Fitness for the Right Reasons
Do you exercise when you are on a diet, but not when you go off the diet? Do you abandon your physical activity routine when you can no longer sustain the unrealistic eating patterns of the current diet you are trying to follow? Perhaps your exercise routine is also unrealistic?
Exercise is not invigorating, let alone fun, when you are doing it with the primary purpose of losing weight. Most people do not eat enough carbohydrates when they are “on a diet” and carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of fuel. People end up exercising without enough energy. And if you approach exercise like a “Biggest Loser” contestant, it is also likely you are abusing your body with unrealistic amounts or types of exercise, which often leads to injuries.
Weight-Neutral Self Care
A term I recently discovered and love is “weight-neutral self care” - self-care that is not motivated by a desire to change the size of your jeans or the number on the scale. Its purpose is to improve your sense of vitality and overall well being, not to lose weight. The focus is on metabolic, not cosmetic fitness.
Increased physical activity almost always brings improvements in blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It also brings about improvements in sleep patterns and energy levels. And while most people report feeling better with increased physical activity, many abandon their physical activity routines if and when the number on the scale stops moving.
Principle 9 of Intuitive Eating says, “Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk walk in the morning and hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.”
At Be Nourished, we help our clients develop sustainable health practices - eating and exercise habits that people can live with for a lifetime. When it comes to movement, we first identify reasons to move that have nothing to do with changing your size, shape or weight. Possible motivations include to feel more alive, to connect with people, to have time for myself, to have a sense of accomplishment, to blow off steam or to see something beautiful.
After identifying new motivations to move, we help people find enjoyable, realistic ways of moving, relaxing, strengthening, using and being aware of their bodies, in ways that fit with their everyday lives and their personal motivations to move. We let go of the rules about what does and does not count and just get moving! Karin Kratina, author of Moving Away from Dieting, says movement from a non-diet perspective is about “returning to the joy of childhood play. It means forgetting all the “shoulds” about exercise, and changing the concept from grueling work-out to zestful playtime.”
Once a client gets moving, we focus on how exercise makes them feel. Some questions posed in the Intuitive Eating book include:
- Are you able to handle stress better? Are you less edgy? Is it easier to take situations in stride, roll with the punches?
- Do you feel more alert? A little more spunky?
- Do you feel more in control? Do you say, “I can do it,” and seize the day?
- Do you sleep more soundly and wake up more refreshed?
In summary, joyful movement provides genuine pleasure and enjoyment. It leaves you feeling rejuvenated, rather than exhausted or depleted. And it is about improving fitness, not fatness, so shift your focus to how it makes you feel.
(photo courtesy of http://www.abarefootgirl.com/)
In 2005 therapist Hilary Kinavey and nutritionist Dana Sturtevant started facilitating groups to help women let go of food/weight obsession. Realizing that they shared a similar approach and philosophy regarding food, weight, body image and health – one directly counter to that of conventional institutional paradigms - the two decided to merge their practices to create a partnership that would offer a revolutionary approach to women seeking answers about eating disorders, weight concerns, exercise, and nutrition. Thus, Be Nourished was born. Encouraging a non-diet approach to food, weight and health, Be Nourished offers individual counseling, workshops, classes and retreats to tackle topics like conscious eating, hunger awareness, body acceptance, and self-compassion. For more information, visit Be Nourished.