Have you ever worked out not because you wanted to, but because you felt like you had to? Because you felt bad about eating that sweet potato cake the night before? Or because you felt like you ate one too many tortilla chips during your lunch break?
Let me be the first to say that I used to be that girl. I used to be the girl that used exercise as a punishment for what I ate rather than a celebration for what my body could do. I used to push myself beyond what my body needed for that day because I felt SO guilty about what I had eaten.
I labeled foods as only “good” or “bad.” Forget about food being nourishing, providing sustenance, or being fuel. I only viewed food as helping me lose weight or, my biggest fear, causing me to gain weight (GASP!).
Why do we do this? Why do we feel the need to work off everything we ate the day before or think that, because we had dessert, we have to add another 10 minutes to the next day’s workout?
Living with this mentality is only going to make you miserable. And this is coming from someone who was miserable for years because I had this mentality when it came to the relationship between food and exercise. I remember vividly a time when I would work out right after I felt like I had eaten “too much” when, in reality, it was a normal amount of food, and I would have to stop time and time again because I thought I was going to throw up. I pushed myself entirely too hard for what? A nice set of abs? A lean body that would make girls on Instagram ask me to teach them my ways?
I wasn’t working out to feel good; I was working out because I wanted to look good. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about some self-confidence and wanting to look good. But it’s when it becomes obsessive that it becomes a problem.
I used to work out entirely because of looks and what other people would think of me. I used to base my worth solely on my appearance, which was essentially the root of my unhealthy relationship with food and exercise.
Thankfully, I’m now at a place where I’m in touch with my body to know when I want to workout and when I need to give my body a break. I work out not because I want to burn off those “extra calories” I ate during the day (P.S. I don’t even count calories anymore), but instead, I work out as a celebration of what my body can do. Rachel Hollis hit the nail on the other day when she said in one of her Instagram posts, “Work out as a celebration for the blessing of being alive. You were made for more; it’s time you start acting like it!”
Heck yeah, I was made for more! I was made to find more in life than counting calories. I was made to find more in life than how many hours of working out would make me look in a bikini.
But it’s not like I changed my mindset overnight. Girl, I wish it were that easy. Just like a lot of things in life, it takes time and patience, and let’s just say that patience is one of those things that I severely (and I mean severely) lack. But along the way, I’ve learned a few lessons and tips on how to best change your mindset to have a healthy relationship with food and exercise. And ladies, let’s say it again for the people in the back: EXERCISE IS NOT A PUNISHMENT FOR WHAT YOU ATE BUT A CELEBRATION OF WHAT YOUR BODY CAN DO.
- Like I’ve said in my “Social Media Hot Take” post, unfollow the people that make you feel down about yourself.
- If you find someone’s pictures causing you to re-evaluate your own body and find yourself in the constant comparison battle, hit the unfollow button. Consider this safeguarding yourself from potential harm in the future. For example, imagine you’ve just eaten a few chocolate chip cookies and then scroll through Instagram and find someone’s millionth bikini pic showcasing those rock hard abs. Naturally, you’re going to feel bad about yourself and feel the need to work off those cookies. Stay cautious.
- Eating an extra cookie or a bigger piece of cake isn’t going to cause you to gain weight overnight.
- Give yourself some grace. Have fun! Live your life! Don’t say no to getting ice cream with friends because of the fear that it’s going to “ruin” your summer bod. I’ve been there, and I would give anything to go back to my disordered eating self and be like “EMMA! GIRL! LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE WITH YOUR FRIENDS AND EAT THOSE BROWNIES AND ICE CREAM!”
- Find the workout that’s right for you.
- What do you enjoy doing? Exercise doesn’t have to be some full-on, intense Cross-Fit class surrounded by hot guys with their shirts off (but now that I think about it, maybe I should invest in a class or two just for the views…). Exercise can be anything you want it to be. A walk around a pond or track with your dog. A cycling class with your best girlfriend. A group strength class so you can be around people who encourage you. Don’t do some kind of workout that is going to cause you to hate yourself the entire time. Running isn’t for everyone. Strength training isn’t for everyone. Find your “thing” and, once you do, exercise will be so much more fun and it won’t feel like a chore but something you look forward to doing!
- Have an accountability partner.
- Someone you can confide in when you are having bad body image issues and find yourself over-exercising because of what you’ve been eating. It’s nice to have someone to vent to who simply says “I hear you” and who reminds you that you aren’t alone. For me, I needed to talk out my feelings and have someone say “Emma, that’s simply not true. Eating that piece of cake last night isn’t going to cause you to gain weight, and if it does, it’s not a big deal.”
Y’all, exercise is meant to be fun and not something we should dread or view as punishment. Listen to your body! Exercise when you want because endorphins make you dang happy! But also, give yourself a break and take a nap on your couch with “The Office” playing in the background if that’s what you’re feeling instead. But all in all, always (and I mean always) remember to view exercise as a celebration for what your body can do! God gave you the gift of movement, so use it well. Your body is a temple. God’s temple. And I would think it would only break His heart if you were punishing your body for simply eating what our bodies need to survive. FOOD IS FUEL, PEOPLE!!!!
And Exercise When Ya Feel Like It.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on emmaclae.wordpress.com
Featured Image by Meghan Holmes