One of the first things I noticed when I decided to ditch dieting and pursuing weight loss, was how prominent those dieting thoughts were in my mind around exercise.
What became very clear to me quite quickly was that exercise, although I did quite often note to myself all the other benefits of it, was really mainly driven by weight loss. I’d often catch myself thinking I need to work out later to try and make up for the big lunch I had just eaten. Or thinking about a certain number of calories that I should try and burn that day.
As I mentioned previously, when I quit dieting I went a little bit crazy on all the foods that I had been restricting. And before, when I was restricting, if I were to eat one of the foods that I deemed as “bad”, or if I overate in a meal, my go-to response was to make up for it with a tough workout. BTW, I later learned this is basically a form of bulimia.
If you know me though, you know how much I value exercise and keeping movement in my day. I feel passionate about people keeping active because if you don’t use it you lose it, as they say, and if you don’t have mobility than your whole quality of life drops.
So, yes I do believe exercise is important, but I believe that healing from dieting is more important in the short term. The first step to developing a healthy relationship with exercise is to back off a little. What? Did she just say that? Yes, yes I did. Hear me out…
When I decided to be done with dieting, I had heard many people say that as well and I thought “pfffft, no way I’m gonna take a break from it!” (read back to how much I value it and think it’s important). But sure enough… Everyone was right. I needed a break.. At least from the capacity that I was doing it when pursuing weight loss.
See, during my weight loss years I always did really intense workout programs, so I needed a pretty clear break from them. I was still active mainly with walking and some weeks I’d only get in one or two walks a week. It was not entirely easy, but I needed to go through it!
The thoughts of “OMG I only worked out once this week what a lazy slob I am!” began to subside, slowly but surely. Simply by not reacting to those thoughts or acting on them as well as responding to them with some positive affirmations, they started to fade. And then I was left with the strong urges to exercise in an attempt to burn off that big lunch I had. I did the same thing with these thoughts as well. Witness the thought, acknowledge the thought, and then come back with a positive affirmation. It takes time, but it works.
And then throughout your journey, simply start to add in exercise as you feel you are able to without judgment or trying to burn off calories. Focus on the other reasons to exercise and really lean into them. Like, how great do you feel after a tough workout? That’s my favorite feeling – hello endorphins!
To be honest, I believe those old thoughts will always be there on some level, they just get much more silent over time. So keep with it, trust the process, and more importantly trust your body.