A Better Resolution For Exercise

joyful movement
Representation Matters

by Kristen Wright, LMFT

Did you make a New Year’s Resolution to start a new fitness routine? Those “thirty days of push-ups or sit-ups” or “do 15 of this and 12 of that a day to your ideal body in no time,” might sound appealing. But you may have already discovered it’s just another commitment that has left you feeling depleted and disheartened. What if this didn’t have to be a failure but the start of a new experience?

No, you are not lazy, inadequate, or hopeless. There! I said it and I firmly believe it. It is very easy to slip into a cycle of unhelpful thoughts. If you were talking to your friend that way, would your friend listen to you? Of course not! Saying “Get off that couch, you lazy cow” is no way to get it done. I used to think beating myself up would help me work out, and I had no excuse for not exercising. I now know that is not the solution.

Here are some strategies that may be helpful.

Rethink Exercise as Simply Movement

Exercise is often viewed as something unpleasant or punishing or even penance for eating. It shouldn’t be! Movement is much broader. It may be a dance class, a walk on the beach with your partner, a hike with a friend, or shooting hoops with your child. It could be jumping around to good music or playing on the ground with our pets or kids. It might even be just walking back and forth or stretching. Workouts come in many forms and all movement counts. Movement should be fun and have some freedom.

We need to reject the idea that a workout has to be 30 minutes to an hour, requires sweat, requires a shower, and must involve so many sets of different things. What if movement didn’t have to be so structured? If you are still trying to understand why workouts are difficult, it may be because in the past you only exercised when you also dieted. I find that many people with a history of repeated dieting have a very negative association to working out. Reframing it as movement helps with removing that association.

Welcome Those Rest Days

Balance is important. Sometimes rest is more important than exercise. Learn to listen to your body and all its needs. You may have had a bad day at work or you may be dehydrated. Everyone needs days off. When taking care of bodies, we have to take care of our mental health. And sometimes the workouts won’t happen. But instead of thinking of “I missed a day, and everything is ruined,” think instead, “Today I took care of my body by resting.”

Stop the Inner Critic

Become aware of your negative thoughts: “I can’t do this; I am lazy; I am a failure. I am too out of shape.” All of these jumbled thoughts weigh us down. We just can’t expect to operate under these conditions. You should talk to your body as you would talk to a friend. And when you do start being kinder to your body, pay attention to the peace and freedom that will follow. Remember: don’t push yourself to the point of negative self-talk. If the negative inner critic pops up, it is time to evaluate the workout and listen to your body.

Challenge Your Perfectionism

Not all workouts will be better than or even equivalent to the last. Watch and challenge that urge to make each bout of exercise more intense or more successful than the previous one. Try to remove performance measures from your exercise. You do not need metrics to measure the success of your movement. Try focusing instead on how your body feels. As well, after having a great week of workouts you might find that the next workout is barely anything. Don’t despair. Your body might be reacting to fatigue, stress, or just screaming for a break. Remember movement is still movement.

Recognize You are not Obligated to Move

In the words of Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CDN: “Health isn’t a moral obligation, and you don’t owe *anyone* the pursuit of health. Too much of the wellness world is caught up in healthism, and equating our worth to how much we pursue health goals. But the truth is that your value as a person and as a member of society doesn’t lie in whether or not you value your health.” Now how can this apply to you? Your worth as a person does not correlate to your fitness achievements. You are not a moral failure if you don’t exercise. You are not required to exercise!

In Conclusion

You are the only one who can know what your body needs. Different bodies appreciate different activities. Just because your favorite fitness guru on Instagram says that “this” or “that” will get you in shape, does not mean it is something you must do. You are the leader and guru of your own body. So, let your body tell you what it enjoys. Find the movement that makes your body say “Ahah! That felt good, let’s do this again.” It took me many different workout classes and videotapes to find out what I liked. I had to invest and become the explorer and expert of my own body. Be your body’s best friend and explore what your body likes to do. Please don’t give up on a movement style your body enjoys because it doesn’t look like it is making a difference. Rather spend time enjoying how the movement makes you feel. Do you feel better afterward?

AT EDTLA we can help you improve your relationship with food and exercise.

The gift of food by Dr. Elisha Carcieri

stock photo (not Elisha’s baby)

Two months ago, I experienced one of life’s greatest gifts when my first child was born. Throughout my pregnancy I was mindful of what I was eating and drinking in a way I had never experienced before. Another person was reliant on what I chose to put in my body and I was acutely aware of the need to provide good nutrition to my little one. With this came an overwhelming sense of responsibility that I carried with me throughout my pregnancy.

Almost immediately after he was born, my son needed food. He was naturally driven to nourish himself and I felt so lucky to help him grow and experience this fundamental human need and pleasure…eating. Over the last few months I have responded to him as he communicates his hunger with cries and other cues. I’ve thought more about how this innate drive becomes so complicated as we grow. What starts as a simple relationship becomes clouded with other factors outside of our bodies.

As life goes on, it is often not just hunger that drives us to eat. Social, emotional, and environmental factors work their way into our relationship with food. And unfortunately, as Katie discussed in her recent blog post, so do guilt, judgment, and labels like “good” and “bad.” I think that maintaining an intuitive and forgiving relationship with food is a challenge for most, whether the relationship is officially “disordered” or not. Movements such as health at every size (HAES) and intuitive eating encourage people to begin to move closer to the simpler relationship with food that I’ve observed in my son.

In the case of eating disorders, the process of feeding one’s self moves beyond the complexity of what most of us experience in our daily relationship with food. With a myriad of potential causes and triggers, the eating disorder highjacks the brain and body in more ways than one. Thoughts and perceptions become distorted, hunger cues become erratic or in some cases nonexistent, and levels of key neurotransmitters and hormones are affected. Depression and anxiety commonly run alongside the eating disorder. The result is a serious, sometimes life-threatening illness that couldn’t be further removed from the pure relationship with food we are all born with.

Carrying and feeding my son, and watching him nourish himself so instinctually have been a reminder for me personally to continue to work toward eating intuitively. I am also reminded of how difficult this can be for those of us who are no longer newborns!

It is tragic the way eating disorders attack the fundamental act of nourishing oneself in a healthful, intuitive way, which is why it is so important to continue to fight eating disorders with early identification and treatment. It’s a fight I am privileged to be a part of.

Deliciousness! by Katie Grubiak, RD

deliciousness

Deliciousness! Yes, that is what this pup Moose is expressing in this photo.  It is deliciousness that we seek in food and in life, isn’t it? Well maybe we forgot one or both of these pursuits along the way.

Consuming delicious food, selected by our taste buds in our weight-shaming thin-obsessed society is sometimes associated with gluttony and guilt. Delicious food is labeled as “cheating” or “bad.” But our furry friends don’t have such ideologies.  They only go to what is pleasurable, what is delicious, what they love.

I believe in looking to the beloved hounds in our lives to help evaluate own attitudes and behaviors and see if they are well-serving.  It has been a privilege to meet my clients’ animal companions during home visits and office yoga and nutrition sessions.  I am always amazed at how much insight they bring to sessions.

During yoga, the dogs are so present and attuned that we can see where our own energy is stirred and stilled just by watching their behavior.  They do downward dog when we do downward dog, they come and lie next to us when we are opening our hips, and they are ever present front and center at the end of class helping us seal in our practice and genuflecting with us to the heart.

During nutrition sessions, they provide comfort, especially when discussions about food raise anxiety. I find that my own as well as my client’s mood lightens and thinking becomes more flexible in the face of their wagging tails.  We simply become more open and more centered when the pets are around.

Why do we feel more relaxed around them? Why does compassion and empathy pour out of us in their presence? How do they make us more human when they are not? These are questions that I believe can be answered by the very fact that they are exactly who they are without any agenda or thought of anything else other than the loving present moment. They actually ground us to that very thing.  We then are reminded to take one loving breath at a time and to choose to be our very selves one breath at a time. We can then naturally seek what is joyful and what will serve that joy in our lives.

When we are grounded, living in the moment, and being true to ourselves, seeking deliciousness in food and life can then look different.  No longer is there judgment and guilt, but there is pure joy. Just look at Moose.  His deliciousness is infectious! His deliciousness is so sweet and tender. His deliciousness can be our deliciousness, too!  Thank you, Moose, and all the other dogs that have come into my practice and shared their deliciousness of heart!

“Watch any plant or animal and let it teach you acceptance of what is, surrender to the Now. Let it teach you Being. Let it teach you integrity-which means to be one, to be yourself, to be real. Let it teach you how to live and how to die, and how not to make living and dying into a problem.”…The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

Katie Grubiak, RD is Director of Nutrition Services at Eating Disorder Therapy LA.  She is a registered dietitan with a focus on blending Western and Eastern philosophies regarding nutritional healing.  She provides nutritional counseling and movement/yoga therapy.   Read more about Katie.

Dog photos used with permission.

Mindful Eating

The definition of binge eating is “the consumption of large amounts of food associated with a feeling of loss of control over eating.”  Individuals who binge eat describe the experience as almost dissociative.  They are frantically eating large amounts of food which they are barely tasting.  They feel unable to stop until they are uncomfortably full.

One skill that I teach clients who binge eat and overeat is mindful eating.  Mindfulness is a Buddhist principle that involves being fully aware of what is going on both inside yourself and in your environment at the moment.  Mindfulness is a skill that anyone can develop.

Continue reading “Mindful Eating”