When you are trying to get healthier and incorporate fitness in your daily life, the best place to start is your body image/self-image. If you don’t have a healthy body image, then all of the changes that you make won’t matter because it won’t last for the long term.

In fitness, you have to be congruent with your goals and body image in order for the changes to last. That is one of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose weight and get fit. If you are not starting out with a strong foundation, you will not reach your full potential.

Body Image/Self-Image

Body image is defined as the way you view your body as far as attractiveness and overall appearance. Your body image is shaped throughout your life, but especially through childhood experiences. Comments from friends and family are often instrumental in having a positive or negative body image.

Self-image is your sense of self, including your body and personality traits—whether you think you are outgoing, confident or insecure. It is also defined by how you perceive the way others value you.

I am here to affirm that your value as a person should have nothing to do with what the scale says or what magazines and media tell you that you should be. Both your body image and your self-image need to be realistic and healthy in order for you to be able to make the changes in your lifestyle that will create the fitness and health that you desire.

You need to protect a healthy self-image. If you don’t consistently feed your mind positive thoughts about who you are and what you are capable of achieving, you won’t be able to get long-lasting fitness results no matter how good the workout and diet programs are. Do you know why? If you don’t foster a healthy self-image, diet and exercise programs will only be Band-aids for much deeper and bigger problems.

A negative self-image and body image can be dealt with, though. Start by asking yourself questions that will help you reveal your mental trouble areas. Doing so helps you focus and makes it possible to work on the core problems.

How do you feel about your body?

Is the happiness in your day based on what the scale says?

Are you comfortable discussing some of your insecurities with close friends or family?

Do you feel if you are not “perfect” or “better” looking you can’t attract a relationship or that you don’t deserve one?

When was the first time you actually felt proud or ashamed of your body?

Why did you feel that way?

Are some of your health or nutrition habits designed to punish yourself?

Really dig deep when answering these questions. The more detailed you can be, the greater results you will have. What you will find by answering these questions are the key motivators—often unconscious—of your behavior and health habits.

When you see yourself being motivated by negative energy, make the effort to change your inner dialogue. For example, if you are thinking “I am so fat” all the time, consciously replace that with “I can make choices that make me healthier every day.” Repeat it to yourself often, and over time it becomes your new inner dialogue. The goal is to be able to be motivated by positive energy so that you can have long-term healthy results.

Greg Marshall is the head trainer at The Gym at City Creek and The Gym at Station Park, and a contributor to saltlakemagazine.com.