It was dark out. I was exhausted. And was just about to step off the train from a 12-plus hour day. I so badly, just wanted to go home, rest, eat, and call it a day. But, I had packed my gym bag that morning and there it was, hanging over my shoulder, nagging me to workout.
The thoughts raced through my mind:
The only workout you ever regret is the one that never happened.
No pain, no gain.
Excuses are for quitters.
So, instead of going right, I went left when I got off the train … to the gym. I worked out for an hour, came home angry because I had had no downtime (and forced myself to do something I really didn’t want to do) and ate mindlessly out of the peanut butter jar…
My “exercise high” had just become a massive low.
I was creating an ugly war inside of myself and my relationship with exercise because I wasn’t listening to what my body really needed.
Whether you view exercise as something “you have to do,” you’re fearful that not exercising will cause weight gain, or you feel guilty, if you don’t exercise, here are some things you can start practicing to shift your relationship with exercise to one that allows you to feel healthier and happier in your body and life.
1. Release the association between exercise and your weight.
This may sound odd to you, but releasing your mental tie to your weight when it comes to moving your body is an important, free-ing step.
If you’re always pushing your body to move in ways it doesn’t want to, or to move because you’ll feel guilty if you don’t, or to move to manipulate or “control” your weight, it’s just not sustainable. And if it is sustainable for you right now, I’m pretty sure you don’t feel good about it, you’re mentally and physically tired, or you wish there was another way. I know because I’ve been there.
And guess what?
There is another way.
The first step to this other way is releasing the association in your mind between exercise and your weight. And instead, choosing to focus on how you want to feel in your body and then (this is key!) choosing actions that reflect how you want to feel in your body.
For example, if you’ve had a super stressful day, you may want to go on a run.
If you’re drained and just want to connect with yourself, you may want to go on a walk or take a restorative yoga class.
If you need sleep and you know if you workout that’ll cut down on your sleep time furthering your exhaustion, you may want to simply go to bed earlier and not workout.
See where I’m going here?
Another key point here is that more exercise doesn’t always translate into a smaller body.
I’ve seen clients who weren’t eating enough and exercising too much gain weight because they were putting their bodies through a stress response. I’ve also seen clients who exercised less lose weight.
I share this because our bodies aren’t as simple as mathematical equations. It’s not just about calories in and calories out. It’s just not.
There are so many other factors involved from genetics to stress and hunger hormones to your body’s skeletal frame.
Regardless of any of those factors, what is a universal factor is learning to move your body from a place of self-care and connection.
2. Find your deep-rooted whys.
When you choose to move your body because of your deep-rooted whys, that’s the place in which your relationship with exercise shifts to one that is healthy, happy, and lifelong.
Why? Because your deep-rooted whys are reasons that come from the inside. Some examples of deep-rooted whys:
Exercise makes you feel powerful in your body,
It helps alleviate anxiety or feelings of depression,
It allows you time to disconnect with the outside world, or
It fosters a stronger appreciation for your body.
So again, instead of focusing on your weight, focus on how exercise makes you feel in your body and your deep-rooted whys. It’s from this place of self-kindness, you’ll begin to heal your relationship with exercise.
A great way to see if you’re following your whys is to ask yourself what’s your intention behind exercising – is it to honor one of your deep-rooted whys, like alleviating anxiety, boosting your mood, or connecting with yourself? Or is it to simply burn calories?
Observation is power for change.
3. Tune-in to what your body really needs and honor it.
Checking-in with your body is so important. Because when we ignore our hunger, fill up past our fullness, exercise when we really need rest, or say yes when we really mean no, we feel guilt, anger, shame, and ultimately, we’re not happy.
Truth be told – this isn’t the recipe for success for feeling healthy and happy in your body for the long haul or wanting to make exercise a part of your lifestyle forever.
Each day, we’re in a different mental mindspace and so is your body. Which means, honoring what your body needs and wants each day will look different. The more this fact is on your radar, the more you’ll be able to tune-in to your body and ask, ‘What does my body really need right now?’
Rest? An intense workout? A leisurely walk?
What does YOUR body need?
Your answer to this question and then honoring it, will be your secret to having a relationship with your body and exercise that’ll last forever, as it should.
Because moving your body is so important. It keeps you healthy, in a good mental space, and allows you to connect your mind, body, spirit and soul. Moving your body creates movement in your life, if you do it right.
4. Stop playing, ‘I can eat this, if I move like that.’
Again, our bodies aren’t as simple as mathematical equations. They just aren’t.
If you’re stuck in the ‘I’m working out so I can eat that,’ game, that’s a sure-fire sign you’re stuck in the diet mentality.
Which really means you’re stuck in fear. So think about it – what are you really afraid of?
Is your weight tied to your worth?
Are you afraid people won’t accept you?
Are you afraid you won’t accept you?
You need to get really clear on where you want to go in your path and what you’re really afraid of.
I know it’s much easier said than done, but letting go of the outcome of your weight and allowing yourself to choose things that feel good to you and to listen to what you really need is your golden ticket.
Because when you listen and choose actions that are from a place of self-care instead of self-hate that’s when you begin to learn how to really like and accept yourself and you stay healthy and happy forever because you feel good and you’ve released any expectation of the outcome of how your body is ‘supposed’ to look.
5. Break free from the ‘I didn’t exercise’ guilt.
It’s really common as you’re beginning to navigate these self-care waters to feel like if you didn’t move your body that day, you ‘should’ feel guilty. That’s bogus. And again, part of the diet mentality and black and white thinking, which serves no one.
Instead of going down that path, allow yourself to listen to your body and still honor your hunger and fullness. Your body is built to tell you – with ease – how much it needs and that’s the real beauty of practicing mindful eating. And please know it does take time and practice.
But the first step is simply allowing your body to be your teacher. Which means you surrender and begin the process of learning to trust your body, which again, is a practice. And in truth, it’s not something that just happens overnight. It’s also something that is likely going to feel scary in the beginning, so know that that’s normal too. But keep showing up. Keep listening. Keep tuning-in. And keep remembering your whys. Because eventually, it’ll click.
6. Find your recipe for success.
I can tell you that years ago, if you told me walking and yoga would today be my favorite ways of moving my body, I would have laughed in your face. At the time, I didn’t even consider those things exercise.
Today, they’re practically my only forms of exercise. More importantly, they’re the most powerful ways that I move my body and connect with my spirit and thoughts on a daily basis. And I do it out of love, self-kindness, and respect for myself, which in turn, fosters more love, kindness, and respect back into my life on all levels.
So think about what you’d do out of love, self-kindness and respect for yourself and your body because when you can find this thing or those things (and it may evolve over time and that’s okay) you’ll move your body the right way and most importantly, in a way that’ll last a lifetime.
Sending you so much love,
p.s. if any of this hit home for you, check out my free, 5-day mini-course, the Ditch the Diet. Get MORE. pre-class, designed to help you ditch the diet mentality and feel more secure and confident in your body and life. You can join here.