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If Looks Could Kill: Maintaining a Healthy Outlook on Your Fitness Journey

by Christie Cash July 09, 2015

If Looks Could Kill: Maintaining a Healthy Outlook on Your Fitness Journey

Beyoncé has an amazing singing voice. Christina Aguilera also has an amazing singing voice. Beyoncé does not sound like Christina, and yet both women have flourishing, multifaceted careers.

Serena Williams is an incredible athlete. Abby Wombach is an incredible athlete. Serena and Abby play entirely different sports, and yet both are repeatedly lauded for their excellence on the court/field.

In case you can’t tell where we’re going with this, one more: I have blonde hair. My friend has brown hair. We’re both fantastic people despite the fact that we are not the same. So crazy how that works out, right?

The above examples may seem elementary until you consider the exhausting comparisons that women put themselves through every day. Women look to other women thinking that they need to look exactly like them in order to achieve some kind of notoriety. The notion that someone is not pretty, healthy or in shape just because she does not look like a magazine cover is utterly ridiculous—and we’re all guilty of it.

It’s easy to blame society and the media for perpetuating these standards, but don’t take that as an excuse to throw yourself a pity party while scrolling through your Instagram feed simply because you started working out last week and don’t already have a six pack like that girl. Have you cut out soda and fast food? Did you start taking BikiniBOD? Do you feel more energetic, more comfortable in your skin, and happier overall? If so, then all things considered, you’re doing a pretty spectacular job becoming your best self.

However, we realize that, for some, achieving self-acceptance is a little bit more challenging than simply making the decision to accept and appreciate one’s perceived “flaws.” Many women struggle with severe self-consciousness, fixating on achieving and/or maintaining the perfect body through a perfect diet all while trying to reach complete perfection, and beating themselves up when they [inevitably] don’t.

Is your desire to look great just a regular aspiration to be fit, or is it something more? Read on to determine if your attention to your bikini body is just keeping track as normal, or if you’re seriously interfering with the joy that should come with following your health journey.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Suffering with Extreme Self-Consciousness

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a disabling preoccupation with alleged flaws in appearance. Sufferers are cripplingly self-conscious to the point of constantly checking their appearance and trying to disguise or alter the imperfections they see with excessive makeup, exercise or even cosmetic surgery. A person with this disorder has trouble interpreting a true view of themselves when they look in the mirror, imagining and obsessing over defects that are not actually there. They see extra width in the hips or an enlarged nose that doesn’t exist, and they can’t be convinced otherwise.

Muscle dysmorphia is the term sometimes used to describe BDD in which the person is engrossed by muscle size, shape and leanness. People with muscle dysmorphia often discount the amount of muscle that they have, believing that they ‘small’ or ‘undefined,’ when they actually look normal or could even be more muscular than average. This obsession can effect diet in the form of extreme protein intake (via foods and/or supplements) and often leads to life revolving around one’s workouts.

Looking for progress and striving to do a little bit better every day is perfectly fine (and encouraged!) when pursuing any kind of transformation, but it’s important to understand where the boundaries lie. If you find yourself incapable of celebrating the little victories and taking pride in your body’s changes, no matter how small, you should take a step back and reexamine your goals. Make sure the standards that you’re holding your improvements to are your own, and be proud of them!

Orthorexia: When Eating Healthy Starts to Hurt You

Orthorexia is an unhealthy fixation on eating only healthy or "pure" foods. Experts have noticed a surge in this form of disordered eating in recent years, fueled by the surplus of items marketed as ‘healthy’ and ‘organic,’ and by the public’s fascination with clean eating. An orthoretic starts out with a true intention of wanting to be healthier, but fear of regaining lost weight or potentially triggering a binge causes them to take their habits to an extreme. As with anorexia nervosa, orthorexia is a condition that focuses on food restriction. However, unlike anorexia, it is not so much the quantity of the food that is the center of the obsession, but the quality.

Orthoretics may eliminate entire food groups from their diets, later eliminating another, and another, all in the pursuit of what they believe to be a "perfect" clean diet.

For example, one might start by cutting out bread and grains, believing that carbs are impeding their ability to lose weight. After hearing that some fruits have high sugar content, they will remove those from their diet as well. Soon enough, they are barely sustained on a diet of boiled chicken, steamed broccoli and water, and live in fear of consuming anything outside the realm of this plateful of “safe foods.” Failure to stick to their stringent eating habits can result in depression and self-punishment in the form of stricter constraints on an already brutally limited diet.

Orthoretics often harbor misunderstandings about nutrition. People with eating disorders are immensely educated about food and food science, because it gives them a basis off of which to justify their behaviors. Unfortunately, taking this knowledge to such an extreme demonstrates the complete opposite of healthy living.

Consuming good carbs and naturally-occurring sugars benefits the body, and once you’ve committed yourself to a better lifestyle overall, the occasional guilty pleasure treat will not have detrimental effects. Be proud of yourself for breaking your daily fast food habit, but know that the occasional onion ring can’t and won’t undo all of your hard work.

Binge Eating Disorder: Your Consumption Intake Loses Control

Binge Eating Disorder is a reaction to stress, depression, or other emotional triggers. People with this disorder often consume an unusually large amount of food in one sitting and feel a complete lack of control during the binges. Unlike bulimics, binge eaters do not vomit up their food following the episode, and are often overweight or obese as a result. Afterward, they can feel disgusted and guilty, and the cycle repeats itself. It is very difficult them to stick to a weight loss regime because the new stress of watching their diet can prompt a binge that cancels out any normal eating plan.

Food is fuel, and eating well should be an enjoyable experience. Trying out new, healthy recipes should be fun and rewarding; however, depleting your kitchen of any and all foods, no matter how nutritious, is not an indicator of stable habits. Binge eaters are often counseled to handle their stress in more constructive ways, like physical activity or writing their worries down. Savoring a good meal is important, but food should never be a go-to to replace dealing with real issues.

If “comparison is the thief of joy,” and you don’t have an adequate emotional security system in place, all of your pride and delight in your progress is sure to be stolen right out from under you. Don’t let that happen! The products and community support provided by BikiniBOD aim to encourage you to be the best you possible, and emphasize the importance of celebrating any and all milestones you reach. If you find that you’ve been beating yourself up over simple struggles, reassess your journey so far and determine how you can overcome your adversities without resorting to such debilitating measures.

Always remember: you’re doing this for you. The rest of us are here to give you high fives!

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Christie Cash
Christie Cash

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