Balancing Body Image

In our quest to become healthier, our first actions are typically to eat better and exercise more. These two pillars of health are no secret to anyone, but what’s missing?

Health is not black and white – context must always be considered. Our health levels are not a sum of different activities where you lose a point for eating cake and gain point for running a mile.

The psychological aspect of health is every bit as important as the physiological aspect. How we feel about our own appearance is just as relevant as how others see us. It may seem like the guy running around campus with a six-pack is the epitome of health, but his self-image may be that of someone who can never be lean enough. Maybe he feels guilty for eating pizza the night before. Maybe running, to him, is actually a punishment.

In that case, is running still healthy?

In contrast, maybe the girl next door who is overweight is actually very comfortable with her body image despite what others may believe. She eats poorly, rarely exercises but feels great about herself.

Don’t be naïve in thinking that just because you exercise seven days a week that you’re automatically healthy. Just “eating clean” doesn’t automatically make you better than someone who frequently visits the drive-thru.

Are you mentally in a good place? Does missing a workout ruin your day? If so, it’s wise to take a step back and re-evaluate your goals.

Constantly striving for a healthier body is not a competition with contentment about our self-image. It is possible to be happy with our physical appearance and to also want to look better. It becomes dangerous if we aren’t able to find that balance.

Although these two camps are very different, they should learn from each other instead of shunning one another. Combining their mindsets would result in the ultimate healthy individual.

Those who are physically unhealthy should not assume that exercise is about vanity and hiding insecurities. Those who are physically healthy shouldn’t look at others as lazy bums.

Health is a balancing game. Like a balance beam, if you put too much emphasis in one direction, you’re bound to fall, but if you find the right balance, you can stay up forever.