Most of us know about the typical health benefits of diet and exercise. We know that leading a healthy lifestyle will help lower our risk of heart disease, cancer and other conditions. But taking care of yourself does more than just improve your physical health. When you’re healthy and feel strong, you’ll be more confident in yourself. Our society puts a lot of importance on body image, too, so the way we look naturally affects our self-esteem.
Let’s see exactly how diet and exercise can improve your sense of self-worth and make you a more confident and happy individual …
You’ll Feel Good on the Inside
When you eat healthy foods (fruits, vegetables, lean meats etc.) and exercise regularly, you’ll feel really good on the inside. Think about it for a moment. Don’t you feel sluggish and bad about yourself after you eat an entire bag of chips, while watching TV? Junk food—and leading a sedentary lifestyle tends to do that to you. On the other hand, eating well and being active has been shown to increase your energy and lower your stress levels.
Poor nutrition causes fatigue. If you don’t consume an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals, your body will literally be weak. Sometimes, we think that eating sugary foods will boost our energy; but, this often leads to a “crash.” In other words, sugary foods temporarily boost our energy, but then they cause our insulin levels to spike (so we feel tired again).
Eating a diet rich in unrefined carbs, vegetables and protein-rich foods will give you long-lasting energy. And when you feel energetic, you are ready for any task or challenge which comes your way.
Lowered stress levels
When you’re stressed out, you likely feel unmotivated to do anything. Certain foods and beverages (for example, coffee) can actually increase your cortisol (stress hormone) levels. But, eating healthy and exercising prevents a rise in cortisol. Fruits, vegetables, fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low-glycemic carbs actually decrease or inhibit cortisol.
Moderate aerobic exercise also lowers stress by producing endorphins, our “feel-good” hormones. This lowers stress levels by improving our sleep quality and allowing us to relax. Again, when we feel this way, we also feel ready to take the day on. We become more productive at work and more open in our interactions with people. This definitely helps to boost our sense of self-worth and overall confidence.
And Look Great On the Outside
It goes without saying that when you look good, you feel good about yourself. Your body image (the way you see yourself physically) is closely associated with your self-esteem and actual physical self. You may not consciously think about it, but we are constantly bombarded of images of fit, happy people. How often do you see a physically flawed celebrity on the cover of a magazine? That’s right—not very often. We tend to compare ourselves to the perfect images we see in the media and when we notice something wrong with our body, we focus in on it. This, of course, lowers our self-esteem.
When you exercise and eat healthy, you’ll notice a difference. Cutting back on junk food (those high in trans fats, sugar, artificial sweeteners, etc) and exercising can help you to lose weight. If you perform exercises that target your muscles (while eating a high-protein diet), your muscles will also become defined and your body will be toned. Not only that, but you’ll notice that you can exercise longer without feeling exhausted. In other words, you’ll see an improvement in your fitness. This will make you feel more confident and courageous (you’ll finally be comfortable enough to go swimming without covering yourself up too much, for example).
If you’re going to start eating healthy and exercising, do it for yourself. Not only is it good for your body, but it’s good for your mind and self-image, too. Eating healthy foods and exercising increases your energy, lowers your stress levels and improves your body. These things all lead to a happier, more confident you.
Editor, Health Ambition