body instead of wishing you could be someone different. When you drop the notion of perfect from your mind, you just may discover you like more about yourself than you realized! The researchers of this LifeScience survey found that majority of the women surveyed were dissatisfied with how they looked, even though most were at a normal weight. First, figure out what your healthy, realistic weight should be. If you are at your target weight, skip to the next tip! If you do need to lose weight, focus on being the healthiest you that you can be, the rest will follow.
Let yourself arrive. If you have achieved your goal weight and you still aren’t happy because you aren’t perfect, you are setting yourself up for failure. You need to let yourself arrive or appreciate where you are right now. Congratulate yourself on what you have achieved for your health and fitness, instead of always setting your goal to something unobtainable. Create healthy living goals for yourself so you can let yourself arrive and enjoy the satisfaction in knowing you are exactly where—and who you want to be.
Put simply, pursuing your health is healthier. We will know we have made progress and given up our pursuits of perfection when people won’t be willing to trade anything for their health. I know I wouldn’t.