Quick, what do you think of your body? What thoughts or words come to your mind?
In a study conducted by LifeScience, almost one-third of college-aged women surveyed said they would trade at least one year of their lives to have a perfect body — what they consider to be the ideal body weight and shape. A year of their lives! But it doesn’t stop there.
Ten percent were willing to trade two to five years, and two percent were willing to trade up to 10 years of life away. Some of the women surveyed even said they’d give up a promotion, some of their salary, or time with partners or family! And the most surprising aspect of this study is that most of the women surveyed were of normal weight.
Whether in England or here in the United States, we know we have a culture obsessed with appearances and having the perfect body. Just glance at women’s magazines on the newsstand. Even the photos of women who are on the covers of magazines are manipulated graphically to look even more perfect. So I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that young women are actually willing to trade their precious time to have what they deem to be a perfect body.
It shouldn’t surprise me … but it does.
We need to collectively shift our focus from this quest to obtain a perfect body (who determines perfect anyway?) and shift our focus to HEALTH. Let’s focus on living healthy — eating whole, fresh foods as close to their natural state as possible and exercising regularly. If more people focused on health, we’d have fewer people with eating disorders, fewer people fighting obesity and fewer people wishing they were someone different.
Here are some of the ways you can begin to shift your mindset from perfect to healthy:
1. Don’t chase perfect, chase perfectly healthy.
The best part about chasing healthy is it’s achievable. Chasing some idealized vision of perfect doesn’t set you up to have healthy self-images or achievable goals. The perfect word can even be a trigger for some. It’s that all or nothing thinking: they want to be perfect or nothing at all. They give up and resign themselves to bad habits. Plus, focusing on health provides you with a whole bunch of bonus benefits: reduced stress, increased energy, boosted immunity, enhanced mood and a longer life.
2. Focus on what you like.
I bet there are several things about your body you do like. Maybe it’s your shoulders or your hard calf muscles or your long legs. Focus on what you like about yourself and your body instead of wishing you could be someone different. When you drop the notion of perfect from your mind, you just may discover you like more about yourself than you realized! Focus on being the healthiest you that you can be, and liking yourself more will follow.
3. Let yourself arrive.
If you've achieved your goal weight and you still aren’t happy because you aren’t perfect, you are setting yourself up for failure. You need to let yourself arrive, or appreciate where you are right now. Congratulate yourself on what you have achieved for your health and fitness, instead of always setting your goal to something unobtainable. Create healthy living goals for yourself so you can let yourself arrive and enjoy the satisfaction in knowing you are exactly where — and who you want to be.
Put simply, pursuing your health, is healthier. We will know we made progress beyond our pursuits for perfection when we won’t be willing to trade anything else for our health. I know I wouldn’t.