Exercise and body image; the search for perfection

I found the following statistics on the internet the other day (not sure what the original source is, but there have been many, many studies showing the same kinds of results so I feel okay about posting this without a reference);

  • 25% of men and 45% of women are on a diet on any given day
  • 80% of women are dissatisfied with their appearance
  • 91% of women recently surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting, 22% dieted “often” or “always”
  • 45% of men and 55% of women are dissatisfied with their physiques.

Assuming that my clients and group fitness participants are representative of the above group (and I have reason to believe that they are), this means that many individuals who I perceive as being lean, strong and fit, don’t see themselves that way! It’s as if they view their bodies in a fun house mirror; magnifying small imperfections and grossly distorting the overall picture.

I frequently hear healthy-weight women complain about how difficult it is to;

  • lose ‘those last 10 pounds’
  • shrink their bellies back to the size they were before they had children
  • get rid of a little inner thigh or back-of-the-arm jiggle
  • reduce the size of their backside

Why are these minor imperfections so critical to our sense of self? Do we think we will be happier, funnier, sexier, or more lovable when our bodies more closely resemble the pictures of perfection we carry around inside our heads?

Clearly, these questions are bigger than we can address here (although I’m almost certain it has to do with being constantly bombarded with images of young, thin, perfectly proportioned and air-brushed celebrities…), but I challenge you all to think about your own motivations for exercising.

If you exercise for health reasons (reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood pressure, reducing cholesterol, managing stress, preventing diabetes or osteoporosis, building muscle to offset mid-life muscle loss, etc) and are enjoying the frequency and intensity of your workouts, congratulations! You’re using exercise as a tool to live a long and healthy life. Carry on!

If you exercise with the goal of achieving some sort of physical perfection, are always at the gym and feel like you need to do even more, proceed with caution. Most likely, you’re one of the people I described above; strong and fit-looking in the eyes of others and well within the range of healthy weight for your age and height. For some reason, you don’t see yourself the way others do. You may be using exercise as a tool to deal with an unhealthy body image.

~ Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living? ~bob marly

Skip to it!

Tried something this morning in my Bosu class that I was sure I couldn’t possibly do.

Nope. Not in a million years. Not me. Way too much coordination required. What if I fall off? What if I trip and hurt myself? What if I die of embarrassment failing in public?!?!?

Just try, said a little voice in my head. What’s the worst thing that could happen?

So, I tried. Skipping on the Bosu. In front of my class (all three of them; yeah, I know, a really big audience to risk embarrassing myself in front of). Of course, I got them to try too (pro-active face-saving, I call it).

Guess what? I did it! First time, 3 jumps before I had to step off. Second time, 6 jumps. Third time 17 jumps in a row! Skipping on the Bosu!

Fantastic balance and co-ordination test that also gets your heart racing! Give it a try; skip to it!

WIP Wednesday

WIP; an acronym used by knitters to designate a work in progress. Typically I have several of these on the go; when I get bored of one project I can put it aside and move forward on another, always dreaming of the day when the current WIP will become an FO (finished object).

Also, I find that I need projects requiring different amounts of concentration to be sure not to waste a single moment of knitting time during the day! Lace is left for when I’m alone, socks are for knitting while watching kids at skating or Tae kwon do, long stretches of stocking stitch keep me company while watching television (although my husband says that I really only ‘listen’ to TV).

Right now I have 4 things on the needles (or OTN); a vest (for me!), a scarf (getting a jump on next year’s Xmas knitting), a pair of socks (birthday present for my niece), and a super secret project for my ‘swap’ partner on Ravelry (can’t divulge details, she might read this post!).

First up, Redhook Vest by Jared Flood. This year I’m using up ‘stash’ (yarn purchased, often without a pattern in mind, and stashed away for future use) to make room in my storage containers for more high-end fibre (yes, I’m a yarn snob!), so I cast on for this simple, yet stylish vest with a bag of Jo Sharp Classic DK Wool purchased several years ago online. Nice color (“Ink”) but very scratchy and ‘tough’. Hope it softens up in the wash. Out of the 6 balls I’ve already knit up, there were 5 knots (very unimpressive). Tackling the short row ‘wrap-and-turns’ today, a new skill for me!

Next up, Crusoe socks, a free pattern from Knitty that’s been sitting in my ‘to knit’ file for some time. It’s a really fun pattern and a great way to use up a very bright and variegated or self-striping skein of sock yarn. I’m using Fleece Artist Trail sock in ‘Flirt’.

I ended up casting on 60 stitches (way more than the pattern required for an adult’s large; and yes, I checked my gauge), and still, the sock is unlikely to fit an adult foot. Good thing my niece wants a pair of socks, likes pink and has a birthday coming up!

The third project I have to show you is a Heart to Heart beaded scarf, by Sivia Harding. Sivia’s patterns are beautiful, wonderfully written and enjoyable to knit. What makes this rendition even more fabulous is the yarn; Enya, by indie dyer Saffron Dyeworks. To be honest, SD yarns are the main reason I’m trying to create more storage space!

Adding beads to my knitting is a fairly new passion (as is buying beads and stashing them for some unspecified project; good thing they don’t take up much space!); expect to see more beaded projects in the future!

And here’s a quick peek at my super-secret-single-skein-mystery-swap project; just enough to see the color and not give anything away! Shh, don’t tell!

Time: how much is enough?

The other day I was having lunch with some girlfriends and the topic of time came up.

As in, ‘I never seem to have enough time to get everything done’ and ‘How do you find the time for _____ ?’*** and ‘I have no time to myself’. Sound familiar? As a self-employed fitness professional and mom of three young children I totally get the ‘too little time’ lament. I experience it frequently at home (in particular, between the hours of 3 and 6 pm), and almost daily at work; most of my clients have used lack of time as an excuse for not exercising and eating correctly at least once. It’s a very convenient excuse.

But let’s stop for a minute (a very small unit of time), and think about what we really mean when we complain about not having enough time.

Do we mean that we wish we had more? That there were more than 24 hours in a day? That we could get by on fewer than eight hours of sleep? Probably not. Longer days would just get filled up with more time-gobbling activities.

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Cyril Parkinson

Do we wish that we had less to do? That fewer of our waking hours were taken up with the tasks of everyday life? That we had more time to sit and do nothing? While for some of us, this might true, I believe that most people want their days to be full of meaningful activity. And that idleness breeds boredom, stifles creativity and ultimately, makes time pass very slowly.

I never remember feeling tired by work, though idleness exhausts me completely.”             Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr.

I think that what we’re really saying when we complain about not having enough time, is that we wish we knew how to prioritize the activities that we spend time doing so that we felt balanced and rested, instead of fragmented and worn out. Our contemporary, western life-style makes many demands on our time, and it may seem that many of those demands are beyond our control. In reality, however, we have more freedom to choose exactly how we will spend our time than humans have ever had before. (Think about dishwashers, computers, cell-phones, cars; all devices invented by humans to free up time for other activities.)

I think that the secret to feeling like you have “just enough” time (not too much or too little) is to decide what’s really important to you (and your family) and devote your time primarily to those activities. Make a list, if that helps. Place the activities that you value the most at the top; this will obviously include work (if it doesn’t, you need to find another way to make a living, but that topic is a separate post entirely!) and general life maintenance (cooking, eating, showering, driving kids to school etc.), but should also include physical activity, getting together with family and friends as well as pursuing solitary hobbies. These are the activities that you will fill your time with.



*** I frequently get asked how I find time in my busy schedule for knitting. Because I find knitting to be both a productive and a deeply relaxing activity, I make time for it every afternoon. And always with a pot of strong tea. I don’t find time for knitting, I make time.
What will you make time for this week?