SALT LAKE CITY — It can be overwhelming and discouraging to see constant ads and promotions for the "perfect" body on television and on social media, especially if your body doesn't fit into the molds. Some people may turn to dieting to try to achieve these ideals only to find that the lasting effect ends up being a dislike for the image in the mirror. This is so disheartening to see as a registered dietitian.
Our bodies are truly incredible and they should be celebrated and cared for properly. True health is more than physical health — it's also mental health. Finding ways to care for both your physical and mental health can be challenging, but here are four tips to help with the process.
This may seem simple and silly, but it can be very helpful in building your self-image. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of your body, focus on the positive, such as the helpful things your body does every day for you. This can be as simple as recognizing that your lungs are functioning or that your heart is beating. You can also think of a saying or phrase to tell yourself every day. This phrase should include strengths you have and characteristics you like about yourself and can be as simple as you want it to be. This may seem silly at first, but if you stick with it you may find it very beneficial.
Care for your body
Caring for the physical health of our bodies cannot be ignored. This means scheduling annual doctors' appointments, cancer screenings — like colonoscopies and mammograms — and regular visits to the dentist.
It also means getting physical exercise. You don't need to start an extreme workout plan, just find simple ways to incorporate movement into your everyday life. Try to find ways to move your body that are enjoyable to you. Also, try to make your motivation for exercising something other than weight loss.
A balanced diet
I love the Starburst FaveREDs and chewy SweeTARTS. If I could, I would eat them all day for the rest of my life; however, I know my body needs other nutrients and vitamins to survive, so this isn't a sustainable diet. To create a balanced diet I also eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat and dairy to provide my body with all it needs to function correctly.
Remember, as you are creating a balanced diet, don't label foods as "good" or "bad." Labeling foods as one or the other can cause stress and may trigger feelings of shame. Stress and shame are not beneficial for your mental health — and remember, you need both physical and mental health.
Try to include foods from all five food groups that you enjoy and allow yourself to eat the yummy treats you look forward to. Although my diet doesn't solely consist of Starburst and SweeTARTS, I do still eat them and leave the shame and guilt behind.
If you're finding that your relationship with food is unhealthy, consider getting help. There are dietitians and therapists equipped with the knowledge and tools to help you overcome these struggles. If your mental health is struggling in areas beyond food, seek help from a therapist or a trusted friend or family member. There is no shame in asking for help.
Creating new habits is difficult and there will be setbacks along the way, but continuing to try after each setback is what leads to success.
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