Looking after our physical health is really important for making the most of our bodies and reducing the risk of illness. It’s also heavily interconnected with your mental health and general wellbeing. However, it can be hard to find the line between looking after ourselves and not obsessing about the number on a scale, or our calorie count. Here are top ten tips on looking after your health in a body positive and sustainable way.
Listen to what your body needs
One of the most important pieces of advice is to take the time to listen to what your body is asking for, not what you think it should be doing. No one else is an expert in your body like you are. If your body has a craving, then listen to it – but make sure it’s actually what your body wants and not just a craving for sugar because that’s what you normally give it. Most of us don’t actually want to sit and eat a packet of donuts – we feel kind of gross afterwards. Listen to your body: does it need a smoothie? Exercise? Sleep? A treat? To sit quietly for a while? Trust yourself about what you need.
Don’t look in the mirror
Whether you’ve had a breakthrough moment or are continuing to live a healthy lifestyle – try not to look in the mirror obsessively. I don’t mean avoid them, and if you’re looking in the mirror and loving what you’re saying then a) you rock star- you got this down and b) keep on checking yourself out. If, however, you tend to look in the mirror with a somewhat critical eye, then just ignore them all together. I have a terrible habit of turning sideways to check how flat (or not!) my stomach is. This has nothing to do with my physical health! My diet is fine and I’m working more exercise in all the time. The size of my stomach has nothing to do with physical health at this point, it’s just about looks. If eating well and exercise is veering towards obsessing with looks then you’re losing the body positive element – as much as possible, try to focus of your wellbeing, not your appearance.
Don’t weigh yourself
In the same vein, try not to become obsessive about weighing yourself. How much you weight is affected by too many different things for any non-professional to calculate: your height, your muscle mass, genetics… the list goes on! Of course, you don’t want to be so over weight you’re unhealthy – but your body will tell you if that’s the case, you don’t need scales. Taking care of your health should be about feeling good, not an arbitrary number on a scale.
Challenge yourself but don’t hurt yourself
When you’re exercising or trying out new recipes – challenge yourself, but please don’t hurt yourself! It’s great to push yourself physically and find out what your bodies capable of, but no one should get hurt in the process.
Sleep a lot
One of the most important things for your mental and physical health is to make sure you get plenty of good quality sleep; ideally following a regular pattern. You want to be a body posi babe? Get some shut eye! Sleep gives your body time to heal, process and energise. It’s a one stop shop to feeling better.
Do and eat what feels good
Trust your instincts! If you need to fill up on carbs every now and again then go for it – just take the time to listen to how it makes your body feel. If you feel energised – great! If you feel bloated and sluggish – try something else next time. It’s important to incorporate exercise and be sensible with diet, but beyond those basic rules, the most important thing is to make sure your body feels nourished.
Still treat yourself without guilt
Life is too short for guilt. Every now and again we all do something that might not be great for our bodies. We realise a few months have slipped by and we haven’t really exercised, we eat cake for breakfast, we drink sugary fruit juice but no actual fruit. News flash: you’re only human. It’s fine! A treat is really not going to kill you and it’s time to end the kind of toxic nonsense that tells you you’ve been ‘bad’ or ‘sinned’ or ‘fell off the wagon.’ It’s a cookie (or three) – get over it.
Take expert advice
There’s an astonishing amount of guff out there – especially on the internet. The ‘cleanse’ is one that really winds me up, as it has virtually no scientific backing. In fact, many people have said it can in fact be dangerous. Likewise, the NHS raises concerns about diets like the 5:2 routine. When I say take expert advice, I mean speak to a medical professional or go to a trusted site like the NHS. Your friends may be amazing, but if they’re getting their tips from Cosmo then they’re not to be trusted in this area.
Make it all about you
It really doesn’t matter what anyone else says or thinks about your health and your body. Both are yours and not for anyone else to comment on. We all have different targets when it comes to improving our physical and mental health – so go at your own pace. Take the time to enjoy being in your body and nourishing it.
Enjoy the changes in your wellbeing, not your looks
If exercise or eating patterns are being used to target your looks alone, then it’s easy to stray into territory that can damage your self-worth. You are so much more than just a body! Your body is a vehicle that supports you through life and, for that reason, is well worth taking care of – but what it looks like in no way defines you. Take care of your body for you and you alone. Physical health isn’t about appearance – it’s about your wellbeing.