Love your body: Learning to be healthy and happy

Love yourself. You see and hear that advice everywhere, but why is it so difficult to follow?

My university, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, has been nationally recognized as one of the “hottest and smartest” out there — and let me tell you, that’s a lot to live up to.

Since we live on the California coast, it seems like everyone has a beach-ready body and most students are health-conscious. Sounds great, right?

But my college also has one of the highest rates of students with eating disorders in the nation, as of 2012. Many who have not been diagnosed with eating disorders have disordered eating habits.

They are abnormal eating behaviors ranging from chronic restrained eating to compulsive eating that can lead to depression, malnutrition and other negative side effects.

When you’re surrounded by beautiful people, it’s difficult to remain healthy and confident in yourself.

There is a delicate balance between being healthy for yourself and being healthy because you feel like you need to live up to some standard.

Understanding your motivation requires time and knowing yourself, both of which can be hard to fit into your busy college schedule. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

What is my motivation?

Sometimes, we don’t realize our motivation for doing things. It might be subconscious, meaning you’ll have to do some self-reflection before you understand.

Many times when I have tried to be healthier, I’ve done it to impress someone or because I’ve felt insecure. These aren’t good motivators.

You shouldn’t base your self-worth off the way you look or what others think about you. Make your healthy lifestyle about you.

Instead of setting strict goals for yourself — such as “I want to be a size 2 by summer” — try to take it one day at a time. Take your body’s needs into account, and don’t try to fit into a mold.

Am I harming myself?

Ask if you’re hurting yourself physically or emotionally. Strict diets and over-exercising can harm your body, so keep it moderate.

The most effective way to be healthier is by making a lifestyle change. Incorporate exercise and a balanced diet into your everyday routine, instead of binge-dieting until you reach your goal weight.

You can also harm yourself emotionally by comparing yourself to others, being unhappy in your own skin or falling into a pattern of negative thoughts. It’ll take time, but you can turn those thoughts into positive ones while becoming healthier.

Try thinking about things you like about yourself instead of obsessing over what you want to change. When you make a healthy choice, think about how it’ll help you feel better instead of seeing it as a punishment.

Though a healthier lifestyle will improve your quality of life, don’t let your happiness depend on what you eat or how much you exercise. Being healthy has so many benefits! Don’t counteract those by hurting yourself emotionally.

What do I like about myself?

Focus on the positives. You are a unique individual, so appreciate it! Give yourself a pep talk in the morning and leave encouraging Post-it notes around your apartment.

View being healthy as a way to make yourself feel even better because you are good enough.

Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t bad and eating disorders aren’t an instant result of feeling insecure. But be conscious of why you’re being healthy, and do it for yourself.

It should make you feel energized, happy and motivated, and combining it with positive feelings about yourself will only make you feel better.

Featured Image: Bigstock

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