Spoiler alert: this post isn’t spilling any “secrets” on how to get “bikini ready,” lose x amount of pounds in x amount of days, or sculpt the “body of your dreams.” But if you’re tired of the endless math, second-guessing, and expending way too much mental energy on your reflection, read on.
OK, so the math begins and ends here. If I had to – HAD to – somehow define an individual’s best physical self, the formula would look something like this:
[(Exercise you love) x (realistic time you have)] + mental clarity – comparison = YES
Your best physical self is the one that thrives within the context of the life you ultimately want to lead. Sound lofty? Here’s your five-step guide.
Train joyfully, and the physique will follow.
The E in exercise stands for enjoyment. It doesn’t stand for excruciating, embarrassing, or (unpleasantly) exhausting. While it’s awesome to get out there and experiment, it’s also ok to try something once, hate it, and forget it. Yoga isn’t for everyone. Neither is barre method, CrossFit, Zumba, or any other class offered at your gym. Different bodies experience different results, too, so give yourself some personal space to fall into your OWN active groove – not rut – and enjoy the physical AND mental journey.
Eat what you LOVE.
If your “best self” requires forgoing lobster rolls on a beach vacation, skipping a family dinner to avoid your mom’s crave-worthy lasagna, or eliminating anything else that brings you great joy, guess what? That “best self” is a fraud. Boundaries are cool – for example, ONLY digging into donuts from your very favorite local shop, and savoring them mindfully – but deprivation breeds misery. Could my body fat be a tiny bit lower? Sure. But I’d rather enjoy mortadella, Shatila baklava, BurgerFi, and my grandma’s pizza, thanks. On the flipside, if your Netflix and Haagen Daz habit has become just that - habit - perhaps it's time to lay off a while and reevaluate whether or not said habit is serving your physical or mental self.
Recognize your body as YOURS.
Are you striving toward someone else’s ideal of physical perfection? Your best self, aesthetically, and from a health perspective, should be honed and crafted for one person, and it’s not a pushy boyfriend, nagging mother, or anyone else but YOU. Chasing skinny, butt dimples, an ab crack, or whatever the latest physical obsession may be is an especially slippery slope to misery when the desire for these bodily alterations is rooted in someone else’s definition of your desirability. Women are bombarded with enough messaging about what their bodies should look like (more on this below). Shut down potential noise in your personal relationships.
Stop shopping for body parts.
This little gem of wisdom should have a post all its own. Enough wishing for someone else’s butt. Follow a solid, glute-focused program and see where it takes YOUR rear end. Stop lamenting your proportions in relation to everyone else’s. (This is especially pertinent advice for women in the greater NYC area. Manhattan can make you feel too short, too fat, not fit enough, and finally, not curvy enough, all in a day’s commute, if you fall victim to comparitis). While you’re at it, stop shopping for body parts on your past selves. Let go of the abs you had when your divorce stressed you out, the size two you wore during your unfortunate Hydroxycut phase, and any other physical attribute that was a result of subpar nourishment and poor decisions. Clear the precious headspace and move on.
Embark on a marathon, not a sprint.
Hopefully, your body will be around a while and carry you through many adventures. Look ten, twenty, and even thirty years down the line. Where does your body take you? Hiking in foreign lands? Running after grandchildren? Winning The Amazing Race with your daughter (a gal can dream, right)? Allow those goals to shape balanced, sustainable habits now, and part ways with the self-imposed obstacles that don’t serve them. And while shopping for body parts is discouraged, there’s no shame in aesthetic-based aging goals. I see you, Jane Fonda.
Enjoy your food. Enjoy the process. Enjoy your life!