7 Ways to Love Your Body While Working Toward Fitness Goals

Three middle aged women walking on the beach

Getty Images / kate_sept2004

If you scroll through social media, you'll find thousands of posts discussing how you should love yourself regardless of your size and shape. Magazine articles, podcasts, and books are devoted to the popular topic of body positivity.

Weight loss seems to contradict the body positivity movement, but the goods news is you can still love yourself and lose weight. These options aren't mutually exclusive. For some individuals, weight loss can lead to a brighter future and a higher quality of life with reduced prospects of health complications such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

When working toward a goal of weight loss, you might, however, face some mental health challenges. Losing weight, especially when you're cooking more at home or experimenting with a new exercise routine, can feel overwhelming and induce anxiety.

If you experience some mental fatigue while working to lose weight, you can apply strategies to cope and keep your body confidence high.

Head to Green Spaces for a Change of Scenery

Consider moving your workouts outdoors for the mental health benefit of how much easier exercise will seem to you. Green spaces allow you to work out harder without feeling the extra effort, according to a study on exercising in green environments.

In this study, when participants self-selected walking speed, they moved faster outside than they did in an indoor environment. In addition, they perceived a lower rate of exertion. This could cause faster and less demanding effort when working toward weight loss.

Optimal green environments, according to the study, include the following:

  • Local green parks that allow you to walk around the perimeter or perform bodyweight exercises on the grass (for example, lunges, squats, and ab exercises)
  • Forests where you can hike on trails
  • Seaside communities
  • Countrysides
  • Gardens
  • National parks

Consider Joining a Team Sport

In a psychiatric study on exercise and mental health involving more than 1.2 million people, researchers found that the number of self-reported bad mental health days was less from individuals who exercised versus those who didn’t. All exercise types were associated with a lower amount of bad mental health days, but joining team sports saw the greatest association with this.

Popular options to consider when joining an adult team sport include:

You can find adult intermural groups in your local community via city classes, gyms, and privately owned franchises. You can be a beginner to join.

Shop for New Athleisure Wear

Not loving your exercise clothes can affect your workout performance. A study on exercising and the role of clothing fit found that feeling body shame actually diminished individuals' workout levels because their mental energy was focused on appearance.

This suggests that clothing is indeed important to your workout. To combat damaging
feelings apparel can bring, look for clothes that fit the “athleisure” lifestyle. In a qualitative investigation on athleisure, researchers found that simply wearing athleisure motivated individuals to engage in fit-based activities.

Well-known athleisure wear companies include the following:

  • Lululemon, an organization that makes technical athletic clothes for a variety of workout styles.
  • Athleta, which carries sizes from petite to plus size, and allows you to test your clothing and receive a full refund if you’re not satisfied.
  • Fabletics, a lifestyle brand that operates on a subscription model, with sizes ranging from XXS to 3X.
  • Zella, a wardrobe company that designs comfortable clothes made to move with your body.

Practice Yoga to Boost Your Confidence 

Yoga is a cost-effective self-care practice that can provide self-efficacy and self-confidence, suggests a review on the effects of yoga on mental and physical health.

To start the practice of yoga, try a style that welcomes beginners and encourages mental health at the same time.

Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga focuses on a slow pace with proper body alignment. Instructors often walk around during class and stretch participants' bodies into the correct pose.

In a study on the effect of hatha yoga on anxiety, researchers found that this yoga type is a promising method for treating anxiety—people with the highest level of uneasiness actually benefited the most.

Vinyasa Yoga

Vinyasa yoga follows a movement sequence that builds upon the previous pose and slowly evolves into more advanced moves as the class continues. Instructors might add meditation or breathing work to a class, and all sessions end in the "corpse" pose.

But does this yoga help build confidence? In a study on acute and cumulative effects of vinyasa yoga on college students facing rigorous academic workloads, researchers found that this yoga improved both overall feelings, confidence, and emotions.

Hot Yoga

Hot yoga is performed in a studio heated to approximately 105 degrees, Fahrenheit. The combination of heat and yoga is designed to raise your heartbeat and push your muscles. Although this sounds challenging, beginners can achieve success in hot yoga classes as the heat often allows muscles to more easily stretch. However, this type of yoga isn't for anyone with heat-related health conditions.

Hot yoga can also help build your self-assurance. Following a regimen of heated yoga classes can help with depressive symptoms, hopelessness, anxiety, and better your quality of life.

Restorative Yoga

A more restful yoga practice, restorative yoga uses props and equipment, such as yoga blocks and blankets, and holds poses for a longer duration than vinyasa yoga. For beginners, using equipment could help you better achieve proper form in certain poses.

For those with a sedentary lifestyle, restorative yoga might be the most beneficial yoga choice. In a study with sedentary cancer survivors, participants started either a restorative yoga or vigorous yoga practice. The rate of attendance was higher for restorative yoga and allowed the survivors to follow a long-term, regular yoga routine.

Try Tai Chi to Decrease Anxiety

Tai Chi is a slow, melodic exercise that involves meditative movements. Not only is Tai Chi a relaxing form of exercise, but it's also used for the treatment of psychosomatic disorders, anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure.

According to Harvard Medical School, Tai Chi varies from other workouts in the following ways:

  • The movements are never forced
  • You move in a circular fashion
  • Your muscles remain relaxed rather than tensed as you would in weightlifting and cardio workouts
  • Your joints don't fully extend

Workout at Home if the Gym is Distracting

With the recent inventions in at-home workout equipment, you can conveniently work out solo in the comfort of your own home.

Some examples of interactive fitness organizations that produce at-home products include:

Peloton

This company makes internet-connected stationary home equipment that enables monthly subscribers to participate in classes remotely.

Mirror

Mirror is a futuristic-looking device that allows you to self-monitor your workout with a live or recorded workout.

Nordic Track

This in-house, full-body equipment comes with a variety of cross-training and recovery workouts.

Zwift

Zwift offers indoor cycling workouts that connect cyclists around the world.

Tonal

This wall-mounted machine contains two adjustable arms for weightlifting workouts.

For those who still want to exercise indoors without incurring the costs of such equipment, you can use live-stream and on-demand workouts online via YouTube and apps like: Peloton, Strava, and Aaptiv.

Stick to 30-45 Minute Workouts

You don't need to exercise for hours to gain the benefits for your mental health and weight management. Research has found that individuals who exercise 30 to 60 minutes, three to five days per week, experienced the best mental health, with 45 minutes as the optimal workout time. Spending more than 90 minutes on a workout didn't add provide any mental health gains.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that these workouts can be broken up with moderate-intensity aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities on at least two days a week that workout all major muscle groups.

A Word From Verywell

You can work on having body confidence at any size you are and work toward weight loss at the same time. These two processes can coexist. But if you do find your mental health suffering as you try to lose weight, you should talk to a healthcare professional, who may refer you to a mental health professional for more assessment.

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