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What about Exercise?

Sometimes when we talk about improving our relationship, letting go of diets and rigid rules with food it can be interpreted as ignoring nutritional advice. This isn't the case - it is about listening and responding to the body and finding the fragile balance of this with our nutrition knowledge.

Just like our relationship with food can be come negative; so too can our relationship with exercise and moving our bodies become negative.

We can become overly focused on exercise and become obsessive about it - especially when we are only engaging in exercise to try and change the size and shape of our bodies. People may set unrealistic goals for what, or how often they will move their bodies or what the outcomes of exercise will be.  Then feel overwhelmed, angry and frustrated when they can’t reach these unattainable goals; Contributing to poor self-esteem.

Muscle development, strength and fitness are complicated processes in the body influences by many things and cannot be simplified by the traditional ' energy in; energy out' or 'no pain, no gain' mantras we see in the media. 

When is exercise compulsive?

  • Are you choosing to exercise instead of attend social functions, or maintain other commitments?
  • Are you exercising even when your body is tired or you are sick?
  • Are you continuing to exercise when you have an injury?

A yes to any of the above question is a prompt to discuss your exercise levels with a qualified profession such as a dietitian or exercise physiologist.

Finding a Balance

Exercise is important for so many reasons - but, just as with food, we can have a negative relationship with exercise which can see it potentially become an enemy.

Often I find that people have a negative relationship with exercise for many different reasons.

For some, exercise equals:

  • A chore
  • Punishment
  • Weight loss
  • Guilt
  • Pain
  • Pushing self
  • Boring
  • Weight management
  • Toning
  • Perfect body

Exercise shouldn't create such negative connotations. If it does then it is difficult to make it a part of a regular routine. Also if exercise is only about weight loss - not seeing fast results will often mean abandoning all activity.

Positive activity

 Ideally exercise should be as neutral as food is in our lives.

 Some more neutral ways of looking at exercise would be to see it as:

  • Movement
  • Health
  • General fitness
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Strength
  • Ability
  • Being in tune with the body
  • Reaching of personal goals Self improvement
  • Flexibility
  • Improved energy
  • Improved mood

When we expect something to be negative it often is- and it has a lot more to do with our attitude and perspective rather then an ability to predict the future!

To help improve enjoyment of activity it is important to find something you like doing. Some people prefer to be active in groups or socially such as walking with friends, dance or gym classes, sports clubs etc. Others prefer to be active alone but might like to build it in to their everyday life so that the activity has a purpose such as walking to the shops, riding or walking to work.

It is important to try a range of different activities to identify what will be the best suited to you, your personality and life style. Also mix it up and make sure you change your activity around to avoid getting bored.

Some interesting activity to consider may be:

  • Dance classes - pole dancing, ball room, jazz, funk, salsa etc
  • Sporting  clubs- netball, cricket, football, basketball, soft ball, swimming, athletics, baseball  
  • Walking club - set one up with your neighbours or friends (it's a great way to get some fresh air, move your body, and catch up on the goss!)
  • Walk or ride to work, social events or the shops
  • Plan activity on the weekends such as swimming at the beach, bush walking or hiking

*Note for those working on recovering from an eating disorder exercise is part of your treatment plan and must be discussed with your treatment team. While weight restoring or while working on compulsions, activity may not be indicated - but part of recovery, just like learning to listen to your appetite, is reintroducing exercise in a safe and enjoyable way.