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“Although beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, the feeling of being beautiful exists solely in the mind of the beheld.” —Martha BeckAccording to some statistics, 80% of American women feel dissatisfied with their bodies. Fifty percent are on weight-loss diets. An estimated one in three of all dieters develops compulsive dieting attitudes and behaviors. Of these, one quarter will develop full or partial eating disorders.
The lives and happiness of the many women who live with these negative body images are often limited, hindering them from being able to see their inner and outer beauty and enjoy life to its fullest potential. The struggle these women endure is a great price to pay.
As a personal trainer, I have worked with hundreds of people who want to transform their physical bodies with the expectation that the physical transformation will solve a host of emotional struggles within them. Through these interactions, I’ve discovered that training the body alone only gives temporary results. Training the mind along with the body not only gives lasting results, but also cultivates the confidence and perspective needed to face and overcome the beliefs and fears that cause body image struggles in the first place.
In my experience, many people experience “A-ha!” moments when they commit to this train-the-mind-to-transform-the-body concept. It is not uncommon for a person to be faithful for three or four months to a diet and exercise program I’ve designed, yet find that their weight is barely budging. They can become extremely discouraged and be ready to quit and return to their former ways of inactivity and junk food. To counter this, I ask people to write down their “self-talk” about their appearance and body, forcing them to be cognizant of the way they are treating themselves on an emotional level. As you might guess, these records are usually full of disparaging comments. How can the body heal when the inside workings of the mind and spirit are weighed down in despair and body hatred? It doesn’t. As the Buddha says, “What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind.” I equate this to filling your car’s gas tank with sewage and being upset and confused when it won’t start. It’s called stinky thinking.
What would your day be like if when you saw yourself in the mirror in the morning, you thought, “Wow, I am amazingly beautiful inside and out and deserving of compliments from myself and others?” What challenges could you conquer if you lived in adoration and awe of your body and appearance? How would others respond to this empowered energy surrounding you? Take time and envision yourself living with compassion for your body. Your self-compassion will heal the body and transform the soul, enabling you to be of greater service to those in your world.
In many cases people’s lives can change dramatically when they commit to a new mindset with regard to their bodies. Once they become aware of their stinky thinking, a new conversation can begin inside the mind. Affirmations can be developed for each individual based on counteracting and neutralizing the old pattern of thoughts and self-criticisms. In essence, people have the power to reprogram their minds to reject destructive thoughts and impressions.
Here are some examples of old self-talk versus new and empowered self-talk:
Old: “You’ve been at this weight for so long, you’ll never change.”
New: “My body is responding positively every day to the good care I am giving it.”
Old: “I hate my thighs; they are so out of proportion to the rest of my body.”
New: “I am grateful for my amazing thighs; they carry me where I want to go.”Old: “I wish I looked more like my sister. Life would be so much easier if I was prettier.”
New: “I am naturally beautiful when I am myself.”
After implementing this new self-talk, a person’s weight usually begins to drop. How? They simply observe and change their inner dialogue. The beauty of this is that positive self-talk is as powerful and contagious as negative; it will invariably begin to spread and positively affect other areas of people’s lives, including relationships with family, kids, spouses and careers. These new thoughts inspire new action, and amazing shifts of intimacy, connectivity and prosperity can begin to take root.
Observing and Improving Your Body Talk
Each of us has a constant dialogue running inside our heads that colors every experience in our lives. Imagine what the result would be if at the end of the week you could download every thought you had about your appearance and body. Imagine sitting down to study it. If the thought of doing this makes you afraid or uncomfortable, then it’s likely that you could benefit from improving your self-talk. Take a journal and write down the messages you tell yourself. Are they mostly negative? Do you dismiss the positive ones? Are these thoughts enriching or limiting you?
According to some experts, 77% of the average person’s self-talk is negative. Where would you use the energy you spent thinking discouraging thoughts once you replaced them with empowering and encouraging thoughts? Whose life would you help heal and inspire? I encourage all my clients to take a simple evaluation of their internal dialogues, good and bad. Awareness must come before rejuvenation.
Now that you are aware of your thoughts, what positive saying or affirmation can you create to replace the negative ones? This is where the fun begins. Be creative, bold and positive. What does it feel like to say these things out loud? It might be joy, confidence, maybe even laughter! No matter what it is, write about it.
Asanas for the Mind
Once you have created your new asana of thoughts, you must be diligent to it, like an exercise routine or a yoga practice, in order to experience positive shifts in your outlook and body. Write down your most important affirmations about your self-image and post them everywhere: your computer screen, your bathroom mirror, your car’s dashboard, above your kitchen sink. Say them out loud and as often as you would a mantra. We are building mental muscles here, the most important muscle in your entire body!
Developing self-compassion takes time and effort; some thought patterns have been ingrained since childhood. Be gentle and patient when you fall back into the old way of thinking. Praise yourself for observing and changing it faster than you did yesterday. By training the mind first, the other things you desire for your health, relationships and finances will most certainly take root and blossom.
Lanee Neil has been a private trainer in LA for seven years. She is the author of two published books: “The Real Weight is Over” and “Exposed—Insights to Loving Your Body From the Celebrities You Love.” She offers body confidence consultations and exercise consultations.