What Will You Gain When You Lose (Your Scale)?

How often do you come up with health goals that often have a lot to do with how you look and little to do with real health and happiness?  Profit-driven companies are busy bombarding us with slimy weight-loss slogans like Cheerios’ “More Grains, Less You” and Special K’s “What Will You Gain When You Lose?” They promise that losing weight will bring you health and happiness, but all they really do is replace a well-balanced meal with a 150-calorie serving of cereal. Not a health and wellness breakthrough, guys.

These magic ladies’ cereals and all the other “time for a new you!” marketing schemes are NOT the key to health, happiness or love! In fact, those fear tactics scaring you about all you are missing out on by being your current size are only benefiting companies, not individuals. It is time to push back against the degrading weight-loss marketing with REAL health and confidence-boosting resolutions, like the ones we’re recommending below. Today, we want MORE you and for you to WIN, not lose! Take that, Special K and Cheerios!

If you’re like us, our “health” goals used to revolve around clothing sizes, weight and measurements, and little to do with actual health or happiness. We know we’re not alone in realizing that even if the number got smaller, it had little to do with our actual health or happiness. 

Lindsay and I can look back in old journals and see that sometimes we resorted to extremes in eating and exercising to get to that random number we thought would bring with it all the joy we could imagine: “If I can just lose this much weight, I’ll be SO happy!” or “I’ll love myself and someone else can love me if I can just lose this many inches.” But personal experience, academic research and body image advocacy have taught us something very different: An arbitrary number is never EVER the key to happiness, confidence or even health and fitness. 

We spend a lot of time writing and researching about the ways media objectifies females and asks us to view ourselves as objects to be fixed, judged, and looked at above all else. We are told we are parts to be ogled by those around us, perfected and shaped by surgeons, judged by each other, and constantly in need of repair with the help of makeup, waxing, tanning, bleaching, plucking and posing — and now cereal.  Because of that, our health goals often reflect our self-objectifying views that often don’t get us to real health and happiness and don’t last too long (ex: “Fit into my jeans from 2003” or “Lose 20 lbs.”).  They actually hurt our health and happiness. Have you ever reached one of those goals and then realized you still weren’t happy with where you were?  It’s because the ideals we see in media and set for ourselves are designed to be unattainable — we’ll work forever trying to reach them, but they’re forever out of reach, so we’ll spend all our money, time and energy working toward them! Have you ever reached one of those arbitrary weight or size goals by resorting to any extreme necessary – surgery, unsafe diet pills, starvation, purging? Those unhealthy extremes take you much further from health and fitness than you were before you lost the weight.

We challenge you to join us in pledging to fight toward reaching goals that have little to do with the way we look and everything to do with what we can accomplish. We urge you to pledge resolutions that reflect how valuable, capable and powerful you are.  Here are 15 empowering, achievable goals for 2015, and we’d LOVE for you to renew your efforts this year or make a fresh start with these resolutions as your guide! What will you gain when you lose (your scale/your fixation on random numbers/your unhealthy ideals/etc.)? You’ll gain more than you could ever fathom.

Forget your number: If you tend to fixate on your weight, measurements or clothing sizes, pledging to leave those numbers behind is your key to freedom!  Make a goal to stop or limit the number  of times you weigh or measure yourself.  Start judging your health through your activity level by setting a fitness goal (see No. 3) instead of a meaningless number, and you’ll get somewhere great! This post will give you all the motivation you need!

Leave your keys at home: If you drive or take public transportation to work, school, or elsewhere when you could be walking or biking instead, why not give it a try? Increasing activity is a beautiful way to release endorphins to feel happier, get your heart pumping and enjoy the outside world!

Set a true fitness goal: If you’ve held yourself back from running, biking, swimming, etc., because you felt self-conscious about what to wear, how red your face gets from the workout, sweating in public, (the list goes on), it’s time to set a goal and fight to achieve it!  Make this goal about your abilities and you’ll be much less inclined to care about what you look like doing it. Run a certain distance without stopping. Swim 10 laps faster than ever before. Do a certain number of crunches, push-ups, pull-ups, new dance moves – any fitness achievement measured in actions and not numbers on a scale, measuring tape or clothing tag. This post will give you ideas on how to use your body as an instrument instead of an ornament.

Can the tan: Studies show the first time you set foot in a tanning bed, you increase your chances of skin cancer by as much as 75%! This stat alone is good enough reason to set a goal to limit the time you spend tanning or stop it entirely. The tan skin ideal is fleeting, leads to other “beauty” problems like wrinkles and skin spots, and is achievable through much less harmful means if it’s a look you just have to have. Read this post about Lexie’s skin cancer diagnosis this year and how she is fighting to make sure fewer people have to have surgery to remove melanoma and lymph nodes like she did. 

Stop negative self-talk: Too many girls and women have a constant script of mean thoughts about themselves running through their minds. Recent studies show us that girls who don’t like their bodies become more sedentary over time and pay less attention to having a healthy diet. If you think you’re gross and worthless, why would you take care of yourself? Set a goal to stop saying negative things about yourself. Start with a day, a week, a month, whatever you can do, and make it a permanent practice!

Think nice thoughts instead: On the flipside of the last study, research has found that girls who respect their bodies are more likely to be physically active and eat healthy. They are less likely to lead sedentary lifestyles and they make healthy lifestyle choices way into the future.  Since what we THINK about our bodies has a strong connection to how we TREAT our bodies, set a goal to shut out negative thoughts as they come and replace them with positive truths!

Put your $ where your mouth is: Make a goal to only shop at stores that treat females respectfully in their advertising and products.  Speaking up with your pocketbook is one of the most powerful ways you can show retailers what you will and will not put up with.

Speak up: When you see a media message that goes against what you believe about girls and women, let your voice be heard. Make a resolution to write to companies that produce and distribute offensive messages, as well as those that you appreciate for showing females as valuable for more than being looked at. We’ve seen major companies pull advertising and products that were offensive because girls and women speak up! If nothing else, slap one of our uplifting sticky notes on that magazine or ad and give somebody else a positive reminder! 

Go on a media fast: Choose a day, a week, a month or longer to steer clear of as much media as you can. That way, you can see how your life is different without all those messages and images, and when you return to viewing and reading popular media, you will be more sensitive to the messages that hurt you and those that are unrealistic. This post will give you all the info you need. 

Just say “no”: Set a goal to cancel out any media choices you view or read that tell you lies about what it means to be a female. Cancel subscriptions, throw away crappy things you already own, find a new TV show to love. You’ll thank yourself!

Picture perfect: If you are a photographer or like to take pictures, set a goal to steer clear of any Photoshopping or image manipulation that Photoshops those in your pictures out of reality. Signs of life are important and we need to see reality!

Mother knows best: If you are a mother, set a goal to never speak negatively about your appearance in front of your children — especially daughters. Your kids are listening whether you like it or not, and they will learn how to view themselves from your example.

Mirror, mirror: Critically analyze how much time you spend in front of the mirror. Could any of that time be better spent? This post talks about a woman who didn’t look in a mirror for a month and what she learned. It’s fab. 

Be an advocate: If you teach or lead a youth group of any sort, set a goal to integrate body-positive messages, media literacy and real health goals into your curriculum.  You can do this casually in your everyday life and work/family/church capacities, or in a more formal sense as a teacher or counselor. We offer a Group Leader Kit to guide anyone through in-depth lesson plans, discussion questions, and activities, along with merchandise for participants!  

Fight for Positive Body Image: Developing positive body image — or feeling positively about your body, regardless of what it looks like at the moment — is key to health, happiness, progress and empowerment. When you’re feeling especially self-conscious, it’s hard to focus on much else or make healthy choices for yourself. With the vast majority of women feeling negatively about their bodies and regularly preoccupied with their appearance, we have some serious work to do on this front. You could tackle hundreds of pages of our doctoral research to gather our findings, or you could read our short summary of more than a decade of body image research right here! Check out our five steps to better body image.

Need more help developing body image resilience that can help you overcome your self-consciousness and be more powerful than ever before? Learn how to recognize harmful ideals, redefine beauty and health, and resist what holds you back from happiness, health, and real empowerment with the Beauty Redefined Body Image Program for girls and women 14+. It is an online, anonymous therapeutic tool that can change your life, designed by Lexie & Lindsay Kite, with PhDs in body image and media.

Your Body is Powerful. Use it as an Instrument, Not an Ornament.

Our research points to one particularly awesome way to experience real empowerment, decrease self-consciousness, and embrace your body as your own – not as a decoration for everyone else to gawk at.

It is through the power of your body.

… But not the way the rest of the world tells you your body is powerful. We are constantly sold the lie that makeup, weight loss, new clothes, cosmetic surgery, etc., are empowering for women. The thing is, they’re not. We’re confusing “empowerment” with “feeling beautiful” or, more specifically, “feeling like other people think we look good.” Empowerment has to be so much more dynamic and encompassing than that. “Power” cannot be minimized to something that is gained and wielded through appearance or beauty. “Power” from beauty is cheap. It is fleeting and can be consumed and discarded at any moment. Your power isn’t just in your beauty; it’s in who you are and what you do. It is in your physical power – the power to be, and do, and live, and move.

The fact that you have a body — regardless of your appearance or ability level — means that you innately have access to physical power. Your body is an instrument to be used for your benefit, and not a burden to drag around, hiding and fixing along the way. Want to develop positive body image? When you learn to value your body for what it can do rather than what it looks like, you improve your body image and gain a more powerful sense of control. The truth is, regardless of what you look like, or what you think you look like, you can feel good about yourself because you are not your appearance.

Value your body for what it can do by engaging in physical activity. It will change your life and boost your body image in a way you never thought possible.

Health and body image experts teach that you can resist the soul-sucking place of constant self-consciousness by participating in non-aesthetically-focused sports (like competitive team sports, rather than activities that rely on the way you look while participating) and other kinds of physical activity. (Read about the problem with objectification in dance, cheer, and pageants here.) Three Harvard women’s rugby players are speaking our language on this piece about how physical activity is the most empowering thing you can do for your self-esteem. Let’s just quote a bit of their genius: “Loving one’s body is an inherently political act. Maintaining pride in having a body that is ‘too big,’ ‘too small,’ or ‘not ideal’ is a political statement against the many voices that tell us our bodies are problematic. Mainstream culture normalizes the flawless bodies that dominate every kind of mass media… At home, girls are taught to cross their legs in public and take up as little physical space as possible. They are taught that being beautiful is much more valuable than being smart and strong. Magazines preach the gospel of constant diet and exercise to achieve ‘bikini bodies’ that are meant to lounge poolside and be gazed upon. It is a true testament to the misogyny of our culture that women are encouraged to whittle away their bodies and maintain postures that make them as unobtrusive as possible.” So how do we fight against the all-out war against us and our bodies? Physical activity. Physical activity is shown to lead to body satisfaction when girls develop an appreciation of what their bodies can do, rather than how they appear to others. When women exercise to increase their fitness, rather than to improve physical appearance, they are more likely to feel positively toward their bodies. So, exercise! Play sports! Use your body as an instrument to experience life, and enjoy fantastic health benefits like increased cardiovascular health, improved blood sugar, lowered cholesterol, healthy blood pressure, and countless other internal health benefits in the process.

The Harvard Women’s Rugby team encourages you to consider their sport as a route to positive body image. Here’s why:

“Rugby is a source of empowerment. Women players are taught to use the strength of their bodies in ways they had never even conceived. Where society appreciates the meek timidity that is supposed to accompany female beauty, rugby encourages women to be a dominating presence—fearless in pursuit of her goals. …The ten separate rugby positions provide every kind of physique the opportunity to play a role on the field—tall, short, broad-shouldered, curvy, thick-legged, tiny. Each girl uses her unique strengths to make a significant contribution to the team. …Imagine the relief of taking a breath of fresh air after being drowned for so long in the pressure that society places on women to fit some unrealistic mold. …Although it is extremely difficult to maintain a constant state of positive self-image in our culture, every time a woman celebrates the beauty of her own body or of another woman she is making a political statement. She is saying that she refuses to accept the messages spread by mainstream culture, and she is refusing to accept that her body is only valuable as a visual object.” 

Lindsay wants you to strongly consider taking up swimming. Here’s why:

After a few years of refusing to wear a swimsuit, our junior year of college Lindsay got an invitation to go cliff-jumping with a bunch of friends. With peer pressure, beautiful weather, and the memory of how much she loved to swim all pushing her to accept the invitation, she very reluctantly did. Here’s what happened: “The feeling I got when I jumped in the water and started swimming across the reservoir is almost indescribable. It sounds so cheesy, but I swear it was almost a spiritual experience. I felt incredible, and powerful, and was still a strong swimmer after all those years, and no one gagged when they saw me in a swimsuit. By throwing aside the fear of being invited to “be seen” in a swimsuit, I gave myself an opportunity for wonderful change. Without confronting my shame, I would never have experienced the overwhelming fulfillment of swimming again. The results of that decision have been life-changing. Seriously. Since that day 7 years ago, I have not missed an opportunity to go swimming. I regularly swim laps for exercise and some of my happiest memories of the past several years include fun summer days in the water. Use your body as an instrument – you’ll be so happy you did.”

I, Lexie, want to put in a plug for walking, jogging, or running:

A couple years ago, I was talked into running two different half marathons and I was terrified – not only is running really hard physically and mentally, but I was possibly more terrified of being looked at while running. I spent the first few weeks on a treadmill at my gym, so self-conscious that my face got really red and that people might be looking at me. I felt self-conscious that I wasn’t wearing the right outfits for running. (Is spandex a necessity?!?!) I felt self-conscious that the runners next to me were going faster and farther. But as I trained and built up my endurance, something inside me changed. Instead of picturing myself running, I started just running. I stopped worrying about being a good vision of me and I gave myself all of me instead. Running now makes me feel really happy because I can set a goal and get there, and working toward that goal allows me to release all those happy endorphins, feel more energy and motivation, and see what my body is capable of. 

We love these first-hand accounts of Beauty Redefined fans who found positive body image through the power of their own bodies in a huge variety of activities:

“In junior high, I spent all my time wrapped up in athletics. It’s what I loved and I excelled at it. … I was a softball player. A catcher. A short setter in volleyball. I was proud of my physical abilities, believing I could do anything I put my mind to. I LOVE exercise. I love the way it makes me feel. Is it because I need to fit into a size 2 pant or a size small shirt? No. It’s because I want to be able to feel strong, powerful, and confident. There is a sense of accomplishment when a certain speed or mileage is accomplished – a joy that cannot adequately be described. Everyone can and should participate in some form of physical activity. Not just to keep their bodies healthy and strong, but to improve their own belief in their physical abilities and to encourage others along the way.”

“Recently, I have started biking and I am super excited by the way my body has responded. I have quadrupled my distance within 3 weeks, even after having the flu last week.”

“I had a hard time getting over [my sexual assault], but after a decade of disordered eating, self-harm, and an expensive cosmetic surgery procedure, it’s finally happening. I have a happy life, with a job I’m good at, and I’m making good progress with my weightlifting; at last I feel like my body belongs to me.”

“After I had a baby, I began starving myself. It was about that time that I realized I needed help. I began reading literature about body image, including Beauty Redefined, and I set a goal to run a 10K. I’ve been focusing on being healthy enough to train for that. Even though it is still hard for me to weigh more than I want to, I am focused on health and strength now, which is what I love to do. I also find that it’s important to focus on what I can offer the world, which is a lot more than a number on a scale or a dress size. I have a lot to offer!”

If you’ve held yourself back from running, biking, swimming, etc., because you felt self-conscious about what to wear, how much you “jiggle,” how red and sweaty you get, (the list goes on), it’s time to set a goal and fight to achieve it!  Make this goal about your abilities and you’ll be much less inclined to worry about what you look like doing it. Run a certain distance without stopping. Swim a bunch of laps faster than ever before. Do a certain number of crunches, new dance classes, whatever you can do and enjoy doing. Use your body as an instrument and you will learn some uplifting truths in action: You are more than a body. You are capable of much more than being looked at. You are not a decoration. Your physical power is not in your appearance; it is in your actions. The world is more beautiful because you are here and it has nothing to do with your looks.

Need more help developing body image resilience that can help you overcome your self-consciousness and be more powerful than ever before? Learn how to recognize harmful ideals, redefine beauty and health, and resist what holds you back from happiness, health, and real empowerment with the Beauty Redefined Body Image Program for girls and women 14+. It is an online, anonymous therapeutic tool that can change your life, designed by Lexie & Lindsay Kite, with PhDs in body image and media.

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