#228 Your Body Beautiful

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Our bodies are our gardens . . .
our wills are our gardeners.

William Shakespeare

10 Tips to Creating a Perfect Body Image

By Kathy Smith, creator of Project: YOU™

I like to take people through a process of imagining what they will look and feel like one year from now. But instead of having them look forward from now, I have them work backward, as if they've stepped into a time machine, traveled one year forward, and now have to look back at the previous year. They then take inventory of how they got to that one-year mark, which allows them to create a blueprint of what they need to do to accomplish their goals—to reach that one-year mark in reality.

Visualize the future

Try this visualization exercise. First, get a piece of paper and write down your thoughts as they come to you in the course of this exercise.

  • Picture yourself one year from now: What do you look like? What are some of your thoughts? Think about how much you weigh, what condition your shoulders, back, belly/abs, hips, thighs, and legs are in.

  • And then imagine how you feel: Do you feel alert? Vibrant? Creative? Positive and confident?

  • Envision how you're standing: Are you slouching or standing tall and erect? Does your back feel strong and straight? Do you carry a lot of tension in your neck, head, and shoulders? Is your tummy flat and firm or sagging and bloated?

Once you create the perfect body image for yourself, memorize it.

Visualize the past

From that picture of the future, start to rewind.

  • Go back three months to one particular moment in time. Imagine what you're doing in this moment to support this image of yourself. What are you doing on the journey toward your goal? Are you preparing a low-fat meal with fresh veggies, hiking with friends, or participating in your town's 10K charity fundraiser? What time of day is it? Who are you with? How do you feel?

  • Now go back another three months. Again, what are you doing to support your goal? Where are you? Who is with you? How do you feel?

  • Let's try going back another three months, and repeat the exercise.

Do this "backward thinking" as many times as you can in order to create the road map of how you're going to reach your destination. The great thing about this road map is that it's something you've created using the tools you've learned throughout the years—tools that can now serve you in designing a lifestyle that will eventually create in reality the body image you're dreaming of.

4 points to keep in mind

  1. It's your choice. Every choice you make today—like whether to buy strawberries or eat devil's food cake—is your choice. The power of choice is huge, and every choice you make determines whether you're stepping closer to or further from the body that you want.

  2. Choose success. Always keep where you want to be at the forefront of your mind. Start making choices that will help you be successful.

  3. Keep it real. It's okay to create your body image based on other people who look and feel the way you want to look and feel. But as you build upon your road map using the retrospective exercise, keep in mind that you'll be drawing upon your own tools and lifestyle to reach that body image. This keeps the goal realistic.

  4. Remind yourself often. Write down your road map and post it where you can see it every day, such as on the refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or the back side of the front door. Look at it and read it every time you encounter it! You'll find that it's not only a great method of motivation, but it's quite empowering, too. You're likely to reach your goal sooner than you planned.

To get more great articles, tips, and advice from the creator of Project: YOU, visit Kathy's Corner at TeamBeachbody.com. Not a member? Click here to start your membership right away!

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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The Skinny on Being Beautiful

By Denis Faye

Spain struck a blow to the fashion world in September when Madrid's regional government banned overly skinny models from their annual fashion week. If you didn't have a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 18, you weren't allowed on the runway.

Of course, the fashion industry was quick to get their underpants (what there are of them) in a bunch. Cathy Gould, of New York's Elite modeling agency, slammed Spain for making her industry a scapegoat. "I think it's outrageous," she told Reuters News Service, "I understand they want to set this tone of healthy, beautiful women, but what about discrimination against the model and what about the freedom of the designer?"

She went on to claim the decision could harm the careers of naturally "gazelle-like" models.

Spain, in turn, was quick to point out that the fashion industry has a responsibility, not just to the skinny models, but to society. "Fashion is a mirror and many teenagers imitate what they see on the catwalk," Madrid regional official Concha Guerra told Reuters.

All and all, it was a refreshingly contrary position from a country we could all take a few lessons from. At the risk of slightly over-generalizing, the Spanish have a number of excellent habits. They take naps in the middle of the day. They favor fresh fruits and veggies and they eat small meals throughout the day—and the big meal they do eat is lunch, as opposed to a giant dinner right before bed. Finally, they tend not to have weird body image issues. Spanish women can be curvy and Spanish men can have a little paunch—yet they still consider themselves sexy.

For the record, they drink and smoke a lot, but nobody's perfect.

Obsessed with skinny

Over here on the other side of the Atlantic, we're obsessed with skinny. People seem to be either 400 pounds or rail thin. According to The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, 70 million people worldwide suffer from eating disorders and, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, a disproportionate 24 million of those are Americans.

And despite Ms. Gould's flimsy protests, the media—of which the fashion industry plays quite a role—is extremely culpable. According to the Dr. Michael Levine's report Prevention of Eating Problems with Elementary Children, 69 percent of girls in 5th through 12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape and 47 percent reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures.

Face it, if an actress shows the slightest bit of cellulite or has anything droop in her bathing suit, it's all over the tabloids—no wonder Nicole Richie and Lindsay Lohan starve themselves practically to death.

When Americans decide to get fit, it's rarely for health reasons. Usually it's to lose weight or get to 5 percent body fat or to cram into a size-2 dress. It's rarely to get that cholesterol down or to add a few years to our lives. And it often requires weight loss to the point of self-detriment.

Healthy body image

This may be shocking news coming from a member of the Beachbody Advice Staff, but I have a gut. It's not a big one, but it's there. I could get rid of it by really tightening up my diet and doubling up on workouts—but why? I'm healthy as the proverbial horse. Every year, my doctor is amazed at my blood work. I can out-swim most people. And most importantly, I feel good.

Sometimes, your body wants to have a little fat. It's a good emergency fuel source and as you age, it protects your internal organs. Of course, I'm not advocating obesity—not even close. Everyone's life should be full of fresh, healthy food and daily exercise. However, to all those people freaking out over the five pounds they can't lose—maybe your body likes those five pounds.

Hopefully, the trend will turn. Shortly after Spain's decree, several top Israeli retailers joined the ban. Also, top designed top designer Dolce & Gabbana, recently used a plus-size model—size-12 Crystal Renn—in a fall editorial campaign.

Furthermore, there was a time when a little roundness was okay. Marilyn Monroe was 5' 1/2" and 120 pounds. When Clark Gable took off his shirt in It Happened One Night, I don't recall six-pack abs.

Exercise, eat right, nap. If you're bone-skinny, enjoy. If you have curves, enjoy those too.

But maybe stay away from the smoking and drinking.

For more information on Body Mass Index—and how to calculate yours, please see "What Does It Mean to Be Fat?"

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com. If you'd like to receive Steve' Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter.

Check out Steve's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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