You always hear why you should improve your fitness. For your health, for your stress, for your body image, for your life. Exercising and eating well can empower you. However, when does physical empowerment become mental empowerment?
Anything in excess can lead to negative consequences. Too much fitness can actually be unhealthy. Media publicizes some mental consequences like eating disorders and exercise addictions. You always hear the unhealthy physical downfalls. Eating disorders can lead to malnutrition, hair loss, fatigue, even osteoporosis and heart failure. Excessive exercising can lead to injuries. What you do not hear about is the mental effects. More than just poor self-esteem, there is self-objectification.
From a young age, media instills this idea that there is more than just the self, there is also how the self is perceived by others. That being said, appearance is so important. This becomes the gray area in holistic wellness. Body image is very important. Positive body image is more than liking what you see in the mirror. That is the general definition of body image, which leads to self-objectification. Instead of being happy in your own skin, body image undertakes this idea that you like the way your stomach looks. You like the way your legs look. You like the way your arms look. You begin to see yourself as an ice sculpture that can be chipped away to an (unrealistic) ideal without realizing that your true self will melt away amidst all of that effort.
Other than the increased risk of depression and overall feeling shitty about yourself, there are much more drastic consequences. Girls with lower confidence also have lower ambition and lower GPAs. This ultimately leads to women pursuing fewers careers and more beauty ideals. The documentary “Miss Representation” takes a close look at this issue. Women are not only severely underrepresented in media, but also government and leadership positions.
As Katie Couric put it, “If women spent a tenth of the time thinking about how to solve the world’s problems as they think about their weight…we could solve them in a matter of months.”
Regarding health and fitness, if it is not about losing weight and building muscles, what is it about? When you exercise, endorphins are released which make you happy. However, these are temporary. What is not temporary, though, is the ability to make change in your life. Once you begin treating your body with the love and respect it deserves, you notice small changes in your body and life. You realize you can walk up three flights of stairs without heavy breathing. You realize you can carry that box all by yourself. You realize that you have enough natural energy to do all of the things you love. This teaches you that you have the power to make small changes in your life that add up to greater goals. Over time, this can empower you through other areas of your life. With that mindset, you can do anything. With small, baby steps, you can change the world.
This is why fitness and wellness are so important. Don’t do it for the “wow, you got hot.” Don’t do it for the number on the scale. Do it for yourself. Do it to feel empowered and prove to yourself that you can do anything and everything you have ever wanted.