The Stupid Truth Suggests: Accepting Your Body

When our minds are tired we allow ourselves time to rest, but when our bodies become overworked we become frustrated and annoyed. Why is this?

Since our early school years we have learnt how our bodies work. Anatomically speaking, we know how our heart, muscles, bones, brain and tissue function. We are aware that food needs to be digested, how long it might take and that it gives us energy. It's the same in most science textbooks.

I am probably right in thinking that, unless we have studied or taken a real interest in our bodies and the nutrients we put into it, that we are incredibly limited on our knowledge. And it is okay to admit that. In fact, I do. But, it's never too late to show an interest.

You don't need to be a dietitian, a physicist or an expert on nutrition; you just need to learn what your body can and can't do. Believe it or not, telling ourselves to take a rest is one of the hardest things we can do. There is often the idea that we should be deserving of some time to ourselves, and we frequently set this aside just for holidays. However, we really do need more rest for our bodies. Let's face it, if we all get between twenty to thirty days of annual leave a year, it is nothing in comparison to the full three-hundred and sixty five days of the year.

Accepting your body doesn't just mean allocating yourself some downtime; it's actually a change of mindset. The hardest part comes when you stop pushing yourself. It is so easy to think that the moment we halt training that our bodies will become weak and stop. In reality, taking a rest will allow our bodies to become stronger.

To ensure we get it right, there are simple formulas for us to follow.

Give your body time to rest

We have all learnt the hard way that not allowing ourselves to stop causes us to become run down, irritable and unwell. Quite frankly, we all hate the feeling. Unfortunately, this is our body's way of telling us that we're doing too much.

Whether we're active everyday due to exercise, our day jobs or because we are looking after our children, we will often only allow ourselves designated slots in time to pause. These moments are normally when we see there is a natural break in the day and not necessarily because we just fancied it. It's not our fault that we act this way - this is a work ethic that we have had ingrained in us since we were young. We might only pause when everyone else around us is content or when we have physically tired ourselves out.

Does this all sound familiar? This may be one of the hardest things you let your body do, but it is so worth the health benefits in the long run.

Firstly, we've got to address the mindset. Why do you feel like you couldn't or shouldn't take a rest?

  • Is there still a lot to do before your mind can rest?

  • Have you not reached the target you set yourself with your exercise?

  • Have the other people in your household not cleaned up after themselves?

  • Do you feel like you haven't achieved everything you wanted to?

These are my excuses for denying myself rest. I frequently try to convince myself of this too. And I know I'm not the only one. The mechanisms I use to try and combat these questions in my mind are to evaluate the importance and to see if I should be doing so much.

  • Is there still a lot to do before your mind can rest?

Some jobs can wait, others can't. Prioritise these and write a list. Spread the jobs out over the course of a week and share the tasks with others in your households. Let's face it, the huge pile of laundry can wait, who is looking at your clean clothes anyway?

  • Have you not reached the target you set yourself with your exercise?

How much are you actually doing? Do you know how much is recommended by doctors a week? If you are constantly active and exercising, then you're unlikely to fall back into the rut of sitting still. However, taking the opportunity to rest has far greater benefits for your body than exercising two or three times every day. If you don't look after yourself then you're likely to get injured or feel fatigued.

  • Have the other people in your household not cleaned up after themselves?

Why are you doing jobs for others? Yes it's acceptable to help people out when they're run down or overworked, but are you getting that treatment back in return? Often, just having the conversation about spreading out the workload can be a simple solution. Alternately, outlining the expectations of what you can do in a day will help others manage their expectations of you. I appreciate that sometimes you have no choice but to clean up after others; particularly where young children are involved, but prioritising what needs to be done can seriously help you out.

  • Do you feel like you haven't achieved everything you wanted to?

Stop beating yourself up! Achieving everything you want to is not the same as completing everything you need to. Once again, prioritising is your best friend. Working out the most important jobs and spreading the medium to low priority tasks over the week or the month can really halve the stress.

Appreciate time

Apologies for the cliché but time is our greatest asset. It sounds cheesy but it's completely true. In our instant-society we expect everything now, next day or as soon as possible. Is it any wonder we want results and progress with our Prime-mindsets?

Truthfully, this is one of the hardest things for us to understand and, if we continue to have this mindset, it becomes detrimental for our bodies. Why is this? Because we have high-expectations of what we should be able to achieve in a short amount of time. We see pictures of people with an ideal form that we want or see their progress and believe we should also be at that level too. In these circumstances, it's important to remember that everyone has a journey and our progress is subjective to us. Each transformation is unique.

If you're wanting to change - weight management, toning, stamina, the list goes on - then the first thing you need to comprehend is time. Avoid setting yourself unrealistic targets like losing two stone in two months; these often aren't the most healthy options and can lead to you mistreating your body. Don't always believe the pictures people share either. While these do depict real transformations, there are a whole ton of variables that may have lead to their weight loss. Under-eating, calorie counting, stress and grief can be the ugly side of change and can often thwart the results. You may want to lose weight, but you want to do it properly with no consequences for your body.

Realistic expectations are measured over more time and depend on the amount of self-care you dedicate yourself. For example, it took me two years to be able to run over four miles continuously and at a good time. Does this seem too long to achieve the target? Consider what your goal is and how much you had done in the past to strengthen it. If you had stints of running at a younger age, then you are more likely to achieve your target sooner. If you hadn't and have been under-active, then it will take you longer.

If you feel yourself getting frustrated or paranoid about your progress, ask yourself these questions:

  • Could I have achieved this last year?

  • How long have I been doing this for?

  • What is one thing I have achieved?

  • What is something I am proud of?

To give you an idea on how you might answer these, no matter how silly it sounds, I have included some answers of mine from previous exercise sessions.

  • Could I have achieved this last year?

No, but I had been practising. Last year I could barely run half a mile without stopping. So I only ran a mile and half today, maybe my body needed to stop.

  • How long have I been doing this for?

I have been training for two years. Before COVID I could only run three and a half miles, now I can run four miles. But I don't need to prove I can run four miles a day. By showing up to run I am trying to make myself more active, no matter the distance.

  • What is one thing I have achieved?

So what? I didn't achieve a new personal best and I actually ran over my average amount of time. However, I did keep going for the full four miles without stopping.

  • What is something I am proud of?

I am proud of how much I have achieved. I used to hate running in school and hated being forced to partake in Sports Day. Now I have found my own incentive to run and I'm proud to show up for it.

Although asking yourself these questions might sound bizarre, it is often your inner-critic that is causing such anguish. Calm yourself down by making yourself think about why you are doing it and what you are doing it for. We can't fix time, but we can ensure our bodies are well looked after so we can achieve our goals.

Check the facts

That's right, be your own fact checker. Just like the little labels inside medicine boxes that read "check with your doctor before taking," you should be doing the same in regards to your body. Of course, you don't need to inundate any health care professionals when you want to start exercising, but you should go to them when you feel something is not right.

When people share new diets, exercise routines or even skin-care products, you should always make sure that it is right for you. After all, results can completely vary between individuals. If you've ever tried to lose weight you'll know that there is a whole plethora of regimes to follow, and it's quite common that a lot of those diets won't work for you. Before I try anything new I have to be sure that I am confident in my choices.

What type of things do you need to check for?

Firstly, you should always check that whatever new routine or diet you want to follow wont counteract any medication you take or enhance symptoms for any ailments you have. For example, a lot of women try to lose weight straight after giving birth. While this is fine to do, as long as you're safe doing it, you need to check that it won't affect your milk if you're breastfeeding.

Secondly, it's worthwhile getting the gist of everything that will be involved. Reviewing how often you should be expected to train - especially when trying to get your fitness levels up - is a good place to start. It's also worth noting that a beginner may be required to train far less than at the intermediate level. Unless you have a lot of previous experience, always assume you are a beginner.

Additionally, and especially when it comes to dieting, research the diet first, accumulate people's reviews and see if any friends have taken part in it before. When researching diets, you need to take into consideration your body type, fitness levels and everyday routine before you decide whether it is right for you. By not doing so, you can start to set yourself unhealthy expectations of what you should be able to achieve. Ultimately, you will become frustrated if it doesn't go your way.

This is one of the first steps in taking control of your body and ensuring it is looked after.

Your progress can't be compared

Stop right now if you're wishing you looked, felt or performed as good as someone else. Stop. *Slaps hand*. This is a super dangerous mindset to have and can make you feel depressed, paranoid and frustrated about your results.

We are all built differently. Think of us as stick drawings; some look the same, some look completely different and some are interpreted by the artist's vision. However, no stick person will ever be the same. Even the ones that look similar will have minute details that differ from their counterparts, some may be drawn on different backgrounds or using different drawing utensils. That's exactly how we are. There is no single body that reacts exactly the same, looks exactly the same or behaves exactly the same as another. We are completely unique and we are changing all the time.

And this is why our results differ. Some people can shed weight without lifting a finger, others have to put in an insane amount of effort to lose a pound. You can't base your life on the way your body looks, but you can base your life around a positive mindset.

Noticed that I didn't mention results in the title of the section? The word result insinuates that it is the final reward for an activity. The fact of the matter is that our bodies don't get a "result", instead we actually see progress. Progress creates the assumption that further development can be made, and it can. Once you get the body shape you want you can't just stop doing what you were doing before, you have to keep going to maintain it. Progress also allows us to have a better perception of time. Progress is something that we can see before we reach our "goal". It is our incentive to keep going.

While there are so many ways we can learn to appreciate our bodies, it is really the psychology behind it that we need to change. By mastering a more positive mindset, and setting yourself up for success, you will find the transition of accepting your body to be a much easier one. As a summarised version of the above, we just need to learn to love ourselves more.

Moral of the acceptance story:

  • It all starts with the mindset. Work on changing the way you think and you'll succeed

  • Only do what feels right for you - if your body doesn't like it then listen

  • You are unique, you don't need to compare yourself with anyone else

  • If you have a positive outlook on yourself and believe it then you can help change the attitudes of those around you