Photo by James Nord.
There’s a big difference between being fit and being skinny that many Americans often overlook. In this country at least, it seems that skinniness is the ideal body type for women while being fit is considered masculine. For a woman hoping to stay feminine, achieving fitness seems to go against the goal of skinniness.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a skinny person. I do love food, but I also love exercising and staying healthy. Understand that I would never sacrifice a chocolate brownie for a bowl of strawberries, but equally I would not pass up the opportunity to do yoga with a friend. Fitness is a top priority in my life, shortly followed by enjoying the food I eat, and then farther down is the desire to be skinny.
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that some people are born naturally skinny, but no one is born naturally ‘fit.’ A person’s body type and weight distribution are determined largely by genetics. So to say that being skinny is ideal is like saying that having green eyes or brown hair is ideal. Just as you can’t blink your way to green eyes, you shouldn’t try to starve or even exercise your way to skinniness. Realize, of course, that just because a person is skinny doesn’t mean they are fit. If the goal is always fitness, a healthy skinniness will inevitably follow.
Constantly trying to get “skinnier” is another huge problem. If your goal set is mostly unattainable (and being a size 0, model skinny is very unrealistic), then you will always be striving to lose more while never quite reaching that goal. This will harm the body physically, as your body has only so much weight it can lose before becoming weak and tired. It will also hurt you psychologically, as the pressure of always failing to meet your goal will wear down your emotions and motivation. If being skinny is ultimately the light at the end of the tunnel, the darkness can run on forever.
Being active, healthy and finding your way to long-term fitness should serve as that light while knowing that fitness doesn’t mean always tossing away the chocolate for a bag of apples. You can eat well and enjoy your meals while still being healthy and fit. Here’s a few eating tips that have come in handy for me:
- Use a small plate so you trick yourself into thinking you have more food. People want to fill a big plate with lots of food, but by doing that you lose complete control of portion size. This will also help in selecting what you really want to eat because space on the plate is limited, forcing you to think more carefully about your food selections.
- Treat yourself! Don’t let food become a chore, make it fun and something to look forward to. Counting calories doesn’t have to be as awful as it sounds. How about fruit and yogurt for breakfast, or a salad for lunch? Sure, get a small cup of ice cream mid-day! Go for a big run in the morning? Of course, put your sandwich on two pieces of wheat bread! Hell yeah, add some fat free mayo! It’s these kinds of rewards that will keep you happy and healthy while still focusing on fitness.
- Replace bad sugars or fats with good ones to satisfy your cravings. I have needed a bag of potato chips once but instead opted for the baked veggie chips – just as delicious, I promise. There are a ton of alternatives to chips, usually veggie options being the best for you. Fruits often satisfy the need for candy; for example, have grapes instead of Skittles. Avocados can also be a healthy alternative to many snacks, as they are rich in flavor and good fats, making you feel full quicker during the day. Use it like you would mayo on a sandwich for a whole new sammy experience.
It is not only eating smaller portions and making better choices that are going lead you to fitness. Obviously, there’s physical activity–-performing a daily routine of exercises will help keep you motivated and energized throughout the day. It will also lead to extended routines that will start to have major effects on your body. It’s a well known fact that exercise releases endorphins that make you happy, which is reason enough to start exercising daily.
Nevertheless, it’s hard for everyone to get a work-out in during a busy day, so start small. Try working out for a half an hour every other day until that starts getting easier. Then do a half an hour every day; then an hour every other day and 30 minutes on the other days–all working your way up to the recommended full 60 minutes every day. Break up the routine, if that makes things easier. Make the exercises work for you, but also make sure you’re working at them too. Try different routines to see what works best–-running, swimming, tennis, yoga, biking–-even walking will make a difference.
A word of warning, however: don’t just do cardio. Some women really shy away from muscle training for fear of getting too ‘thick’ or seeing that scale number rise, but they shouldn’t. Toning your muscles will help you lose weight in the long term, making your arms, legs, stomach and back all feel tighter and slimmer. To feel strong is a very motivating feeling, and it will help power you through any workout.
While being skinny shouldn’t be the ultimate goal, it’s okay to want to lose weight. Just make sure you’re going about it the right way, or all your efforts will be for naught. Let yourself enjoy getting fit, as well as maintaining a healthy lifestyle and body weight. The results will be phenomenal.