make peace with bodily changes


I feel a touch of shame when Facebook Memories posts a photo of me from five years ago. In one, I’m standing in front of a mirror at the gym, and when it shows up, I can’t help but ogle my thighs. “Were they really that toned? “”? “Could I really sit this much and run this far without feeling like an undead for three days afterwards?” “

Previously, I was a committed gym fan, diligently completing five to six sessions per week and committed to continuous improvement. But like thousands of people during the pandemic, I really let go of those efforts, and now my gym attendance could be described as sporadic at best. Those hard earned wins are long gone, and thanks to my old fitpo posts and progress photos, I feel like a failure.

I call it “negative fitness nostalgia”: the experience of looking back and being ashamed of how much you’ve regressed. You might be able to double your bodyweight in a squat or easily run a 10k before the pandemic, but now you are struggling to complete a warm-up without getting out of a puff.

I can’t be the only formerly fit person feeling personally victimized by the Instagram archives right now, can I?

Ruth Micallef, an MBACP registered psychotherapist and eating disorder specialist, believes the perfectionism trap may be at the root of our past body comparisons. “This feeling of ‘flaw’, of being embarrassed and ashamed of your ‘not enough’ is so incredibly common for those of us who are still striving for a level of perfection in one way or another,” he points out. she does.

Perfection sabotages our body image

On Instagram and other social platforms, we are inundated with images of perfection. “When perfection is all we see, it often becomes the goal in one way or another. It can become dangerous. We can use the image of perfection as a way to cope, a tool to make sure we feel “safe”. But it doesn’t work, ”adds Micallef. Instead, it can make feelings of failure worse.

For many of us, our self-esteem is tied to what we can accomplish. It can mean that we feel great when we hit all of our fitness goals, but terrible when we don’t. “I have often worked with retired athletes who are struggling with what they perceive to be a ‘decrease’ in their physical ability and they feel such a sense of shame and embarrassment because the world has said ‘C’ is what makes you worthy, “” says Micallef. .

“They feel like they’ve lost or lost what made them ‘them’, but they haven’t. Part of their recovery process will be recognizing themselves as a whole person, not as an attribute. This also happens to non-athletes. When we can’t lift the same weights or run the same distance, that feeling of shame and embarrassment arises.

How to beat negative fitness nostalgia for good

So what can you do in these times of negative fitness nostalgia to regain a healthy outlook and stop the self-comparison trap in its tracks? For Micallef, bodily neutrality is the key. “Body neutrality is different from body positivity because it is not the need to foster ‘love’ for your body, but simply to notice and recognize how much it can do for you,” he explains. -she.

“If we can recognize the sheer power of what our bodies can do, of lifting and holding a child, of navigating our wheelchair, of just putting on our clothes easily in the morning, we can promote contentment – abdominals or no ! “

Remembering that your body doesn’t need to be in peak physical condition to be able-bodied can also be very helpful. Micallef says: “It’s so important at these times to take a step back and recognize that just because your body is constantly changing and adapting doesn’t mean that it doesn’t make it less worthy of love.

There’s a good chance our memories will be skewed anyway. After all, the thing with nostalgia is that we often look at the past with rose-tinted glasses. We compare ourselves to our own flagship film: photos taken in good light when our muscles were swollen from exercise or in the morning before we had eaten a full day of food.

These photos, Micallef points out, don’t show how satisfied or happy we felt or how our bodies actually felt back then. It may help to keep this in mind.

To overcome the fitness nostalgia, I adopted a new version of “fit me” at the gym. She doesn’t look like the gym enthusiast of five years ago, but she’s a strong woman nonetheless. A woman who has set new goals for herself and strives to recognize the progress she is making, rather than being disappointed when she fails.

“Progress not perfection” has become a cliché in the fitness world, but as we navigate changing physique, perhaps this is what we should aspire to.

I invite you to join me in celebrating the small victories. Kudos to Becca for lacing up her running shoes today for the first time in six months. Well done to Abi who just added an extra 5kg to her squat, and a round of applause for Faima who, for the first time, looked at herself in the mirror today and appreciated her body for what it was. can do, instead of hitting it all the way. he is not up to the task. Who needs nostalgia anyway?

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