Women get sold lies a lot: Marriage will oppress you, abortion will liberate you, and “X” product isn’t a pyramid scheme. One rooted lie that’s producing all kinds of icky fruit is that “body positivity” is the way for women to be their most confident, authentic selves.
We know it’s a lie because it seeks validation from sources of conventional health and beauty, such as workout gear companies and women’s magazines, and anywhere else it can get it. Unhealthy and discontented women are bombarded with moral assurances from corporate America and obese celebrities that they actually shouldn’t change a thing about themselves, despite their bloated, tired, inflamed bodies telling them otherwise.
So they continue to seek validation with #bodypositivity posts and in online forums. Sadly, none of those dopamine hits translate to lasting confidence or positive health outcomes.
Other women are enormously self-assured in their destructive lifestyles. But that confidence is no substitute for joyful longevity, nor for productivity, bodily functions, and good sleep.
Make no mistake. Pants size has never once defined a woman’s worth. That immense value comes from our Creator and the incredible fact that each of us bears His image. Yet as image-bearers and functioning members of society, women deserve more than to be sold a bill of goods marketed as “body positivity” that promises fullness but delivers frustration.
Whether you’re looking to trim your waistline, develop healthier habits, or find motivation to fuel your body better, here are 14 ways to rise above the “body positivity” lies and become a healthier, happier you.
1. Fuel Your Body Well
To overcome harmful habits, it’s important not to overindulge in the types of foods, drinks, and behaviors that take a toll on our bodies and make us feel crappy. But the answer doesn’t lie in juice cleanses and starvation. Fuel your body with lean protein, lots of leafy greens, and a little healthy fat and complex carbs, plus plenty of water.
Then practice mindful consumption: Are you “hungry” because your body needs food, or are you just bored? Dehydrated? Procrastinating?
Rather than “rewarding” yourself for personal victories with a trip to the drive-thru, reward yourself with the breezy feeling that comes from eating a moderate and nutritious meal — and maybe a mocktail.
2. Meal Plan and Shop Before the Week Starts
It’s easier to eat right when you prepare food yourself, not to mention the cost savings. And life gets crazy when the stress of the workweek kicks in. Do yourself a favor by compiling a simple weekly meal plan each weekend and then making a grocery run before Monday morning.
I do this by planning dinners Monday through Friday, saving leftovers for lunches, and listing a few health-conscious snacks for in between. It’s not as hard as you think! Put some of your mealtime favorites on a weekly rotation so you can buy recurring ingredients in bulk and take the anxiety out of learning new recipes.
You’ll thank yourself when you get to the week’s end and you don’t have a handful of eating-out receipts in your wallet and inflammation in your body.
3. Don’t Bring Junk Food Home
It’s much easier to resist buying junk food in the store than to resist snatching it out of your pantry for a late-night binge. Save yourself some cash and some regret by leaving the Classic Lays (my weakness) in the chip aisle and grabbing a more nutritious option if you need a munch to satisfy the cravings.
4. Make Little Substitutions
Eating well doesn’t mean fully restricting yourself. That’s a recipe for frustration. The best way to make lasting habits is to incorporate doable changes incrementally.
Take inventory of a couple of the unhealthy foods you regularly consume and think of reasonable substitutes for them. Are you a soda girl? Try switching it for flavored sparkling water — or even diluting your soda with it until you can take the plunge. Instead of Ben and Jerry’s, grab some Halo Top. Try high-protein chickpea or lentil pasta — or zoodles — instead of regular noodles.
Small changes like this go a long way, and it doesn’t take long to acquire a taste for something new.
5. Drink Water
Yeah, yeah, you already know this one — but drinking enough water is crucial for so many of our regular bodily functions such as removing waste, keeping our skin supple, and regulating our body temperatures, among countless other things.
There’s no one answer to how much water you should consume each day, but try drinking at least half your body weight in ounces daily and see how it affects your overall health and regularity. Carrying a water bottle with you helps.
6. Take an Alcohol Break
There’s nothing wrong with having some wine with dinner or hitting that happy hour with friends, but it can be easy to forget how many calories and grams of needless sugar we’re consuming when we do. Alcohol can also cause inflammation in the body and interfere with our gut health and the function of our elimination organs.
Try taking a break from alcohol for a month for a little detox. Another good idea is to limit yourself to moderate consumption on only the weekends if you’re in the habit of drinking during the week.
7. Try an Elimination Diet
I don’t mean “diet” like calorie-counting; I mean eliminating foods that are inflammatory or allergenic from your diet to see what culprits might be causing you problems.
Many women suffer from serious bloating, constipation, skin irritation, and other inflammation that might be explained by an unexpected ingredient. If you suspect this might be you, try eliminating gluten, dairy, artificial sugar, soy, corn, or other foods, and record how it makes you feel over the course of a few weeks.
8. Do Physical Activities You Enjoy
If you aren’t competitive, Orange Theory might not be the best workout for you. You know what you like, so find sustainable physical activities you enjoy. I personally love the Beachbody workout video “Turbo Jam” and got it on DVD on eBay — true story.
But it might be different for you. Try a yoga class or lap pool. Give pilates or barre a go. The possibilities are endless!
9. Incorporate Exercise into Other Activities
On that note, look for ways to add physical activity to things you’re already doing. Make your coffee date a calorie burn instead by going for a walk instead of sitting in the cafe.
Buy a used stationary bike that you can ride while you watch Netflix. Instead of lounging around on a Saturday with your boyfriend, spend time together kayaking or hiking.
10. Lift Weights
Ok, so I just told you to do what you enjoy — but it might also be time to get out of your comfort zone and try weight-lifting. Women would be shocked to learn how many calories they can burn doing a few sets of compound lifts at the gym.
I used to be scared of getting a gym membership because I had no idea what I was doing and didn’t want to look like an idiot. So instead, I ran several miles a day. When I got home, my reconstructed ACLs would be screaming at me, I’d be starving, and I’d basically consume all the calories I’d just burned off trying to recover — with no muscle-toning to show for it.
One leg workout at the gym burns the same amount of calories with far less strain on my body and far less sweat. Plus it tones my muscles and improves my metabolic rate, meaning it causes me to burn more calories when I’m resting.
Just remember that anyone who’s a gym rat had a first day at the gym. Most gym veterans are shockingly supportive of newbies — and if you have any in your life, ask if they’ll help you get started with good form and proper weight.
Start with a free trial at a nearby gym, and bring a friend or spouse with you! It can be a great social activity, and weight-lifting’s constant progress is a great way to build confidence. Try an app like “Strong” to keep track of exercises and progress.
11. Get Good Rest
Our bodies don’t function well when they’re exhausted, so make sure you’re getting enough good sleep every night. This means going to bed at a reasonable time, which can be tough for night owls like me.
It also means turning off your screens, which can delay REM sleep, suppress melatonin, and keep your mind alert. If you have a habit of falling asleep to the TV, try breaking it with a good book.
Put the phone down and turn off the TV before doing a nighttime routine like washing your face and brushing your teeth to give your body time to relax. Experts suggest no screens an hour before bed, but every little bit helps.
12. Find Clothes that Flatter Your Body and Reflect Your Style
Each body is different, so make sure your closet is stocked with attire that flatters your distinct figure and makes you feel like yourself. Just because some “influencer” is wearing it (or not wearing it) doesn’t mean you need to make the same choice.
I find that keeping around “goal clothes” — as in, clothes that are too small but I’m hoping to fit into “someday” — isn’t helpful for me. Sometimes it takes longer to lose stubborn weight than I think it will, or it sheds from an unexpected part of my body, leaving me feeling dejected that I can’t fit into my goal shorts when I should be feeling victorious at my progress. Buy clothes that fit you and make you feel like yourself, not clothes that keep you longing for a body type that isn’t yours.
13. Spend Time with People Who Encourage Healthy Habits
Taking responsibility for your health can be tough when you’re surrounded by people who have different goals or who don’t support your lifestyle. Make sure to keep people close who share your vision and health values and want to see you be your happiest, healthiest you.
14. Stop Thinking about Yourself so Much
Obsessing about your health or weight or goals leads to self-centered madness, and nobody needs that.
But more importantly, despite all the messages you’ll get from entertainment and the media, so-called “self-care” isn’t just about yourself. Caring for our bodies ensures not only that we’re filling our own cups but that we’re in the best position to serve others well.