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Don't Buy the Shame Game

This time of year, now nearly halfway through January, can be a very difficult time. There is immense pressure both within and without to set goals, make changes, become "new." And while this can be very positive, there is a darker side to it, which is how much this can illicit a feeling of shame about ourselves.

What makes this particularly nefarious when it comes to fitness is that the primary message from the industry is one that implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) plays on this.

So rather than extol the benefits of how fitness can bring mental clarity, physical vibrancy and open up the path to a full, rich, multi-dimensional life, the message we have been taught for years is closer to something like this: You don't look right. And you're lazy. So change. And people will like you.

In other words, we have been shamed for years.

Not only is this unethical, and unkind, it doesn't work. Not in any sustainable way.

Researchers have found that both children and adults are more likely to avoid exercise if they feel shame or stigma about their body size. Research from the University of North Carolina found that women who view their body more in terms of how it looks than how it feels were less likely to exercise. Likewise, a study out of Smith College found that those who exercised for weight and appearance-based reasons exercised less consistently and reported more symptoms of eating disorders and depression. In contrast, those who worked out for health and enjoyment exercised more and showed better objective indicators of health.

Cutting through the judgement is difficult, but it can be done. The first step is awareness, and in my last post I offered two tools--mindfulness and mindset--that I hope can help.

Wishing you a healthy and flourishing New Year, which starts every day.

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