Thursday, February 18, 2010

Go Be Beautiful

As part of our The View from Venus series, guest blogger Jessica Stutzman shares her thoughts on body image.

I will never be Penelope Cruz. I once desperately wished to be as curvaceous and voluptuous as Ms. Cruz, but was blessed with the body of a ballerina. Long and lean and flat as a board. Now, for any of you who have been to high school it is not optimal to be the Twiggy of your class. Over time I began to believe that if someone said I looked thin it was a put-down rather than a compliment.

Over the years I have gone through my own sort of “yo-yo” diets including the “let’s see how many ding dongs I can eat in addition to my regular meals today diet” and the “consume 3000 calories regardless of what it is consumed diet”. No matter what I did my body always went back to its pre-diet shape. Fortunately, I am now able to accept being called thin as a compliment and make healthier decisions about the foods I eat.

As women, we are our own worst critics. How many of us have turned a compliment such as, “Your hair looks fantastic today!” into “Oh, it usually looks terrible.” The results are in, and they verify (as expected) that our self-esteem is linked to the way we think others perceive us. When someone tells you that you look great, don’t argue! Agree and say thanks.

Return a compliment. Giving and receiving compliments makes us feel great and boosts our confidence. Nothing is sexier than confidence!

Start being more confident by loving the skin you’re in! You don’t have to live at the gym to look and feel fantastic. Adults should engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. You can achieve this goal by walking briskly to and from the grocery store. As a North Dakotan, I can certainly attest to the workout one receives from shoveling the “fluffy” white stuff. Exercise is proven to boost energy and positively influence one’s mood.

Another way to improve our health is to improve the quality of calories we intake. Not all foods are created equal. Certain foods offer higher percentages of the vitamins and minerals we need per serving size. One high-quality choice is “super-food”. If you haven’t heard of these “super-foods”, you are missing out.

“Super-foods” are natural foods regarded as especially beneficial because of their nutrient profiles or their health-protecting qualities. These fruits, vegetables, and legumes give you your daily source of vitamins and are touted as cancer, cholesterol, and heart disease fighters. Two fantastic super-foods that I love to include in my diet are blueberries and tomatoes.

Blueberries are packed with antioxidants and vitamin C, which are great for our skin and supporting a healthy immune system. A half cup a day of dark blue, frozen or fresh blueberries is all we need to reap the benefits.

Tomatoes provide us with lycopene, an antioxidant linked to lowering the risk of digestive and many other cancers. Tomatoes in the form of ketchup, paste, or sauce allow for easy absorption of all the vitamins and nutrients into our systems.

These are only two of a myriad of super-foods available to us. Take advantage!

A healthy body image is an essential starting point on the path to a healthier lifestyle. While the majority of women find flaws in their outward appearance, we need to take control and recognize all of our positive attributes and how they work together to make us uniquely beautiful.

While I still don’t think I am perfect, I have come a long way from the girl who wanted to look like Penelope Cruz. Choosing a healthy lifestyle through food and exercise has definitely made me more confident, a quality which radiates for all to see.

It's your turn. Go be beautiful.

Jessica has a Bachelor of Arts in Security and Intelligence from The Ohio State University and is an administrative assistant at Research!America. This is her first guest post for New Voices.

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