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Pressured by images of the ‘perfect’ body

High expectations: do not feel guilty if you do not conform to unrealistic ideals of what fit looks like, advises our fitness expert Becky Wright. Instead, make an effort to exercise and eat healthy and these small, daily steps will soon add up to a big achievement

Are you one of those people who are hard on themselves for not being ‘perfect’?

I’ve been guilty of falling prey to this attitude and it can be quite debilitating at times. I used to think being a perfectionist was a great character trait, that it meant I was aiming high.

While I still think it’s very admirable and important to be ambitious and driven, particularly in regards to physical goals, being so to the point where you beat yourself up and feel riddled with guilt when you don’t hit the mark of your high expectations, won’t do anything for your confidence, nor will it help you succeed or feel happy in the long run.

In the health and fitness world, part of the problem as I see it, are the images we’re fed in social and mainstream media about what a fit and healthy body really looks like, what we should be aspiring to, and how these physiques are achieved.

Well, here’s the news flash, hardly any of it is real!

You’re smart, so I know you don’t fall for airbrushing and you know that images are manipulated.

But something else you should know about the fitness stars you see on Instagram or gracing the covers of your favourite fitness magazines, is that they have been dieting, training, and literally dedicating every moment of their life for months, maybe even years, to get into phenomenal photoshoot shape for those few pictures.

It is virtually impossible for them to maintain looking that lean and that ‘perfect’ all the time.

Therefore, that we’re sold the idea that this is the aesthetic we should all be aiming to achieve, all the time, is in my opinion very sad, misleading and potentially damaging to self-esteem.

It’s just unrealistic. Let’s face it, who has a spare three to four hours a day, six days a week to workout? Who has the time to buy food, carefully measure it out, prepare, cook and eat perfectly portioned healthy meals day in, day out? Who has the willpower of a saint to say no to every single treat that’s paraded in front of them, and the luxury of living a completely stress-free life with eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each and every night? 99.9 per cent of us don’t! So if this is what it takes to get into the kind of phenomenal shape we’re told should be attainable, we’re all being set up for disappointment.

The other myth, that as a trainer and nutritional therapist I find really frustrating, is the myth of the celebrity workout plan.

The number of people that come to me disappointed saying that they’ve followed such-and-such celebrity’s workout or diet plan to the letter, but haven’t seen the results they’d hoped for, are countless.

The unfortunate trap that these people fall into is believing that the celebrity has actually followed the workout plan they’re endorsing.

While I couldn’t tell you exactly what training programme they have in fact done, I would hedge my bets that it’s not the one they proclaim it to be. Remember, celebrities are being paid megabucks to look fantastic and sell a product, so they’ll likely have their own full-time trainer and personal chef, and will be on a tight schedule like the one described above.

The truth is, bodily perfection comes at a massive cost and one that I sincerely don’t believe is worth the trade-off. It’s certainly not as easy to achieve or maintain as we’re led to believe. I can assure you that those images of the happy, ultra-lean, tight and toned fitness stars are concealing a much less glamorous reality.

My wish is for you to be OK with you just as you are, and to embrace the work in progress that is you and your unique physique.

Don’t stop aiming high, keep setting challenging goals, but likewise don’t feel the pressure to conform to the unrealistic ideals of what ‘fit’ looks like.

Just keep making a conscious effort to exercise and eat healthy as best as you can, and as I always say, those small daily steps will soon add up to one big, awesome achievement.

• Becky Wright is a qualified personal trainer, nutritional therapist and international bikini fitness champion. She has worked with clients worldwide, including royalty. Contact her at www.inspirefitnessretreats.com or becky@inspirefitnesscoaching.com