AUSTIN, Texas – TV shows depicting dramatic weight loss may reflect anything but reality, according to an expert presenting today at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 14th-annual Health & Fitness Summit. Lauve Metcalfe, M.S., CWC, said sensible weight-loss programs have more modest goals but are rooted in self-esteem and positive body image.
“No one can make you healthier or change your attitude,” said Metcalfe. “You need a support system as well as professional expertise.” That support, she said, can come from family, friends, or, increasingly, the workplace. Workplace wellness programs, said Metcalfe, makes sense for companies that see the payoff in terms of healthier employees, reduced health care costs and greater productivity. “Corporate culture is key. What’s the norm: eat a heavy lunch instead of working out? Putting people down or being overly competitive? Or is there a culture of camaraderie and sharing?”
Positive influences, whether in the workplace or elsewhere, make all the difference, according to Metcalfe. “If you don’t feel good about your body, you tend to have poor self-esteem,” she said. Much of her work focuses on women, because of the undue emphasis our culture places on youth and physical attraction. The implications are widespread, however. While women may feel pressure to be young, sexy and glamorous, men may worry about a beer belly, hair loss or being short of stature.
Particularly for females, said Metcalfe, concern over body image can start early and bring serious consequences. Even in elementary school, a girl worried about her weight may develop poor eating habits, eventually resulting in bone loss. Sound nutrition and physical activity contribute to bone health among many other benefits.
Metcalfe identifies three areas essential to successful weight management:
- Appetite: How you choose, cook and enjoy food
- Activity: How you move and engage in physical activity
- Attitude: How you deal with issues of self-esteem and barriers
While some TV shows present people who reduce by 15 or more pounds per week, said Metcalfe, that is unrealistic for most people. “[Those participants] are working out six hours a day, which few of us can do,” she said. “A healthy weight loss, typically, is no more than two pounds per week.” Metcalfe emphasized the importance of celebrating small victories and reinforcing one another’s progress. “Supportive people give you emotional stimulation and emotional support, and challenge you to be your best.”
In her work at the University of Arizona, Metcalfe uses a model called SPECIES, based on a concept from the National Wellness Institute. SPECIES recognizes that true wellness involves multiple components: Social, Physical, Emotional, Career, Intellectual, Environmental, and Spiritual.
Metcalfe outlines 11 skills for developing a healthy body image and self-esteem:
Skill # 1 Honor your personal story
Past events and experiences “shape” one’s perception of body image. Acknowledge your personal story and become more conscious of what choices you can control to improve the quality of your life.
Skill #2 Accept yourself the way you are
Develop acceptance of your body image in the present form. Self-acceptance allows you to channel your energies into modifying behavior, rather than struggling with negative “woulda, coulda, shoulda” thinking.
Skill #3 Create a positive mental outlook
The attitude that you bring into a situation greatly determines the outcome and conditions you to expect good outcomes or to be disheartened by negative ones. Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re probably right.
Skill #4 Practice positive self-talk skills
Positive “self-talk” messages will reinforce the qualities, skills and attributes within you, affect your unconscious mind and have a major effect on the way you view yourself.
Skill #5 Guide away from comparisons
Beauty is a multi-dimensional combination of a variety of aspects of an individual that is in a constant state of change. Acknowledge your personal expressions of beauty that make you unique.
Skill #6 Build your self-reliance
Each time you challenge yourself and attempt a task or skill that is outside of your comfort zone, you will experience a stronger degree of confidence in your abilities.
Skill #7 Lighten up and live in the now
To fully enjoy life, stay in the present and experience life from moment to moment. Create a balanced perspective on life by looking to the future with anticipation, respecting the past for insight, and—most important—living in the now.
Skill #8 Reward yourself in healthy ways
Create rewards and positive incentives to keep you on track with your body image program. Develop daily, weekly and monthly incentives that recognize the effort you are putting into your personal wellness program.
Skill #9 Give yourself praise
Acknowledge the positive steps you make in taking care of yourself. Be open to the praise of others and regularly give and receive compliments.
Skill #10 Develop coping skills to deal with setbacks
There are moments in all our lives that are difficult to deal with emotionally. By creating rest periods and occasional breaks in your program you will allow yourself time to be a “human being” vs. a “human doing.”
Skill #11 be connected
Many people can help you stay on track with a healthy lifestyle. Value the role that supportive friends and relatives play in your life. Take time out on a regular basis to be in touch with nature and the environment.
The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 35,000 international, national, and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.