After recently confronting my own body image struggles, I challenge you, as personal trainers, to do the same if you also face such issues. Despite outward appearances and how our clients may perceive our fit physiques, fitness professionals don’t always have healthy relationships with our own bodies. Some of us may be too hard on ourselves, expecting perfection or wishing away parts of ourselves that perhaps can’t be changed.

Last year a friend and colleague, Kelsey Graham, asked me to help her on a project by taking a survey about Imposter Syndrome among fitness professionals. Imposter Syndrome refers to a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. It was a wake-up call-to-action: time to work on my relationship with my body. I promised myself that I would take this survey annually to help me with my Love My Body journey.

I also realized that I not only suffered from feelings of fraud, but I was not alone. There are many fitness professionals like myself who battle intense feelings of self-judgment. Recently, one of our NFPT personal trainers shared his personal and emotional account of weight loss and body-image struggles.

4-week “Love Your Body” Challenge

“You are so used to your features that you do not know how beautiful you look to a stranger.”

This is a quote I put on my mirror. Staring at this quote, I was inspired to do a one-month challenge to tackle my goal. I encourage anyone who may be struggling with similar body-image issues to participate in this challenge, too, and help combat the pervasive negative thoughts interfering with self-love.

Week 1: Heart Message Mirror

Cut out as many heart shapes of paper as you need to cover a mirror that you look in on a daily basis. Invite friends over for an evening of message writing. Divide the number of hearts by the number of people, and have everyone write things that they love about their bodies. Then, completely cover the mirror with these hearts.

Each day when you go to stand in front of that mirror, say three of those messages out loud. If you’re uncomfortable recruiting your friends to participate, you can certainly do this one without them, but getting social with it is a nice twist, and you may inspire your friends to start loving their bodies, too.

Week 2: Radical Self Love Mini-Course

Julia Balto, a Health and Mindset Coach based in San Diego, posted on Instagram a Radical Self Love Mini-Course that immediately grabbed my attention. Julia’s course consists of watching four short videos and completing accompanying worksheets that allow participants to reflect on their relationship with themselves.

Each video includes worksheets that incite thought-provoking, emotion-digging, soul-searching activities that give participants the tools to better accept their bodies and themselves, exactly the way they are. Sounds easy, right?

Actually, this was work. But let’s be honest. Love is work, and loving yourself is worth the work.

Week 3: Body Gratitude Jar

First, cut up little strips of paper and then grab a Mason jar or mug. Each night before going to bed, write down one thing you are grateful for that your body accomplished that day. Put the paper in the jar. On occasion, or any day that you are feeling down, pull out one of those strips and read it out loud. Perhaps share your gratitude with a friend or family member.

Week 4: “Pamper Yourself” Checklist

You can easily find a checklist of things to do to pamper yourself, but I suggest making a list that reflects the things that feed your soul. Write down five to seven things that other people do to make you feel loved and appreciated. For example, “give me flowers,” or  “take me on a date.”

Make it a point to do all of those things others do for you and do them for yourself. Maybe even do them for someone else. When we do for ourselves, we feel love and appreciation for ourselves. Equally, when we do for others, it makes us feel self-pride.

The Journey Beyond the Challenge

One key I’ve found to be successful with this challenge is to not only share intentions with friends and family but consider involving them in the process. If you can get others to either do or just be a part of your journey, it will help hold you accountable in addition to giving you an invaluable support system.

Final food for thought: Love your body not just for your mental and emotional health, but also because of the impact they have on physical health.

“I am not going to sacrifice my mental health to have a perfect body,” Demi Levato

Theresa Perales

Theresa Perales has an MA in Spanish, and is an ESL teacher at San Diego State University (SDSU). After years of struggling with her weight, she decided to give exercise a try. A passion for health and fitness grew instantly and inspired her to become certified as a personal trainer with NFPT, and as a group fitness instructor with AFAA Group Fitness and Madd Dog Athletics® Spinning. Theresa believes that nutrition and fitness are not about aesthetics but ultimately about feeling healthy and empowered.