My past self struggled with food issues and spent a lot of time and energy trying to control her weight and food. One of the ways I did that was through exercise.
Back in the day, I would go out for runs almost every day (even under inclement weather and, yes, snow-blizzards!)If I didn’t run, I would take a cardio class at the gym.
Although I partially enjoyed my workouts because they gave me mental clarity and those endorphins! there were days when I felt like a hamster on a wheel, or like I was doing it for obligation and because I was “supposed to.”
These motives for exercising are centered around meeting EXTERNAL goals, such as believing being active is something you “should do” because it’s “good for you.”
So, let’s look at YOUR reasons for working out. If the answer to most of these is YES, you might be a victim of #ToxicDietMentality, just like I was.
Am I wurking it to lose weight, to be skinny one day, or because I think “thin is better”?
Do I want to change the shape and size of my body? Is this my sole purpose?
Did I join a gym for sad obligation, because I’m supposed to go to the gym?
Are my instructors making it mostly about weight loss or “transformation” goals?
Am I choosing a workout because I’m attached to how many calories I’m burning? Do I look at my calorie counting watch every two minutes through the workout?
Am I doing this workout so that I can go eat pizza and drink beer afterwards and feel less guilty? Am I doing it to “earn food.”? Would I have pizza and beer if I didn’t do this workout?
Do I find that I’m comparing myself to the Victoria Secret Model looking lady standing next to me in class and now I question my own body size. plus, why did I wear a bandana instead of the really expensive sexy workout clothing she’s wearing??!!! Etc.etc.
I had a YES response to all those questions!
I would exercise if I was tired or even sleep deprived. I couldn’t go more than 2 days in a row without a workout (otherwise I would get anxious!) I also didn’t modify or cut the time of my workouts if my body was feeling tired, because I wasn’t that great at listening to my bod.
Although I didn’t want to admit it, the main purpose for my exercise routines was to control my weight by “earning food.” This means I wanted to burn calories so that I could later let myself eat more without feeling guilty. I didn’t really tell this to anyone, I just mentioned I liked to exercise to “de-stress” and “get strong.”
I even got a lot of praise for keeping up such a “healthy” habit.
At the time, all of this felt NOT THAT CRAY because exercising for weight control or changing one’s body size is normalized through social media and messages in advertisements, to give a few examples. As long as EVERYONE IS DOING IT, NO BIGGIE (or is it?).
How many times have you heard a friend or relative say something such as, I worked out today and was good, so I am going to enjoy this pizza!
Or seen fitness ladies posting “transformation” pics of their own bodies on the Instagram?
Or heard instructors yell “inspiring” messages in class such as,
Let’s work on your new bikini body!
You are going to burn around 500 calories with this workout!
Time to work on the flab under our arms!
Beat the BLOAT!
So I stayed active mainly for weight control and unrealistic body transformation goals. With all these messages, who can blame me?
The problem with this mentality, is that if you DON’T get the results you seek out, then this might cause you to feel UNMOTIVATED or like a failure. When I gave up, broke all the rules I had imposed on my own life and food, and stopped caring about controlling my food and weight, suddenly running every single day felt sort of boring. So I looked for activities I actually enjoyed doing. For me it was evening community dance classes, and occasional walks + conversation time with my bestie.
I don’t exercise every day like I used to, but now that I shifted my thinking to a more weight-neutral perspective, I am in the zone when I DO get my heart-pumpin,’ plus I really enjoy and look forward to my active time.
The Good news…
YOU CAN TOTALLY SWITCH YOUR MINDSET AROUND EXERCISE AND BEING ACTIVE!
DON’T STOP wurkin’ it! Just change your MOTIVES and you might actually ENJOY exercise WAY MORE, plus you will develop a positive long term lifestyle habit.
So instead, ask yourself and do more of DIS!
Am I feeling HOT in my own bod when I’m exercising because I’m focused and in the zone, plus, I see different bodies of different shapes and sizes who are not ALL SKINNY?
Do I go into my workout without setting unrealistic goals for myself such as “I will walk non stop for two hours and burn xxxx calories otherwise I failed”?
Do the gym instructors have bodies of different shapes and sizes? Do they represent different gender, races, and sexualitites?
Am I having FUN? Am I improving my posture/flexibility/getting some ME time/ learning a new skill set etc? Do I feel happy/accomplished and good after a class?
Am I modifying or slowing down my workouts when I feel like they are too hard on my body?
Do I just feel awesome about all the amazing stuff my body can do? Am I encouraging and supporting others in my group workouts?
Notice that this set of motives is about listening to and enjoying being in your own body.
What’s stopping YOU from being free from #ToxicDietMentality?
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