Body image is a very emotive and personal issue. For a lot of people, the relationship they have with the mirror, their body, diet and exercise is very complex. We all know about the rows over excessive airbrushing of images in magazines, and the stick-thin models that continue to grace the catwalks, and we all know about the effect that this can have on our own body image.
Another part of the problem is the way that diet and exercise is discussed. Look in any magazine, and you are sure to see the words ‘try this weight loss diet’, ‘lose a stone in 6 weeks’, or ‘exercise your way to a bikini body’. The emphasis is weighed too heavily on aesthetics. We are told that we need to diet to lose weight, and that we need to exercise to lose weight. There is no emphasis on doing either simply to be in good health, and this needs to change.
- 1 Exercise and body image
- 1.1 Doing an activity you enjoy is empowering
- 1.2 Exercise makes you more likely to have a healthy lifestyle overall
- 1.3 Exercise helps you feel more capable
- 1.4 Typical body ‘trouble spots’ for women
- 1.5 The stomach
- 1.6 The bottom
- 1.7 The triceps
- 1.8 The thighs
- 1.9 Tips for toning trouble spots
- 1.10 Flatten those abs
- 1.11 Tone up that bottom
- 1.12 Say goodbye to bingo wings!
- 1.13 Say hello to sleek thighs
- 1.14 Don’t forget your cardio
- 1.15 Do some strength training
- 1.16 Eat wholefoods
- 1.17 Stay hydrated
- 1.18 Cut down on alcohol
- 1.19 So why do women store fat where they do?
- 1.20 Genetics
- 1.21 Insulin
- 1.22 Digestive health
- 1.23 Toxins
- 1.24 Cellulite
- 1.25 Causes of cellulite
- 1.26 Treatments for cellulite
- 1.27 Cryolipolysis
- 1.28 Laser Treatments
- 1.29 Massage
- 1.30 Endermology
- 1.31 Eat well, and exercise
- 1.32 Topical creams
- 1.33 Liposuction
- 1.34 Anti-cellulite workouts
- 1.35 Interval training and strength routine
- 1.36 How to do it
- 1.37 What you’ll need
- 1.38 1A: Reverse Lunge
- 1.39 2A: Romanian Deadlift
- 1.40 1B: Standing Calf Raise
- 1.41 2B: Side Step with Band
- 1.42 Interval Routine
- 1.43 Anti-cellulite Power Plate workout
- 1.44 Bridge
- 1.45 Lunge with lateral raise
- 1.46 Squat with bicep curl
- 1.47 Quad massage
- 1.48 Anti-cellulite leg and bum workout
- 1.49 Hip Extension
- 1.50 Side Leg Raise
- 1.51 Plie Squat with Side Leg Raise
- 1.52 Alternating Curtsy Lunge
Exercise and body image
Exercise has actually been shown to be very good for body image, though unfortunately, many people with poor body image avoid exercise because it makes them scrutinize their bodies and feel self-conscious. But here’s why exercise is great for body image.
Doing an activity you enjoy is empowering
Many people go to the gym because they feel like they ‘have to’. Exercise becomes like a chore or a punishment when they think about it this way. But it you find a mode of exercise that you enjoy, whether it’s dancing, walking, or cycling, it actually makes you feel empowered. You become aware of how amazing your body is and what it is capable of, which will help you to look at it in a different way.
Exercise makes you more likely to have a healthy lifestyle overall
If you exercise, and you do it because it makes you feel good, you’re more likely to adopt healthy behaviours in other areas of your life. For example, after completing an energising workout, you will want to eat clean, nourishing foods, rather than eat junk. You will be less likely to smoke because you will be used to feeling fitter, and smoking limits your aerobic capacity, and you will be less likely to drink a lot of alcohol because it makes you feel below par.
Exercise helps you feel more capable
If you have a poor body image, you will wrongly believe that you are only worthy if only you were skinnier, had smaller thighs or more muscular arms. But completing workouts that we didn’t think we could do, or learning a new skill like a sport makes you realise that you are more capable than you realise. This build self-esteem and puts a different spin on the relationship you have with your body.
Typical body ‘trouble spots’ for women
Regardless of whether your body image is good or bad, there’s no denying that for a woman, there are typical parts of our bodies that can be hard to like. When following an exercise programme, you will find that many routines focus on the spots where women tend to store fat which can be hard to tone. You can’t work a part of your body and magically reduce its size, but you can give those troublesome spots a helping hand. Let’s look at the parts that women find it hard to tone.
A flat stomach is the holy grail of fitness, but unfortunately, if you have too much body fat covering your abs, they will never be visible. Eating foods that can cause bloating only add to the problems of a poochy belly and muffin top.
Many women complain that their bum looks big, and the bottom and hips are a fat storage area for women. The problem is made worse by the fact that many people spend their days sitting down now, so the glute muscles, which need to be strong if you want a peachy bottom literally ‘switch off’.
The back of the arms is also a common place for women to store fat, and many women shy away from sleeveless dresses and vests for this reason. The key to toning the arms is to do some vigorous cardio exercise to burn fat, and to use weights to tone the arms. These weights need to be moderate to heavy to have an effect, and no, you won’t end up looking like Schwarzenegger.
Wobbly thighs are a common complaint for many women, along with the unsightly cellulite that goes with them, and produces the ‘orange peel’ effect.
Tips for toning trouble spots
So what can you do about these trouble spots? All’s not lost, you just have to make sure that your diet and exercise plan is on point and targeted.
Flatten those abs
Aim to work the whole of the core musculature, including the muscles in the waist and back, with exercises like planks and side planks. Crunches alone will not give you the flat stomach that you want and can even thicken your waist. Use a stability ball for an added challenge.
Make sure you get the glutes firing on all cylinders by working them at different angles Include exercises like squats, lunges, leg lifts, running and skipping in your exercise regime. And make sure you always take the stairs!
Say goodbye to bingo wings!
You need to target the upper body with exercises such as bicep curls, tricep dips, shoulder presses and press ups. Tricep flab needs blasting with some cardio exercise; a boxercise class is a perfect choice which combines upper body work with fat burning cardio.
Say hello to sleek thighs
Include squats and lunges, plus plenty of fat burning cardio in your routine. Go back to your youth and try inline skating. Not only does it burn around 400 calories per hour, it works the muscles in the inner thighs and hips better than running, according to some studies.
Don’t forget your cardio
Step up your cardio to burn off excess body fat, and train early if possible. Research has shown that early morning exercise can boost the metabolism for up to 15 hours.
Do some strength training
Don’t resist doing some resistance training. It will help you build lean muscle which makes you look more toned and raises your metabolism.
Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. Processed convenience foods are high in fat and sugar, and lack nutritional value.
Thirst can be mistaken for hunger, so stay hydrated to stay away from unhealthy snacking and eating when you aren’t hungry.
Cut down on alcohol
Alcohol can’t be used by the body, it’s essentially empty calories, so it will usually be stored as fat if it’s not burned off.
So why do women store fat where they do?
Men tend to store fat around the abdomen, back and chest, and women store it around the hips, thighs and bottom. The reason for this is hormones. Oestrogen and testosterone determine where fat is distributed in the body.
But the reason that you might be struggling to lose fat from certain areas is about more hormones.
Genetics can determine where you carry weight, so have a look at your parents and check what you inherited from them. There’s not much you can do about genetics, however, you can become a better version of yourself by adopting good nutritional habits and taking regular exercise.
Insulin can contribute to fat storage in the body, so be sure to keep dietary sugar and other refined carbs in check.
Poor digestion can make you feel bloated and sluggish, and if you aren’t eliminating waste from the body effectively, this leads to inflammation and increased fat storage.
Toxins in the body can affect metabolism and overall health. They can contribute to bloating and promote fat storage.
Cellulite is fat deposits under your skin. The lumpy appearance is due to it being pushed against connective tissues which gives skin a puckered ‘orange peel’ look. Women are more likely to have cellulite due to the different structure of the skin. You don’t just get cellulite if you’re overweight. It’s estimated that 9/10 women have it.
Causes of cellulite
Poor nutrition, a slow metabolism, lack of exercise, dehydration, hormone changes and excessive body fat can cause cellulite to appear.
Treatments for cellulite
This procedure freezes fat cells and kills them off. The body then eliminates the dead cells. It can take a few months and around 3 treatments to see visible results.
Laser treatment can treat skin puckering, boost collagen, tighten the skin, combat fluid retention, and increase blood flow. Results last for around 6 months.
The idea behind massage is that it boosts circulation and reduces the build up of fluids which improves the appearance of cellulite and the skin in general.
This is like a massage but with suction. The idea behind it is that deep massage breaks up the connective tissue that can push against fat and cause dimpling of the skin. Studies show that massage can make the skin look better in the short term, but long term benefits are not proven.
Eat well, and exercise
An oldie but a goodie. The best way to improve the appearance of cellulite is to do some exercise to reduce your body fat and boost circulation, and to eat well to detox your body and give it everything it needs to be the best it can be.
You have no doubt seen many lotions and creams that claim to get rid of cellulite. Many contain caffeine which is supposed to burn fat, and others contain herbs. These have no proven long term benefits, but they might work well with other treatments, as if nothing else they will improve the tone and texture of the skin.
And what to avoid…
This procedure is popular for removing unwanted fat from the thighs, buttocks, and abdomen. However, removing fat unequally can make the dimpling effect look worse.
Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce cellulite, and it has the added benefit of improving your overall health.
Interval training and strength routine
Strength training improves muscle tone, so your legs and bum will look better, and interval training can keep your metabolism raised for hours after the workout. Do this routine 3 times per week, and you will see results after about 4 weeks.
How to do it
Do the strength routine first. Do set A then do set B straight away without rest. Do 3 sets per exercise. Finish with the interval routine.
What you’ll need
Some weights, a resistance band, and a stair or a step.
1A: Reverse Lunge
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides, holding a medium-weight dumbbell in each hand.
Lunge behind you with right foot, bending both knees 90 degrees. Hold for 1 count; return to start and repeat. Make sure your knee stays above your toes at all times.
Do 12 to 15 reps then switch legs.
2A: Romanian Deadlift
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding a dumbbell in each hand you’re your palms facing body.
Slowly bend forward, driving glutes behind you while keeping knees slightly bent.
Use your glutes to stand back up. Keep your back flat at all times.
Do 8 to 10 reps.
1B: Standing Calf Raise
Stand on a stair or step with your heels hanging over the edge.
Slowly lift up onto balls of your feet. Hold for 1 count, then lower feet until heels are just below step.
Do 8 to 10 reps.
2B: Side Step with Band
Tie a resistance band around your shins, then stand with your feet wide enough to feel some tension in the band, knees bent about 45 degrees.
Step your right foot a few inches to right, followed by your left foot.
Take about 12 to 15 steps; switch directions.
You can do this 12- to 16-minute workout indoors on a stationary bike (increase resistance) or outside running or walking (use speed bursts).
3-5 minutes: Warm up, low intensity
15 seconds: Speed or resistance burst; increase speed or resistance from moderate to heavy
45 seconds: Recover at low to moderate intensity
Repeat intervals of 15 seconds of work/45 seconds of recovery for a total of 6 times (work up to 8 times).
3-5 minutes: Cool down.
Anti-cellulite Power Plate workout
The Power Plate can stimulate circulation and boost lymphatic drainage. Combine these moves with cardio and expect results in about 6 weeks.
Hold for 60 seconds, on a low setting
Lie in front of the Power Plate with your back on a mat. Place your feet in the centre of the platform lift your hips off the floor, balancing your body weight between your shoulders and your feet. Try to keep a straight line running from your shoulders to your knees. Pull your belly button ‘up and in’ to activate the core of your body and maintain a strong back.
Lunge with lateral raise
Hold for 60 seconds on a low setting
Stand on the floor facing the Power Plate. Holding a strap in each hand (adjust to your height requirements before you begin), place your right foot on the middle of the platform. Step your left foot back on the floor until you’re in a lunge position, and lift the left heel so you are balanced on your toes. Drop your knee down towards the floor, keeping your front knee behind your toes and your chest lifted. Lift your arms straight out to the sides, level with your shoulders, to form a ‘T’ shape and return to the start.
Squat with bicep curl
Hold for 60 seconds on a low setting
Holding the straps, stand in the middle of the platform with the controls behind you. Keep your knees behind your toes and lower your hips into a squat position. With your palms facing up, lift your arms in front of you, keeping a slight bend at the elbow. Return to the start.
Hold for 60 seconds on a high setting
Lie on your front on the plate with your quads resting on it. Rest your forearms on a mat on the floor in front of you. Keep your back straight and strong. Relax in this position.
Anti-cellulite leg and bum workout
Combine these exercises with cardio to reduce the appearance of cellulite
Begin on your hands all fours with one leg extended back. Lift your leg and focus on squeezing the glutes at the top of the movement. Work up to three sets of 20.
Side Leg Raise
Begin on your left-hand side, extend your right leg in front of you with the right foot on the floor. Lift the leg, keeping the foot in front of the hip. Switch sides. Work up to three sets of 20.
Plie Squat with Side Leg Raise
Begin with your feet wider than hip-distance apart, with the toes pointed out. Bend deeply. On the way up, lift one leg out to the side. Repeat, alternating legs now. Do 3 sets of 16.
Alternating Curtsy Lunge
Begin standing with your feet together. Take one foot behind you into lunge position, as if you are doing a curtsy. (your foot will not be right behind you). Do sets of 8 on each side.