5 Reasons I Exercise and Eat Well That Aren’t Related to Weight Loss
I’ve struggled to love myself for most of my life
It started when I was a kid. Whether it was the comments my mom made about my weight (or her weight), the beauty ads of skinny women in bikinis frolicking on the beach, how there was always someone I knew who was on a diet or a combination of everything…I have always struggled to love myself as is.
My body type isn’t the stereotypically thin Asian frame. I have hips and breasts. I have a muscular build and I don’t have a thigh gap. These were always things that I hated about myself.
Because of that self-hate, I did anything to change myself from the outside in. From tea cleanses, detox diets, liquid diets, low-carb diets, high-protein diets, extreme exercise programs, weight-loss pills, laxatives to bingeing and purging, I’ve been yoyoing and emotionally eating for decades.
In my late 20’s, I ended an 8-year long relationship. As part of my healing and recovery, I started digging deep into myself about my toxic habits and behaviours. With less time focused on trying to resuscitate a failing relationship, my mind freed up space to dedicate to myself. I realized how terribly I was treating myself.
It’s an ongoing journey but one of the most important insights I discovered about myself is that in order to be happy, I needed to focus my attention on how I was feeling. Eating well and exercising regularly is not about looking good; it’s about feeling good.
What I look like is the least of my concerns if I’m not happy. Putting my mindset on the right path allowed me to truly appreciate my body where weight loss isn’t the goal but a by-product of the journey.
Here are 5 reasons I exercise and eat well that aren’t related to how I look:
1. To prevent back problems
When I see myself in my 50’s, 60’s and beyond, I want to be healthy and active. I want to be able to run up the stairs without losing my breath, carry all the groceries without stopping, get up from the floor without pain and have the stamina to travel the world.
As someone who sits in front of a medium screen during the day, looks up at the big screen in the evenings and looks down the small screen every hour, I know my neck and back are taking a beating. I have to protect my body like it’s my third child.
A weak core, poor posture, tight hips, hamstrings and glutes can all contribute to back pain. That’s why, every day, I am committed to moving my body, strengthening those muscles and stretching regularly and one of my favourite ways to do this through yoga.
It’s all about how I feel during and after a workout session, how my body has progressed, how my range of motion has increased and how my balance has improved; it’s not at all about what I look like. I don’t even work out in front of a mirror because I want to mindfully pay attention to how my body feels.
2. To have better digestion (what goes in must come out)
I used to emotionally eat my way through the stress of work, school, exams and relationship and family troubles. I would scarf down a muffin, donut or scone for lunch and finish the day with a bag of salt and vinegar chips and a taro bubble tea.
Whenever I ate like this, I felt horrible. It wasn’t just the guilt that ate away at me but the agonizing time I spent in the bathroom. Let’s be honest without getting too graphic but what goes in must come out.
Since I was putting a ton of junk inside my body, it was very uncomfortable for that junk to come out. My diet of processed, refined foods that barely have a gram of fibre was creating concrete blocks in my digestive tract.
I used to go a few times a day and spend as much as 30 minutes in the bathroom. Those minutes add up. In addition to the risk for hemorrhoids, sitting that long wasn’t healthy for my back (see my first point).
For the past 8 years, I cook over 90% of my meals, using fresh ingredients that look like real food grown from the earth. I love being regular, once a day in the morning after a cup of black coffee, less than a few minutes and I’m out. I have more time to do the things I want instead of being stuck on the can. The feeling after a short and sweet trip to the bathroom is something I look forward to every day.
3. To feel energized in the morning
On the weekends during those toxic years of self-hate, I’d go out to eat, share an appetizer, have a sugary mixed drink, a rich entree and share a decadent dessert. I’d clean all my plates, come home, crash and wake up on Monday morning feeling like my stomach was hit by a truck. Then I’d start my day feeling sluggish, completely destroying my mood for the rest of the week.
By the time I had enough energy to do anything, it would be right before bedtime. However, I wouldn’t go to sleep; instead, I’d stay up late to do the things that didn’t get done because I felt like crap and wanted to procrastinate during the day. It was an ongoing cycle.
I’m a foodie and I love going out to eat but the amount I was eating and the proportion of my calories that came from restaurants were taking a toll on my emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.
I didn’t want to stop eating the foods I love; I had to adjust how I was eating them. I started to mindfully enjoy my meals, taking my time to savour each bite whenever I was out. Eating slower and appreciating the tastes, flavours and textures allowed me to become fully aware of how I felt when I was hungry and when I was full. I was no longer overestimating how big my appetite was.
It hasn’t just saved me money but eating well has made a huge difference in my life and how I feel every day. The 15 pounds I lost was just icing on the cake.
4. To get better sleep
At night, I like to do a little self-check-in. How did I treat my mind, body and soul today?
Feeding my body the nutrients it needs to function properly allows it to recover and recharge at night. I can feel the difference before going to bed. Whenever I overeat, eat late, gorging on chips and ice cream, I know there will be consequences at bedtime.
I toss and turn. I get super hot. Sometimes, I have heartburn. It’s just bad and I can’t fall asleep. My body is working double-time, digesting all the food I’ve eaten while I’m trying to relax and unwind. It’s counterproductive.
Regularly moving my body keeps me alert so that I don’t doze off during the day, affecting my sleep later on. I have a daily energy quota the needs to be expended. My muscles need to be put to work to use this up. At night, that’s when it’s replenished and it starts all over again. If I don’t use it up, it stays in my body and it keeps me up at night.
The feeling of a good night’s sleep motivates me to start that workout and to eat properly.
5. To see my kids grow up
Lastly, since becoming a parent, I’ve really had to take a hard look at my life and what my priorities are. It’s not just about me anymore. There are little people who depend on my being. If I treat myself badly, it affects them. I’m very afraid of projecting my past onto my kids. I want to lead by example so that they have strong and healthy footsteps to follow.
Every day, I make conscious decisions to go for a walk instead of being cooped up inside, to cook a homecooked meal instead of getting take-out, to start those living room dance parties instead of bringing out the iPad, to share a bowl of grapes together instead of a bag of chips and so forth.
I’m not going to lie but it takes effort to make these choices and I don’t always make the right ones; however, when the kids are asleep, the house is quiet and I’m getting ready to wind down, I’ll know I did my best for those two if I’m feeling happy and healthy. I thrived another day.
Ultimately, it’s all about balance and moderation. There are still times when I don’t work out and eat like I used to. However, it’s very temporary because the feelings of an upset stomach, back pain, sluggish mornings, sleepless nights and a shortened life span scare me back to my regular routine.
So Readers, what are your reasons to live a healthy lifestyle?
This post was previously published on Change Becomes You.
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The post 5 Reasons I Exercise and Eat Well That Aren’t Related to Weight Loss appeared first on The Good Men Project.