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Intuitive Eating Principles Summarized - #9 - Exercise - Feel the Difference

Welcome back to our next installment of the Intuitive Eating principles summarized to talk about #9, “Exercise - Feel the Difference”. This principle is about how you can include movement and physical activity in your life because you enjoy it. If you find yourself thinking “exercise and enjoyment do not go hand in hand for me”, then I am glad you are here and please keep on reading!

First off, it is important to identify your attitude towards exercise or movement in general. If you have more of a negative initial thought towards physical activity, it is important to think about if you’ve paired up exercise with the negative experiences and cyclical nature of dieting in the past. If you started an exercise plan along with a diet, it would be understandable if you don’t feel too keen towards it now. “Crash exercising”, similar to “crash dieting”, typically occurs when someone wants to lose weight rapidly, which usually results in adding too much activity too quickly. Best case scenario from this? Feeling burnt out mentally and physically. Worst case scenario? Developing soreness and/or injuries from the unrealistic amount of exercise added to your lifestyle in too short of a period of time. Additionally, when you are not taking in enough fuel (aka FOOD), your energy levels will be lacking and thus exercise will not be fun or energizing. And remember, carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy so if you are restricting carbohydrates on a regular basis, it is likely that your energy levels will be low.

Some people need to hold off on exercise for a period of time before reintroducing it and finding an intrinsic pleasure in movement, which is totally okay. If you are able to reintroduce physical activity in a more joyful way, there are a couple of ways to make it a lifelong enjoyable relationship:

  • Focus on the feeling of exercise versus calories or time spent exercising

  • Is your energy better when you are including physical activity? Are you able to handle stressors better? Do you have a general improved sense of well-being? Do you feel powerful, strong, more empowered? Are you able to sleep better?

  • Separate exercise and weight loss

  • Physical activity is a health-promoting behavior. As we know, including health-promoting behaviors more frequently improves your overall health regardless of any weight changes. Focusing on exercise in this way can help to make it a lifelong commitment to improving quality of life, and health and well-being versus a number to reach on a scale.

  • Some examples of benefits of exercise include:

  • Increased bone strength

  • Decreased blood pressure

  • Increased heart and lung strength

  • Improved mood

  • If weight is the driving force behind movement it can be incredibly discouraging and make it more likely that an individual may abuse physical activity.

  • If you think you may be abusing exercise, here are some examples to take a better look at your relationship:

  • Inability to stop even if you are not feeling well or injured

  • Feeling guilty if you miss a day or session

  • Inability to sleep at night (a sign of overtraining)

  • Using activity as compensation for what you ate

  • Being fearful that your body will change if you miss a day of exercise

Remember, movement you enjoyed is never a waste. Please do not get caught up in the idea that if you cannot exercise for 30 minutes straight or if you did not work up a sweat that it was not worth it. And seriously let’s erase the idea that exercise needs to feel punishing for it to count; it should feel fun! An “all or nothing mentality” makes it difficult to engage in joyful movement. For some of us, our daily lives also make it really tough to block out a specific amount of time each day to include joyful movement. Due to this, it’s imperative to include physical activity into your day-to-day life. Can you have a dance party with your kids during dinner prep and cleanup? Can you take a 20 minute walk around the office during your lunch break and call a friend to catch up? Movement is movement at the end of the day, and sometimes we need to get creative!

Finally, as great as exercise is, rest is important as well. Black or white thinking may have you believing that if you need to take a day off or add in an extra rest day, you have completely fallen off the wagon. And sometimes a perfectly good form of self-care is to not exercise. Adequate rest will also help exercise feel fun and invigorating. Listening to your body and what it needs will be a key skill in enjoying exercise as well as giving your body rest.

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