Are you a group exercise cardio addict fuelling your obsession to be skinny? Are your gym sessions punishment for what you ate? Do you starve yourself and skip meals to look like a catwalk model? Do you only care about the number of calories with no knowledge or care of nutritional value of food? Do you enviously look at other women’s bodies? Would you give anything to look like I do in this photo..?
I have been obsessed with my weight and appearance my entire adult life. For 25 years I would have answered a resounding YES to all of the questions above. As I was so unhappy with myself and my life I sourced my self-worth and identity from my appearance. Being blonde, slim and attractive seemed to be the only thing I had going for me so I clung to it for dear life. I would look at the parade of beautiful skinny women on TV and have a running commentary in my head, judging and comparing every woman I came across on their weight and looks. And I can’t believe that I would gain satisfaction from the results of my internal dialogue and comparisonitis if I thought that I was better looking!
As I was exercising regularly and not overweight I believed I was healthy. I had no clue that my lack of nourishment of my body and the continual stress of high impact cardio style exercise without the necessary fuel was actually causing inflammation in my body. I would barely eat and then jump around like a mad woman for an hour. I would binge drink on excessive amounts of alcohol and front up at the gym the next morning… I would binge eat over the weekend (to recover from the alcohol intake…) and then do a double class at the gym on Mondays as punishment.. followed by a week of barely eating and more high impact cardio until next weekend… How could I have possibly believed that this was a healthy lifestyle? But all I cared about was being skinny and escaping myself.
I also cared little for the food I actually did eat. Having not been educated on this at school and any learning was via food labels or advertising.. My sole focus was low calories so I ate low fat, no fat, low carb, no carb, preferably no calorie food! And the binge on the weekend was of course to soak up the alcohol so not so healthy.. and then I spent the next 5 days punishing myself for weekend sins. And while I would not have been officially labelled with anorexia or bulimia this was far from a healthy approach to food & exercise. With the knowledge I have now I consider the old Jane to have had an eating disorder and this was my cycle for over 10 years!
There is so many things about the school curriculum that does not equip us to lead a healthy and successful life. And while we will always need to learn the basics of reading and writing I have a real issue with the fact that nourishing our body is paramount to lead a happy and healthy life and this is not taught in school. Physical education (PE) is however but too many of us did not enjoy this school subject and endured it being forced to do things that were not enjoyable or we are not good at and often made us feel embarrassed in front of classmates. Not really a healthy introduction to exercise that again needs to be incorporated into our lives to ensure quality of life.
After we leave school (or even during these days) we are then assaulted from all forms of media with skinny, flawless women and our comparisonitis is born. Too many of us enter adulthood already with this infliction that seems to plague us women. And without the necessary knowledge to love, nourish and nurture our body we usually get away with it while our body is young but as we age things start to go wrong… I am one of the lucky ones that although my first serious injury wasn’t until I was 45 I have managed to take my first big wakeup call and changed my life as a result.
It saddens me deeply to see so many receive a warning from their bodies but ignore it simply through ignorance. Chronic illness or injury is never a shock to the body; it has been brewing for some time we just never stop and listen. So it does becomes a shock for us when it makes its way into our conscious awareness. Preparing your body for 100 years (?) means adopting a healthy approach to food and exercise. And when you do you become more in tune with your body and can pick up when things don’t feel right.
So what can you do if you are on the same merry go around that I was? Here are my top 6 tips to start approaching exercise in a healthy way to ensure enjoyment, premium health and longevity.
- Self-Educate. Your body is a one model issued and has to last a lifetime. What quality of life do you want in your senior years? Educating yourself on what micronutrients your body requires to run at a premium is paramount. Food labels and ads are not factual… the manufactured food industry employs very clever marketers to ensure you buy their product! We live in an age where libraries are at our finger tips. Information on healthy nutrition is just a few clicks away. Google it!
- Body Love. Learning to love and appreciate your body for the miraculous machine that it is rather than what it looks like will change your perspective on food and exercise. When your health becomes a priority over simply looking good a whole new world opens up. And the funny thing is that you end up looking better than ever before! AND you get your dream body! Trust me!
- Fitness for Enjoyment. You gotta find exercise you enjoy… There is no point enduring your exercise or viewing it as punishment as this only serves to raise cortisol, the stress hormone, and is counterproductive to your weight loss goals. And if you don’t enjoy it you will always find an excuse, you will stop/start and not commit fully. This is a lifestyle, there is no end, and ensuring lifelong health means ALWAYS incorporating exercise into your routine. Zumba, dancing, walking the dog, swimming, tennis, team sport, yoga, whatever!
- Self-respect. Along the lines of body love but one step further. If we truly love and respect ourselves then being envious of others plays no part in our life. It is the cure for comparionsitis! Honouring and respecting you not just the beautiful human you already are but the one life you have been blessed with leads you to nurturing the very vehicle that facilitates your life. I gained my self-respect through changing my diet and the right exercise for me. And you can too!
- Mindfulness. By this I mean take the time to be still, to quieten the mind, to block out the continual noise that comes from TV/media, spend time in nature, be present in the moment, listen and notice, smell and appreciate, express gratitude and meditate.
- Get a coach! I say this often but to me it is the only way to change habits, to change lifelong conditioning, to explore all of the above points as applicable to you and implement into your life. Life is busy! And we are lazy… and as we haven’t been equipped with these life skills having a coach to teach you will not only keep you accountable but you will have a much better chance of implementing permanent change.
If I can totally overhaul my health, fitness and approach to food after knocking on deaths door you can too. Change is never easy but the rewards on the other side are beyond my wildest dreams!
Have I missed anything? If you have any further tips for approaching food & exercise in a healthy way please comment below!