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Health & Wellness Articles  ›  Emotional Health

An Exercise in Self-Esteem

Exercise Your Way to Feeling Better About Yourself

-- By Dean Anderson, Fitness & Behavior Expert
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Exercising the “Right” Way, for the “Right” Reasons
If you are carrying a lot of unhelpful baggage in the form of poor body acceptance, negative body image, or even body-rejection due to excess weight, then exercising the right way and for the right reasons may well be your shortest, fastest, and easiest path away from these problems.

But you’ll need a particular kind of attitude and approach, one that will help you begin appreciating your body for what it can do right now, and allowing it to be your guide and teacher on your journey towards change—not an object of your contempt and ridicule. Here are the basic elements of such an attitude:
  • Exercise for the “right” reasons. There aren’t many bad reasons to exercise of course, so in a pinch you should take advantage of whatever gets you going. But certain attitudes and approaches will help you get a better self-esteem boost. It helps a lot, for example, to tell yourself that you are working out because it is good for your body and you want to take good care of your body. When you do that, you affirm that you and your body are friends—not enemies—and you open yourself up for healthy communication with your body, allowing it to tell you what you need. This will work much better than setting out to burn calories so you can get rid of all that ugly fat you can’t stand.
     
  • Don’t just mark time. Make exercise a challenge and notice how you respond. The simple act of setting personal performance goals and watching yourself achieve them can work wonders. Keep a journal where you record what you do during your exercise sessions, noting the improvements in your capacities over time. Hold little competitions against yourself, trying to improve on your personal bests (not world records) a few times a month, and reward yourself when you succeed. Pay special attention to how exercise affects your mood, and let your body teach you how to use the type and intensity of the exercise you do to influence your state of mind.
     
  • Turn some exercise time into playtime. You are, among other things, an animal with a body that needs to play. Notice how happy and excited your dog or child is when he gets to go out and play—especially when you physically play together. There is a part of you that still feels the same way. This need doesn’t go away just because you get older, become more serious, or are a little out of shape. The more exercise you can do in the form of sports, games, and other activities that are fun and rewarding themselves, the better. So be creative—turn some of those daily walks into roller skating, ice skating, golfing or Frisbee, racing with your dog, or even belly dancing!
Research shows that individuals who exercise feel better about themselves and their bodies. Once you start a workout program (or begin exercising for the "right" reasons), you'll soon experience the positive changes in self-esteem and body image that regular exercisers of all shapes and sizes enjoy. It's never too late to start feeling better about yourself!
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • It took me a couple of years to get with the program, but now I think it will work for me. I had two surgeries last year and a bit of weight gain and loss, so now that the worst is over (at least for now!) I can concentrate of following everything I'm learning on Spark People.

    How I wish I had found SP 10 years ago before I spent money on programs that didn't help! - 4/30/2014 11:33:44 AM
  • 2BNUMENOW
    WOW! I AM SO GLAD TO FIND THIS SITE. SPARKPEOPLE HAVE SO MUCH INFO AND BOY DO I NEED IT. I AM CARETAKER FOR MY 92 YR.OLD MOM, MY ADULT SON WHO IS PARTIALLY DISABLED, AND MY HUBBY WHO HAS CARDIAC ISSUES. I CANNOT GET OUT TO A GYM, OR OTHER PROGRAMS. I MAY NOT BE ABLE TO SIGN ON EVERYDAY, BUT I WILL DO MY BEST TO FOLLOW THE PROGRAM. A MILLION THANKS TO THIS GROUP. MY DR. WILL BE PLEASED , I AM SURE. - 10/9/2013 10:44:01 AM
  • Great article. - 7/12/2013 9:22:54 PM
  • My problem is different because in my eyes even though I'm 220lbs I think that I look good (for my size)! Lol! It wasn't until I started hanging with some friends who were wayyyyy smaller then me and my dr. started telling me about some concerns. I'm still happy w me inside and out but my reasoning for losing weight has changed. I need to take time out for me! I want to be healthy with whatever size I am! Great article! I needed that!
    - 5/18/2012 12:11:59 PM
  • I think that self esteem (Thinking well of yourself) begins in childhood. Parents can program a child into thinking that they are clumsy, stupid, ugly etc. Peer grouops can do the same. Therefore it's important to try and recall how you felt as a young child growing up into adulthood. The cliches about telling yourslef that certain physicial features should be loved usually doesn't work. Most of us want to fit in with other's. Your sense of self esteem depends largly on how much you are willing to adopt the physical characteristics of the people that you see every day.
    There is nothing wrong with changing the way yiour features look if that will make you happy. On the other hand you can accept your face and body and not buy into crowd concepts of beauty. The choice is yours and either one is okay; at least that is what I think.
    Hillary cCinton's new hair style has caused a media uprsing because she doesn't have the sophisticated look that she exhibited awhile ago. Hillary said that her long hair was easier to manage and that she didn't care what people thought. She had more important things to do than worry about her hair. Bravo to Hillary cCinton. However, not all of us are like Hillary. We care what people think about how we look and feel badly when rejected. Therefore thinking about how we got to be self critical is important. How can we change our thinking if we don't know what caused it?

    Elizabeth - 5/15/2012 10:28:00 AM
  • SINCE I BEGAN MY WEIGHT LOSS IN AUG 2011.....I LISTENED TO EVERYONE...ABOUT HOW I LOOK........THEN I SAID WAIT.....I WILL SHOW THEM AND I HAVE .......FROM A SIZE 16 TO A SIZE 14......THIS ARICLE JUST REINFORCED ALL THAT....... - 1/27/2012 10:18:57 PM
  • This article clarified a lot for me. In order to make a permanent changes, I need to lighten up! - 1/15/2012 11:33:47 AM
  • I really love this article!! It helps to understand what the proper motive for doing something positive should be. This was really very helpful for me. Thank you. - 8/25/2011 12:09:29 PM
  • This so resonates with me! Before I started losing the weight my husband asked why I couldn't bless my body for the strength and health it posesses. I didn't know but I started to think of all the ways I appreciated how my body gets me through a day. Like being able to carry and deliver my three amazing children... Being able to now bike and play and run with the kids and even just for myself. So I started to bless my body. Each part. Even the parts I was less than satisfied with how they looked. I'm not sure if that's just hokey but everything is responding and now the scale is too. I feel stronger & healthier. Like I can take on the world! - 8/24/2011 12:10:06 PM
  • I've been frustrated at how stubborn the number on the scale has been. This article showed up in my e-mail today, and I noticed that I first read it exactly one year ago. It helps to be reminded why I'm exercising and trying to eat better--to take good care of the only body I'm ever going to have NOT to hit some number on the scale. - 8/24/2011 11:30:29 AM
  • One of my boys was asking why I was exercising. I told him it was because I wanted to be healthier. He said, "Are you sure it's not to lose fat?" And I told him no, it was to be healthier. That just might result in losing fat. - 8/24/2011 9:54:11 AM
  • I really enjoy his articles-I find myself learning a lot. It just seems as though he can relate to my struggles, as if he is going through them himself! - 8/24/2011 4:42:12 AM
  • Great article!! - 5/6/2011 1:46:46 PM
  • JUDYRYAN1
    Lack of self esteem is a critical component in weight control. How do we really see our body or do we? This article is one of the best that I have read on Self Esteem. If we are in control of ourselves we will emulate this confidence to others around us. Particularly children and grand children. We need to concentrate on being role models in order to keep us guided on the right 'thinking' tracks that in turn will help up make the right decisions in food choices and proper exercises. Great article..Should be posted as a reminder in every kitchen. Judy Ryan - 4/6/2011 8:31:06 PM
  • HELLENC1
    since my back injury i havewn t been much to exercise, but i have alot of motivation going i wake up early in the morning and i push myself out of bed,im on my feet ,like they say 24-7. i keep myself busy, with my housework, well after my accident i became housebound ,but thanks to god i have enough mobility to keep myself happy.and make other people happy like doing for my family what im good at,for instance my grandchildren.my friends always tell me .how do you manage to have so much energy? i really dont know what keeps me going, but i notice when everythig is going right mentally ,i function ,or my body does. when theres no activity going on in my way of thinking, to depress me or gettng in my way of doing my everyday things, chores , whatever i want to do with my time. thers so much to do, in my home. and that b-cause i live alone,with my hubby.but he works all day and when he gets home he rest ,and unable to do much once hes down. i like to b- around people who motivate me so u can more less see what my life is like after dawn. i love to do so many things, but when i met my husband, thers alot of things he dont know about me that i like to do. we have different interests, and well im already used to, living hes way of life.not exactly exciting, but,its kept me out of alot of social life i was used to...which is somewhat good.i love my love life with him. i love my children, my grand children,i spend alot of leisure time with them, and times we have alot of fun. even at times were not all there ,,at some events, we still manage to have an awesome time.i consider myself pretty dedicated to them my husband and all the shaqska-bang, my grandkids. i have 13 grandchildren . one on the way. 14" wow. and thats because only 5 children, out of six i had have kids, still waiting, hes been engaged going on 5 years, whichn i think thats pretty awesome too. whenever their ready,i am.you could say ive been married all my young life. my first marriage lasted 14 yrs. my second 29 yrs.,,will complete them on march 17. i had aolt of leisure tim... - 2/19/2011 1:15:14 PM