I get asked my views on exercise all the time.
….Is it bad to want to exercise if I’m trying to ‘love’ my body?
….What’s the best exercise for me to do that is aligned with loving my body?
….How can I stop feeling crazy around exercise?
….How do you exercise and not feel out of control around it?
A long time ago, when I felt out of control around food, I was also out of control around exercise. To put it bluntly, as long as I hated my body and felt like my weight dictated my core self worth- meaning who I am as a person is measured by the appearance of my body- I was out of control around anything that I perceived would make me ‘thin’.
HIIT, juice cleanses, vegan diet, sugar free diet, personal training sessions, boxing, running, weight training….how can you not get obsessed with exercise when you’re attaching it to an outcome such as weight loss?
And because you probably know that by now I think that people diet and feel ‘crazy’ around food because of issues with their body, which on a deep level translates to poor self worth. You don’t like your body all that much, so you don’t like yourself, so you diet. That’s the cycle in a nutshell.If you’ve been following my work for awhile now you will know that I think diets are a complete waste of time and actually perpetuate the food ‘crazies’ and prevent you from being in ‘control’ of your food (ie. To not give a shit about food and to eat what in a way that makes you a ‘normal’ eater). Ironic isn’t it? Especially when we are told that diets make us ‘thin’.
The advice I give my clients around exercise is the same as it is when it comes to food:
You will never fully end the obsession with exercise- that means you’ll never be able to be a ‘normal exerciser’ (i.e exercising to feel good and well physically, mentally and spiritually)- until you address the reason why you’re exercising like a ‘mad woman’ in the first place.
….Which basically means you’ve got to address the underlying body hate. Because it is the body hate that makes women want to change their bodies in the pursuit of ‘confidence’, ‘beauty’, ‘sexiness’. It’s this idea that changing your body changes you mindset and your life…which is very dangerous and not the case AT ALL.
When I talk to clients about going about exercise in another way- a way that will make them feel less ‘crazy’ about it t begin with- the number one objection I hear is: “But if I don’t exercise all the time and in a way that’s intense, I’ll gain weight”.
I could write an essay on the fact that exercise, like dieting does not work as being an effective weight management strategy in the long run, and research shows us that those people who exercise put the weight back on after 6-12 months. Not at all uncommon to the stats on dieting for long term weight management. Useless.
I could also write an essay on the fact that ones quest for a healthy life can become anything but healthy with over exercising – which I describe as being the limit by which your body pushed outside the parameters of what makes it feel physically, emotionally and physically ‘good’ and well. There is nothing healthy about pushing your body to the extreme limits and I would know. I suffered countless injuries from punishing my body in the gym and various other forms of exercise, ignoring the warning signs because I was too ‘scared’ and ‘guilt ridden’ to stop/ back off/ rest etc.
But I’d be missing a bigger point if I didn’t say that if exercise doesn’t necessarily make you thin, then does no exercise make you fat? Nope. Not the case. We know now that I can argue that exercise isn’t a successful long term weight management tool in and of itself and I can also (out of personal experience) tell you that my body has responded very well to less frequent, less intense exercise. And many of my clients have also experienced many health benefits- both physically, mentally and spiritually from taking more ‘gentle’ and relaxed exercise.
The case in point is where our weight wants to be is different for everyone. We can’t control the biological process at play- though you think you can- in the long run, you can’t. Which means you have two choices: continue to push at it and try to ‘beat’ mother nature (for which the joke will be on you) OR practice a new way of going about things, such as opening your mind up to the real reason you’re in this predicament in the first place (poor body acceptance).
My advice? These days, like food, I do what the hell I want when it comes to exercise. I have learned to listen to what my body wants. Which means that some days I want to get all hot and sweaty and get the heart rate up, while other days I might want a gentle yoga class or a walk around the block. Importantly on other days I might just want to sit on my couch in my pjs and watch Netflix (making a murder- hello! So good).
Body acceptance isn’t about having ‘blanket rules’ around food and exercise in my view. It’s about serving yourself first and foremost, doing what you feel is intuitivey best for you in that moment, despite what you think you ‘should, ought and must do’. It’s about tuning into your needs on a physical, mental and spiritual level and honouring that, despite the potential judgements of other people.
What’s it going to take for you to change your perspective on exercise?
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