Body Image & Weight Loss – Does Losing Weight Make You Happy?

Body Image & Weight Loss – Does Losing Weight Make You Happy?

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I have been a Personal Trainer for 17 years, and full-time for at least 10. I have always been obsessed with weight loss and body transformation. From the moment I spotted the first bit of fat on my body (around 12-13 years old), I became hooked on exercise, calorie counting, and beating myself up in the mirror. 

I was naturally ‘curvy’, meaning a bit soft and not very muscular. Being this shape in the 90’s meant not fitting into fashionable clothing brands, not being able to find bras and swimmers that fit, and finding that even the sportswear that did fit, made me look ‘chunky’. That’s what I thought anyways.  

There was also ZERO representation of averaged-sized women in the media. Remember, no internet in the 90’s 😉 

I bought into all the teen magazine hype and observed how ‘happy’ all the skinny girls in school seemed to be, and formed the belief that being skinnier would make me happier and that I would be treated more positively if I looked ‘better’. So I went about achieving the perfect ‘fitness body’. I was willing to do anything to achieve it, regardless of my overall health. I mean, health had no mention in the fitness world anyway; it was all about how you look. 

I did get pretty close to reaching my ‘perfect body’ but I did so at the expense of health. What came as a rude shock is, I still hated my body, even at 12% body fat. I just saw more flaws. I still felt like an imposter. I still felt not good enough

Body-image issues are rooted much deeper than outer appearance, and all women need to realise this. 

How much does our body image impact our lives in general? 

A study conducted by Dove including 13,000 participants, found that an astounding number of women and girls allow their body image issues to determine whether or not they participate in important life activities, and how they assert themselves or express their opinion to others. 

It also stated that most women of this mindset will consciously stop themselves from eating, whether or not their health is at risk. These are disturbing statistics, but I see this kind of behaviour in the women I coach on a daily basis. As you can see, I also felt this way myself. 

So this means that women aren’t reaching their full potential, when they’re constantly worrying about their bodies.

Are we actually happier when we are skinnier though? No, we are not. 

Who, or what, is to blame? 

We could certainly blame the media, who flood us with images of beautiful, unrealistic, heavily edited bodies. But that wont help us. Research into the topic, and deeper inquiry into my own issues lead me to understand that the problem is much deeper than ‘the media’. 

Generally speaking, when we feel unhappy or out of control, we tend to turn our attention to the ‘outside’ world. We try to mold ourselves to what we believe is socially acceptable. We attach our unhappiness to tangible things that we have conscious control over – more money, fancy car, a hot body, etc. 

We lose sight of what’s important and believe that by changing ourselves, we will somehow become happier, or more worthy. We forget that it’s who we are that counts the most. 

When we are happy with how we look, the rest of the world mirrors back to us that exact same feeling. People love you, when you love you. 

Being skinny will not make you happier, but being healthy will

By reaching a healthy weight (20-25% body-fat, or even up to 30% for some women), we are definitely closer to reaching our full potential due to increased energy, health, lowered inflammation, improved sleep, and the greater overall emotional wellbeing that accompanies hormone balance. 

Achieving a healthy weight also requires us to develop a healthy relationship with food, which is never a bad thing. 

What can I do to start healing my relationship with my body?

Firstly, stop looking at all these perfect women and wishing you could be just like them. Unfollow anyone that triggers you to feel low self-worth. Assuming they’re the picture of health and happiness can be detrimental, as you really don’t know what these people do behind closed doors. You can’t actually know if they’re a true inspiration to you, or if they are being honest. 

Switch your focus from calorie restriction and crash dieting (and beating yourself up) and focus on improving your health and vitality. Work out how many calories you need to eat for optimal health and start re-fuelling. You body composition will change all by itself if once you start nourishing it. I get all of my clients to increase calories and nourish their bodies before focusing on weight loss goals. 

Start looking within. Try to remember when it all started. Was it in school, or after carrying your first child? Was it something your mother always worried about? Once you identify where it started, you have better awareness and conscious awareness is the first piece of the puzzle when it comes to healing. 

For me personally, when I started attacking my body I was already experiencing some depression and anxiety. I had very low self-esteem. I kind of just decided it was my body because it looked different to other girls’ bodies, and I fixated on it. Additionally, my mum always hated her body, and complained about being ‘fat’. In a way, making my body look good was my way of proving I was high value to the world around me. 

How I coach women now

I still coach body transformation, even after this journey. I love it still and love working with women to optimize their health and body composition. I see it as kind of art form, a fun project you can work on and that you can carry around with you everywhere you go. 

What I have changed though, is my approach. I replaced the all-or-nothing, get-the-best-body-in-the-shortest-amount-of-time-possible approach, with one that focuses on reaching goals in a healthy way – adequate calories, no overtraining, and with a positive view of self. Almost always with my clients, some work has to be done here in the beginning stages, but the end result is that we build bodies they love and in a healthy way. 

It is unfortunate that we live in a world that values appearance over health, but it is pretty inescapable, especially with the addition of social media. Rather than getting angry about, it, or feeling victimised by it, we need to find our space within it to heal and nourish ourselves, so that when we see these ‘perfect’ women, we still feel great about our amazing selves! 

Want to master this topic? Check out my super-affordable mini-course on Fat loss

Jen x

Self Sacrifice and Powerlessness

Self Sacrifice and Powerlessness

Read time: 2 minute read

“The deepest pain I ever felt was denying my own feelings to make everyone else comfortable” – Nicole Lyons

So often as women we put themselves last, after watching our mothers slave away for the family and learn over time through societies conditioning that it’s better to be quiet then it is to raise your voice

The long term repercussions of stifling your emotions and not being heard can be huge. Anger, resentment, and feeling inadequate or unimportant are all emotions that increase cortisol (stress hormones) and can erode away at your self-esteem over time. Eventually you find yourself in situation after situation feeling just as powerless as the last .

Know that your voice matters. Everyone’s voice matters. Women, men, children, adults, elderly, all important. We all have individual value to share. Stifling yourself or playing it small so that others don’t respond poorly may will give ‘haters’ a momentary win, but for you in the long run it’s a massive loss .

If you find yourself keeping quiet when you want to speak, saying yes when you want to say no, and denying yourself of healthy emotional expression in order to keep someone else happy, then maybe it’s time to start expressing yourself .

I learned this one the hard way and as much as it was anxiety-provoking the first few times, the long term consequences have been so liberating

Perspectives on the ‘Perfect’ Female Body

Perspectives on the ‘Perfect’ Female Body

I love this picture as to me it represents how much my perspective has changed, both as a trainer and as a woman in this industry. Definitely not as strong or as lean as I once was, but stronger and healthier than ever in both body and mind

These days I liken the pursuit of this ‘perfect’ female physique to playing a game of soccer, but where the goal posts keep being moved and the shape of the ball keeps changing. You can NEVER reach it, and mainly because what also doesn’t change is your lack of perspective, which leaves you unable to recognize your own personal power or beauty even when it’s staring you right in the face.

In some ways I think the fitness industry has lost it’s way a little. I think women have lost sight of what’s achievable naturally, what is healthy, and where the truth lies. As a trainer I strive to be what I wish I had at the beginning of my journey, even if it doesn’t fit within the ‘norms’ of what is happening at this present time. My experiences have shaped me and I don’t budge on my principles, no matter what anyone says. I support my clients in any direction they choose to go, be it bodybuilding, powerlifting or whatever because I love and value them, but because their health is the top priority they are able to achieve more than I ever did

It’s important to remember that no matter who you are, you don’t have to be the hottest, skinniest, fittest, or strongest girl out in order to own your space in this world; you just have to be happy with yourself. Eat well because you love you body, lift weights because you love your body, but own your individual journey and remember it’s a different journey to everyone else’s

Want to master this topic? Check out my super-affordable mini-course on Body Love

 

 

Self-Rejection

Self-Rejection

Read time: 2 minute read

There will be many places in which you will encounter rejection. The mirror should not be one of them. 

How do you feel when you look in the mirror? If it’s not good, then that’s a sure-fire sign you need to do a little work on self-love

The relationship you have with yourself on the inside mirrors itself externally in your every day life. Happy people generally attract happy people. Broken people often attract broken people. There is a really great saying I heard long before I understood any of these concepts – which is that you attract those who’s darkness ‘plays well’ with yours. It’s proven true in my own life and didn’t change for the better until I changed the relationship I had within myself

Despite being involved in body transformation and competition coaching, much of my time as a coach is spent helping women find a better relationship with their bodies. No matter what their physical goals are, learning to love your body is one of the most crucial steps to finding happiness and success along the way

Does that mean you don’t need to look after yourself? Well that all depends on what your personal priorities are. My idea is self love is treating your body with the same level of respect that you would a best friend or close family member

In life, people WILL reject you. But rejection of yourself adds fuel to that fire and it draws more of it towards you. Drop the war you have with yourself and focus on being your own greatest supporter. See how much stronger you feel

Jen

Listen to your Body, it’s Smarter than You

Listen to your Body, it’s Smarter than You

Read time: 4 minute read

Are you listening to your body? Our bodies have an amazing capacity to collect and send information in an attempt to keep itself balanced, whether it’s for rest, particular nutrients, or the early stages of illness or injury.

Most things that we consider ‘normal’ these days such as poor digestion, pain and fatigue are a result of the body trying to ‘speak’ to us. In response, and due to our high-stress lifestyles, we resort to quick fixes to ‘switch off’ these signals and push through. Unfortunately this is something that can lead us down the path of easily preventable health conditions, injuries and depleted energy stores

Take caffeine for example. We are stretched to our limits and need to keep moving so we mask this exhaustion with an artificial ‘kick’. This is fine for a while, but the issue with doing this is comes in long-term, when the body no longer responds to this ‘kick’, it stops providing its own energy, and depletes other systems in the body in order to find balance. I see this all the time and it has happened to me. It is the same concept for illness and injury

You can fight your body short term but you can’t outsmart it in the long run, so listen to the signals your body is sending and you will find yourself sickness-free and with energy to burn. And you will get a lot more out of your training too!

 

 

 

 

 

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