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Strengthening the Mind Body Connection

Dr. Amanda Gerber

Reset your mindset. It can be helpful to have the right mind frame—one that sets you up for success through a positive relationship with your body and food.

Perfection is not a realistic or attainable goal. It’s easy to set and easier to fail. Many people believe that the “perfect” size is a badge of honor that speaks deeply to who we are. Glossy, glamorous, and often fake, media images make us feel bad about ourselves. Using a movie star, model or professional athlete as a comparative goal leads us to erroneously believe that weight loss is the first step to success.

Countless studies drive this point home, including one published in Positive Psychology. After presenting college-aged women with three advertisements featuring attractive female models, researchers found that many participants felt bad about their own bodies as a result. This holds true for men as well. It’s a trap—one that you can avoid. Weight loss shouldn’t be the resolution, but what happens when you have addressed the broader underlying issues that led to your struggle with weight in the first place.

Below are some ways to to shift your negative thoughts to positive thoughts:

· Stop looking sideways. Instead of comparing yourself to other people, embrace that you’re on your own unique path.

· Change the script. Flip from negative to positive. Don’t talk about dieting or losing weight—or your body’s shortcomings. If someone tries to draw you into that conversation, change the subject or find an excuse to leave the exchange. Forgive yourself for where you’re at and how you feel. Recognize that body image does not develop in isolation—culture, family, friends, and the media all play a role. While you can’t control them, you can control the story you tell yourself about who you are and what’s possible for you.

· Adopt positive affirmations: Here are a few to get you started: “I feed my body healthy nourishing food and give it healthy nourishing exercise because it deserves to be taken care of.” “As long as I am good, kind, and hold myself with integrity, it doesn’t matter what other people think of me.” “My body is a vessel for my awesomeness.”

· Exercise for functional reasons, not aesthetics. Research shows that people who exercise for fitness versus appearance have a more positive body image. Find routines that you enjoy, and fit them realistically into your daily schedule.

· Be mindful about how food makes you feel. Eat with awareness and without judgment to create positive associations. Give your body what it craves and notice how you feel as a result. Observe how certain foods (e.g., whole, non-processed, lean proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, etc.) make you feel better than others (e.g., processed and refined options, high in sugar and chemicals, etc.). Let this new sensibility guide your choices in a way that makes food less about deprivation and scarcity, and more about pleasure, joy, and abundance.

Lastly, accept that resolving to be healthy is a long game. It takes time to create lasting change. Revising your personal food and fitness narrative is no exception. Give yourself the time and space to get there by remembering it’s not about coming in hot on January 1—to the latest diet, food program, meal plan, or fitness routine—but rather, getting your head together. Consider this your single, achievable New Year’s resolution.


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