If you’d like to build a better body Coach is, of course, here to help – but we’d never want that help to turn into a hindrance and make you feel bad about your body. Something that’s not said nearly enough is that low body confidence can have a negative impact on your health, work and relationships, and the most effective solutions have nothing to do with changing your body shape.
We asked Dr Luke James, medical director at Bupa UK Health Clinics, to explain how simple lifestyle changes can go a long way to reducing the pressure we can put on ourselves.
“We often overlook the clear link between good everyday health and improved body confidence,” says James. “Being active – which doesn’t mean overdoing it – isn’t just a way to look better, it has a direct relationship with our mental wellbeing. Yes, moving more will help tone up those soft bits, but it’s also good for the mind. One reason for this is that it releases a variety of chemicals including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine into the brain. These hormones generate positive moods, boosting our self-esteem and enhancing our confidence.
“Exercise also helps to shift the focus from what your body looks like to what it is capable of doing. We regularly see the positive effects of this shift when exercise is prescribed as part of a health assessment in our clinics. Once that feelgood factor kicks in and men appreciate the great things their body allows them to do, a soft bit here or there feels much less significant.”
But it’s not just exercise that the good doctor recommends. Here are six more things that will help.
1. Watch The Banter
A bit of ribbing is all well and good (and who wants to be the guy that can’t laugh at himself?), but the flip side is that this can slip into becoming excessively self-critical.
“Men can be self-deprecating and often mock each other,” says James, “but feeling good means not putting yourself down about how you look, or a treat you feel you shouldn’t have eaten.
“Think about how you talk about your appearance and your body. Actively shifting your state of mind from negative to positive will instantly take the pressure off – and not poking fun at friends may also give them a boost.”
2. Cull Your Social Feeds
Most of us steer clear of boastful people with a high opinion of themselves in the real world, but we aren’t always so picky on social media.
“A social media clean-up to get rid of the people or accounts that present an unrealistic version of life is a great way to take charge,” says James.
3. Feed Your Confidence
Low body confidence can make it tempting to try an extreme, unsustainable diet. Better to make small healthy additions to your diet, which can add up quickly.
“Your physical and mental health are directly affected by what you put into your body,” explains James. “Minor tweaks such as getting your five a day can make such a big difference and it isn’t as difficult to do as you might think. A quick way to start off on the right foot in the morning is by slicing up a banana or adding some berries to your breakfast cereal.”
4. Sleep It Off
Ah, our favourite remedy for pretty much anything. Some good ol’ shut-eye.
“The importance of a good night’s sleep goes way beyond just boosting your mood or banishing under-eye circles. Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and can benefit your heart, weight, mind and more. It’s easier to think clearly and optimistically when you’re well rested.”
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5. Show Gratitude Every Day
Not everything’s going to be hunky dory all of the time, but as they say, every cloud… And focusing on that silver lining can make a difference.
“Studies show that consistently keeping track of what you’re thankful for and acting on those feelings of appreciation can not only make you happier, but can boost your immune system – two important factors in appreciating your body,” says James.
“Make a conscious effort each day to dedicate one social media post or diary note to something good. Whether it’s a win at work or a great welcome home from the kids, having a daily record means you can visualise all that great stuff.”
Even if you’re perfectly happy with your body (and we hope you are), we bet it’s not your only good point, nor should it be.
“Take a holistic approach to how you think about yourself,” says James. “It’s important to focus on physical and personal assets to have a balanced view. What are the positive things you can say about yourself? List them. These are your assets and you should remember and celebrate them.”
Bupa’s health assessments include lifestyle coaching which can help to build a positive outlook. Prices start at £180/year. Visit bupa.co.uk/health-assessments (opens in new tab)
Jonathan Shannon has been the editor of the Coach website since 2016, developing a wide-ranging experience of health and fitness. Jonathan took up running while editing Coach and has run a sub-40min 10K and 1hr 28min half marathon. His next ambition is to complete a marathon. He’s an advocate of cycling to work and is Coach’s e-bike reviewer, and not just because he lives up a bit of a hill. He also reviews fitness trackers and other workout gear.
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