Ditch diets and dispel the ideal body-image myth

Many of us will have woken up on New Year’s Day with that familiar pang of self-loathing having over-indulged throughout December and decided that this is the very day to start that new diet, begin that new detox, attempt to get the body of our dreams.


In fact, 95 percent of people make a new year’s resolution. And yet, as we reach the end of the first month, it’s estimated that only 8 percent of people will have kept to their promise.

Personally, I will never advocate making a new year’s resolution which is based on fitness and weight loss; i.e. having a goal that is based on an absolute and a goal that is completely framed by negativity.


People tend to focus on things that they want to change about themselves and things they dislike about themselves. When you do this, you’re eliciting in yourself negative emotions which completely and undeniably stifle motivation.


Above all else, new year’s resolutions are based on us feeling that we do not fit the requirements of an ideal body shape, a major reason for which is in part due to the distorted perception of body image found ubiquitously on social media.

82 percent of women feel the beauty standards set by social media are unrealistic according to a recent study by Dove.


The same study also found that the average height and weight for a model is 5’10″ and 110lbs while the average height and weight for a woman is 5’4″ and 145 lbs. Considering that the average person sees approximately three thousand adverts and commercials daily and follows an average of forty models on the social media platform, Instagram it’s no real surprise that many people suffer from a distorted body image ideal.


The same can be said for young men and I am becoming increasingly aware as to how many young boys are suffering from body image problems. There have been so many studies recently on the use of steroids in teenage boys – they’re now, more than ever, under pressure to conform to a muscled stereotype and are equally bombarded with images of how they should look and behave.


The fact of the matter is that we’re all different and body ideals are a myth. Genetic diversity is a fact of nature.

Some men are predisposed to carry excess body fat, some men are lean and have no problem getting a six pack and some, like Eddie Hall have no six-pack but still epitomise complete health and tremendous strength.


I myself choose to exercise not to gain a six pack but to stay fit and healthy. I exercise to lift my mood, normalise my blood pressure, improve my quality of sleep, increase my self-esteem and become less prone to stress. Put simply, I exercise to maintain a quality of life.


The dramatic rise of media consumption by children and teens given the growing availability of internet access through smart phones and laptops is also of grave concern. On a typical day, children aged eight years old and upwards engage with some form of media for approximately seven hours. This collision of perception and reality exerts pressure and contributes towards a growing level of body dissatisfaction amongst children and teens and a future generation which will no doubt be haunted by the relentless pursuit to look a certain way.


Ultimately, my message is this. The only detox required in 2017 is from the toxic messages which define an ‘ideal’ body image. And the only resolution you should make from here on in is to treat your body as something to love and not loathe.


Many of us spend our lives fighting against our bodies, striving to meet an unrealistic weight goal.  When we do this, we split the mind from the body and our body can no longer function properly.  Viewing your body as an enemy creates a stressful situation and, as in any highly stressful situation, the body’s response is to slow the metabolism and stop the normal hormonal cycle.


You can spend your life being at war with your body and hating it, dieting, shaming yourself, using exercise as punishment, or you can embrace your body, move it for pleasure, for health and for mental wellbeing and live an exciting and uninhibited, liberated life.


I know which I’d choose.

How to stay healthy at Christmas

The festive season often results in diet debauchery, over indulgence and abandoned fitness regimes while January detoxes are just as notorious. I would however argue that healthy living, in its truest form, is not only straightforward to incorporate with Christmas but undeniably crucial.

I have always been keen to promote healthy living as an all-encompassing way of life: healthy living doesn’t merely equate to a full ban on mince pies.  What it does mean, however, are all round healthier life choices to recognise the important connection between physical health and mental wellbeing; something which can carry a heavy burden over the festive season.

Given that one of the largest barriers to exercise is lack of time; a break in your usual routine provides an ideal opportunity to begin or maintain physical activity; something which increases your oxygen flow rate from 8 litres to 100 litres per minute and allows your cells to take in more nutrition from your blood.

If an influx of family visitors makes it difficult to incorporate a full workout, try to get everyone involved in something seasonal; a country walk or ice-skating perhaps. You can also rig the odds of getting your guests up off the sofa by purchasing gifts which naturally will need ‘road testing’ such as scooters, footballs or bikes.  And, if you can’t possibly drag yourself outside look for indoor alternatives to slumping on the sofa.  The ubiquitous Wii-Fit Plus offers a realm of opportunities for exercise, from hitting virtual tennis balls to punching invisible targets without even needing to put your shoes on.

Aside from the obvious health benefits, healthy living over the festive season can be critical as, while Christmas for most people is a fun time of year, filled with parties, celebrations, and social gatherings with family and friends, for many people it is a time filled with sadness, self-reflection, loneliness, and anxiety. January has one of the highest suicide rates compared with other months in the year.

Physical fitness can bolster resilience through its ability to blunt one’s reactions to stress, buffer against a range of mental health issues, protect against emotional stress and enhance overall health and wellness.

After only half an hour of exercise your brain starts to release more endorphins which lift your mood.

A few hours after exercise your blood pressure becomes normalised, your sleep quality improves, you become more confident and your self-esteem increases.

A few months after continuous exercise your nervous system will have strengthened; the speed of nerve impulse transmissions increases, the brain activity improves and you are able to make decisions more quickly.

Your musculoskeletal system strengthens; your muscles become bigger and your bones become denser.

You become less prone to stress, mood swings and depression.

You live longer.

Although exercise is not a solution by itself, exercise can be part of a comprehensive program to improve mental health as well as social connections and optimism. Social wellbeing can play an important part in overall physical health. That’s why we encourage M Club members to become part of a community and organise plenty of social gatherings; the most popular of which are monthly walks in the Peak District led by a founding member of the club.

Although the festive period is often associated with alcohol and over-indulging on food, it’s important to remember that alcohol is a depressant and drinking to excess can sometimes cause low mood and heighten anxiety. Many don’t realise that eating the wrong foods, and over-indulging can severely impact on your mood. Even if you think it’s normal to over-indulge at Christmas (and many do), its worth being mindful of how this can impact on you.

While I am not suggesting to forgo all treats and extras at Christmas, you can limit the damage on your health by selecting festive foods more carefully. Try choosing healthier nibbles like roasted chestnuts or satsumas and think twice before eating; do you really want it or are you eating it just because it’s there? Remember to start Christmas day with breakfast to avoid overindulging later on and intersperse your alcoholic drinks with water to help reduce your calorie intake. Allow yourself to enjoy the great holiday food without feeling guilty but focus on exercising too.

Whether you want to alleviate stress, sharpen your brain, or boost overall happiness this Christmas time, physical activity is the answer. Amid the chaotic Christmas shopping, the hectic social calendar and perhaps the feeling of overwhelming pressure to feel as happy as the season suggests, don’t forget to keep active and, in doing so, give yourself a gift this Christmas, the gift of self-preservation.

Personally Speaking: Show ambition and embrace capitalism

From the very beginning of my life, the one characteristic that has pushed me ahead is my relentless determination to continually improve myself.

Having started junior school in sixties Luton, as the only Asian child, and with no knowledge of the English language, I was bullied ruthlessly.

From there I experienced many challenges, and because of them I was reminded that if I could overcome those challenges, I could overcome anything.

When I was 22 years old, I turned down a job in a London bank to sell insurance door-to-door while living in a £10-a-week bedsit.

There was something within me that had made me turn down the easy option. My past had made me want to be somebody. I wanted to make a fortune. I would take a chance on myself, work hard, take a number of risks, and never give up.

There is nothing wrong with ambition. And it is in a capitalist society where every individual has a right to succeed, that ambition can become one of the most important tools for achieving success, overriding both talent and resources by far.

Capitalism, in my opinion, is based on meritocracy: on talent and ambition alone, and it is these ambitions and aspirations that separate the majority from the tiny minority who will ultimately change the face of society; help economies to grow and, in turn, increase prosperity for everyone.

Not only this, but it is these individuals who will also be able to help others less able or less fortunate and, as individuals such as Bill Gates plan to do, use their business success to help the world become a better place through philanthropic initiatives.

This idea has long been rooted in society. The successful industrialists like George Cadbury and Josiah Wedgwood recognised their responsibility for their workers and used their wealth to set up better accommodation, welfare benefits and pensions long before the State did.

Wedgwood started his Etruria housing scheme for his employees as early as 1769, and from that a whole community arose.

Similarly, Cadbury developed Bournville in the interest of his employees with a swimming pool to encourage employees to participate in sports and country outings, medical and dental departments and a pension fund with a capital gift from the company.

Capitalism is ultimately a case of working hard, achieving self-actualisation and then helping others when you have the means to do so; putting people first and doing the right thing by employees, customers, consumers and overall society.

Capitalism provides opportunity for all. People are motivated to do their best when they see the results of their effort.

Capitalism aligns these incentives and people are therefore motivated to work hard and ultimately help the economy.

With capitalism and enterprise comes competition between private owners of production which, in turn, creates lower prices, greater efficiency, and improved quality.

The evolutionary force of the market inspires innovation and ingenuity, over time ensuring economic liberty, prosperity and human progress.

No matter where you start in life, a capitalist, enterprise society offers everyone the opportunity to make it big, and the harder you work, the greater your reward. Personally speaking, capitalism provided the materials for a young man from humble beginnings to begin to build his empire.

So embrace your passion. Let your ambition fuel you to be the best. Prove the world wrong, never settle for mediocrity, and importantly, when all of this has been achieved, remember the world around you.
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