Women of all ages need to stop and take time to appreciate how they really look, including their curves and freckles, Tenisha Peters believes.
The Otago Polytechnic Applied Science graduate says that no matter what walk of life women come from or what size or shape they are, most feel insecure about their bodies. This can affect their mood and daily lives.
Not many can say, ‘I like my blue eyes’ or ‘my curves’ or ‘I like my boobs, I like my butt’.”
Even women who go to the gym every morning and eat healthily still often can’t look in the mirror and acknowledge their actual appearance.
“We see ourselves but we don’t take note of how we look – curves, freckles.”
Tenisha suggests that without being cheesy about it, people should regularly say “I’m beautiful” to their reflection and try to really mean this.
She says ‘self-love’ used to be a popular aim and is a good one. However, ‘body neutrality’ is a more reasonable concept with which women can, at times, resonate.
“It’s like being neutral with yourself. You can acknowledge yourself, you’re aware of yourself and thankful for who you are and what you’re able to do.”
Tenisha verbally paints an appealing picture of a world in which people are valued for the way they are, rather than judged because of their size. A world where natural curves don’t require a separate clothing category and women who’ve just given birth don’t feel pressure to lose ‘baby fat’.
When studying at the polytechnic, she founded PCOS Fit, a 10-week exercise and behaviour change programme for women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome which has run twice in Dunedin.
During PCOS Fit and when working at a Dunedin gym, she’s had many conversations about body image with females whose ages range from 70 to the teens.
In her experience, women are more confident listing their positive character traits than stating what they like about their exteriors.
Tenisha encourages women to be mindful about their bodies – catching themselves when they think negatively about themselves and asking why they feel this way, then replacing the negative with a positive.
“A lot of us don’t actually realise how often we talk negatively about ourselves.”
Exercise as a part of well-being
A personal and professional breakthrough has been realising that weight loss shouldn’t be the only reason for people to exercise.
She says it’s beneficial for women to figure out why they want to exercise and lose weight.
Fitting into a smaller body is often portrayed as being more idolised but we often do not take note to how or why people got there.”
If weight loss is for external reasons, then when people reach their goal weight, they often don’t feel happy, she says.
Also, if they gain weight or miss a gym session, they tend to punish themselves.
Instead, Tenisha suggests women centre their reasons for exercising and losing weight around their core values and beliefs.
For instance, do they desire to become a grandma and live long enough to see their grandchildren? Or do they want to avoid osteoporosis?
If people focus on such values, then weight loss stops being a fixation, yet may still be a result.
While Tenisha is a strong proponent of exercise and recognises that weight is a complex issue, she points out that overall health isn’t an end in itself and situations change.
Some people view exercise and healthy eating as an end goal, yet in reality, they may go through stages of not exercising or may eat too much on occasions.
“Life gets in the way.”
She considers it healthier to think about enjoying exercise as a part of well-being; to understand that activities such as going out for coffee and cake with a good friend also contribute to feeling well.
So, she says, well-being includes not only physical but also spiritual, emotional and mental health. Curves and all.
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For further information:
Tenisha’s blog entry about body image
Youthline body image tips