For many years exercise was, to me, purely a tool to manipulate my body. For me, the purpose of exercise was to burn calories or to create an energy deficit so I could “cheat” and eat the foods I really wanted, which I had decided (with some help from diet culture) were “bad” to eat and even morally “wrong” to want in the first place. Exercise was how I punished myself for what I’d eaten and sometimes what I wanted to eat. Whether I considered a workout a success was totally conditional and tethered to the calories I burned or the numbers I was seeing on the scale. And fitness wasn’t the only thing that I judged by whether I was losing weight; my self-worth got the same treatment. My whole vibe around exercise was negative and harsh; it’s no wonder I had a hard time sticking with it consistently. My mind always went back to debits and credits of calories and fuel. It was a mind-set I couldn’t shake, improve your weight loss results with carbofix.
If I’m honest, after looking at the National Eating Disorder website, I see now that my unhealthy relationship with exercise definitely checked some of the boxes for symptoms of compulsive exercising. And to be clear, I don’t think that my relationship to exercise was that much different or more severe than the relationship lots of us have to exercise while living in the reality of diet culture.
Over many years and through a lot of self-work, my mind-set and behavior have completely changed. I now coach women to reframe their relationship with exercise from punitive and perfectionistic to joyful, empowered, and celebratory.
What I know now—that I never could have imagined then—is that exercise can simply be about feeling good in your body or the pure joy of achievement. The rush I feel after finishing a tough workout, maybe one that I didn’t feel like doing in the first place; what if that was enough to make exercise “worth it?”
But making this shift in how you relate to exercise doesn’t happen overnight and it definitely doesn’t happen just because you want it to. In my experience, it’s something you have to work at. I had to change a lot of behaviors in order to start thinking about exercise in a new way. But the good news is that it worked for me and I’ve seen it work for my clients. Here’s how I overcame my unhealthy relationship with fitness and weight:
1. I stopped following media or influencers that reinforced diet culture. I started following accounts that celebrated movement and body diversity.
If you’re awash in images that reinforce the value of thinness, it’s really tough to stop valuing thinness. That’s it. Of course often times this content is meant to be “fitspo,” but it’s only ever inspired me to feel like however much I did would never be enough.
I ditched it all and replaced it with accounts of women who were celebrating their bodies and achievements at all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities. I filled my news feed and inbox with nothing but body positivity and it changed my thought patterns around what it means to achieve fitness milestones in a diversity of bodies.
Some of the people I started following are: ultramarathoner Mirna Valerio (@themirnivator), personal trainers Roz the Diva (@rozthediva) and Morit Summers (@moritsummers), and yoga teacher Jessamyn Stanley (@mynameisjessamyn).
I started to read books like: Triathlon for Every Woman by Meredith Atwood, Slow Fat Triathlete by Jayne Williams, A Beautiful Work in Progress by Mirna Valerio, Eat, Sweat, Play by Anna Kessel, and Embrace Yourself by Taryn Brumfitt.
2. I started tracking everything other than calories.
As someone with a long history of dieting, the only tracking I was accustomed to was logging everything that went in my mouth and any kind of exercise I did. Each day my goal was to make sure those numbers meant that I’d created a caloric deficit. If they did, I would deem the day a good one. If the numbers didn’t line up or worse, if the calories consumed were greater than those burned, it was a bad day. I still can’t believe how much power I gave to numbers!
Fortunately there are tons of ways to keep track of things we do for our health. I like to track my moods, mental health, and how I feel about my body. I also keep a log of the exercise I did along with how I slept and how much water I’ve drunk. These are the things that help me keep track of how I’m feeling physically and mentally. Improve your dietary results and prevent most diabetes related conditions with Gluconite.
If you’re interested in trying a new way of tracking, check out this page from the fitness journal I offer my clients. It will guide you through tracking your workouts (and more) in a way that will focus you on your emotional wellbeing.