I’m thrilled for National Fitness Day to celebrate Body Empowerment with BollyX this month because I believe it is one of the most fundamental parts of health and fitness.

I started National Fitness Day because I wanted to celebrate and share the way fitness personally made me feel: stronger, more confident, and more empowered. But as I dove further into the industry, I was reminded that this isn’t everyone’s experience with fitness, nor is it in fact most. Despite the explosion of new wellness trends, between programs that continue to promise bikini bodies, transformation photos running through our Instagram feeds, and influencers with bodies that still aren’t realistic for most people, we continue to surround ourselves with media that has us comparing our bodies to others’. So as the health & wellness movement continues to grow – and I wholeheartedly believe to a mostly positive impact – there is no more important time to have a more open conversation about body positivity.

When it comes to body positivity, I want to offer breaking it down into two parts: body acceptance and body empowerment. Working on both can be equally important.

Body acceptance is exactly what it sounds like – accepting your body as it is. But it’s hard work. It takes undoing years of negative perceptions or unfair standards you’ve placed on your body. And it takes patience and often an overall reframing of how you look at your goals.

As I mentioned, I started National Fitness Day not to celebrate the body builders or the fastest runners of the world, but to simply celebrate how fitness makes us feel. Many of us believe we’ll be happy once we have a certain body, and while this isn’t usually true – yes, even models continue to be plagued with insecurities and dissatisfaction with their own bodies – it becomes clear that the end goal is not actually the body, but being happy and feeling good.

Do you feel better when you’re in shape? Sure! But, just like your body is different from everyone else’s, what makes you feel good is also going to be unique. To one person it might be about getting stronger, while to another it might just be about releasing some stress after a hard day. For one it might be losing 10 pounds to get to a healthy weight, while for another it may actually be about eating well without so much anxiety around the scale. You have to accept that your body is different, and therefore your goals should be different. If we’re being honest, pursuing the same goals as the person you follow on Instagram more often than not makes you feel like crap, so stop comparing your goals to theirs start pursuing goals that make you feel good.

Lastly, the most important part about body acceptance is learning how to feel good every day, regardless of where you are in our journey, and that means loving and accepting your body where it is now. Goals are important, but we tend to get into the mindset that we’ll only be happy once we’ve reached them. But if we just agreed that the ultimate goal is simply to feel good or be happy, why can’t you be happy today? Just because you had a cheat day doesn’t mean you need to punish yourself with guilt until you get back on track. Give yourself a break because you’re going to travel and eat a bunch of crazy food, and you’re going to go out for a friend’s birthday and have a little too much to drink, and you’re going to live your life because there are other things beside your body that should make you happy, too. One of my favorite quotes is “don’t miss 95% of your life just to weigh 5% less,” so learn to love your body through the up’s and down’s and don’t forget to give yourself a break.

Then, when it comes to body empowerment, I want to start by breaking down what empowerment means in the first place. We often think of feeling empowered the same way we think about feeling inspired: we do something like work out and suddenly this feeling just happens to us. But it’s interesting to note that by definition the word “empower” means “to give” strength or power. It’s incredibly active, and it’s in your hands to give yourself, whether it’s in the words that you say to yourself or the choices that you make about what you do with your body.

Body empowerment is taking it one step beyond just loving your body, and loving it enough to treat it well and give it strength. This means giving it good food and working out. Getting your blood flowing, sweating the toxins out, and strengthening your heart. Taking steps to strengthen your body is the ultimate way to feel good, because you’ll find that when you give your body the fuel it needs, you’ll do things like regulate your blood sugar and feel less moody. When you build strength or endurance, you’ll become more confident, and feel empowered to take on new challenges. And when you treat your body well, you set it up to keep working for you for years to come.

At National Fitness Day, we believe that rather than focusing on what our bodies look like, we should celebrate what they can do. You are strong enough to run faster, lift more, or stretch farther than you could a month ago. Your body is capable of absolutely more than you know. And if you’ve ever been injured or known someone who has lost the ability to use his or her body the same way as you, you know that sometimes even simply walking is a gift in and of itself.

Together, we can change the conversation about our bodies. We can create a world where our daughters’ self-esteem is not defined by what they look like, and where we redefine our own goals to be simply be happy, and simply be healthy. Join me in thanking your body today for all it does for you, in loving it for all its jiggles, scars, and birthmarks, and in making taking care of it a priority – it’s with you for life.

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