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Is it shallow to care about your appearance?

August 22, 2015

Today I am going to attempt to tackle a bit of a sensitive topic: appearance and self worth.

First things first, the back story behind this post. I received an email the other day from someone who was an online client of mine, who follows my Eatercise page, subscribes to my newsletters and has been a long-time follower and communicates with me fairly often. She wrote the following to me (which I received her permission to post excerpts of):

“I sometimes feel guilty for caring about my body & looks, because of the current trend of loving yourself no matter what you look like, & “health at every size” & “strong is the new skinny” and the anti-fitspo trend going on at the moment. I feel like it is wrong or obsessive to care about our bodies or appearance, or to write about these things [She has a fashion/make up website]. I personally find that when I don’t care & when I let myself go, I get MORE stressed out & obsessive. I like not having to stress if my clothes are going to fit or not. I like when I can dress up & feel instantly confident, & it's taken me awhile to get to that point where I can easily maintain my weight & not constantly yoyo in size, by keeping a few things in check: like counting calories, eating unprocessed food most of the time, exercising very consistently & putting your nutrition tips into practice, things like portion sizes, eating a snack before going to a party so that I am not ravenous, drinking lower calorie alcohol drinks etc. Is this obsessive behavior that can be damaging (some of my friends call me obsessive) or is it just me keeping myself in check, & something that is healthy & normal to do?”

Wow, there’s a lot to think about in that question! Attractiveness and self-worth are interesting concepts. I have been through several stages with these at different points in my life. Here is an edited version of my reply to her (just edited it to make it more of a “blog post).

Firstly, I am a big believer in self-worth. I talk a lot about learning to love your body and being kind to yourself. I am a big promoter of women lifting weights, seeking out performance goals for self-empowerment; worrying less about what the scale says and more about what their bodies can do for them. But just because you love your body and are confident in your own self-worth (which we all should be!) that doesn’t need to take away from wanting to look after your appearance or care about your body. These two things are not mutually exclusive. And why should they be?

My appearance and look does not define me by any means, but my physique is most certainly important to me, and it always will be. That is not the same as allowing my body or look to dictate the way I feel about myself and my self-worth. Can you see the difference?

In fact, if letting yourself “go” and eating whatever you like all the time (in the name of “loving yourself” and “being kind to yourself”) makes you feel physically uncomfortable and stressed out, this will take away from your self-worth and confidence.

My observation from experience is that many people who are unhappy with their health habits and weight are actually more preoccupied with this whole subject than those who commit to a lifestyle of discipline, health and moderation. They spend more time wishing and worrying, calling others obsessed, etc., than the healthy person spends actually doing the healthy things, like exercising, meal prep, etc.

Often times the issues people have with this, comes from a place of insecurity and compensation rather than security and truly loving themselves. Of course you can be healthy and beautiful in many different shapes and sizes, but if you feel the need to constantly focus on this or use it as an excuse to justify unhealthy habits, then maybe there is an underlying insecurity issue there.

If the mere mention of someone else working out, losing weight or eating healthy triggers strong emotional reactions from you then I think maybe you should look inside yourself and ask yourself why you feel this way so strongly?

The argument I often hear these days is something like, “Don’t encourage women to care about their appearance to meet some external standard. It’s what is on the inside that makes you beautiful.” And of course that is true. I think that goes without saying. I’m pretty sure we can all agree that having a “perfect” body (perfect is in quotations because it is extremely subjective) and being pretty doesn’t make you a good person and everyone is worthy of love no matter what.

But come on, you’re crazy if you genuinely believe that your appearance doesn’t impact the quality of your life one bit. And by the same token, it doesn’t automatically make you a shallow or petty person to care about your appearance and actively strive to improve it.

I personally refuse to stop talking about the importance of results. The day I stop caring about getting my clients results, whether it’s weight loss, changing the shape of their body, getting fitter and stronger, etc., will be the day I start looking for a new job in a different line of work. I am in the health, fitness and fat loss industry, for crying out loud. I am interested in helping people reach their goals and finding ways to maintain their results and healthy lifestyle with as little stress as possible. Even if this means putting safeguards in place to help keep themselves on track.

It is completely possible to both care about your physique and also be a deep, kind, positive, confident and caring human being. Looking after yourself doesn't make you insecure and shallow. In fact, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. You should be proud that you care about your body and health. You can be confident in your self-worth and still see room for improvement (in any area of your life!)

When you can get over making it so emotional, it’s actually really fun. Staying on top of things both physically and in other aspects of your life feels good! Getting results is exciting. Challenging yourself with a goal and then reaching it is awesome! Maintaining your results is a huge confidence booster.

What do you think? I realise this is a huge topic and I didn’t even begin to cover all the different aspects of self worth and appearance and their connection. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

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