I don’t track food in any way (never have), but exercise is different.
One of the things I realized this year is: I have a long history with exercise.
I never thought I’d say that!
It’s amazing because I was once the couch potato queen. I used to HATE exercise, as in hate with a fiery white passion.
But, things change.
And, if you are driving change from an empowered place, change is good!
But I want to talk to those you who are just now, at the beginning of a new year, struggling with the idea of exercise. The many myths about exercise in our culture can actually cause more harm than good when they break down the body, resulting in extreme depletion, fatigue or injury.
Here are a few things I learned as I lost 92 lbs and kept it off for fifteen years:
1. Feeling the body. Exercise is fantastic because it gets you into your body. And exercise can be excruciating for the same reason: because it gets you into your body. Being overweight can make inhabiting the body mighty uncomfortable. When we carry excess weight, we are rarely truly living IN the body, not really feeling the pressure of the excess fat on our organs, joints, etc. We’ve learned to block those feelings and exercise makes us all too aware of the reality of our current condition. Create a conscious mental attitude to get past the uncomfortable stage.
What you need to know: It gets better. In fact, the only way it can improve is to continue exercising.
2. Redefine “exercise.” Redefining “exercise” as “activity” or “movement” can help. Exercise does not have to be hard-core “bootcamp” style effort to be effective. In fact, the best rule of exercise is to “meet your body where it is today.” Don’t strain it in any way. Don’t injure yourself, or you’re out of the game before you get started. If you are overweight, don’t do anything which involves pounding (running, jumping, etc.) or balancing (skiing, yoga balance poses) until you have built up strength, flexibility and aerobic capacity.
Forget the “Biggest Loser” scenario where overweight people are pounding their bodies to the tune of a screaming trainer. No one deserves to live that way. And the viewer never sees the terrible injuries that occur behind the scenes.
Many of my beginning clients use a 13-minute walk as a minimum. In the beginning, exercise every other day. This suggestion is perfect for anyone who has over 100 lbs to lose or hasn’t exercised for two or more years.
Be Smart Bonus: If you start out with heavy duty exercise, you have nowhere to go when you need to go deeper into weight loss or break out of a slump or sticking point, and your body doesn’t get a chance to build stamina and strength.
3. Establish a minimum. Once you have built some consistency, establish a bottom-line minimum, both for activity session length and for weekly or monthly total. I never spend more than five days a month without activity… Indeed my exercise total for last year was 346 sessions, leaving 19 days with no exercise.
Even today, after almost 20 years of consistent exercise, my minimum activity session is a 30-minute walk. On days when I am super busy, or the weather is -10 degrees (like today in Madison!), I can hit that minimum very easily.
Being successful long-term means staying in the game long-term. It requires self-care and attention to the body and its needs for food, hydration, movement, rest, sleep in a conscious, continual way.
It also requires the most important aspect of permanent change: consistency.
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