Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fit & Active October: Changing My Perspective.

Last year, a group of bloggers organized "Fit and Active September."  At that point, I wasn't ready to participate in any fitness-related group activities (even blogging), so I am glad that Sophie over at Two Cakes on a Plate decided to bring it back for October 2014.  You see, in the past, talking about health has sent me on a downward spiral.  I've always had a very disordered relationship with food and exercise.  Whenever I started eating healthfully or going to the gym, my motivation was always simply to be thin enough, because I thought being thin was expected of people in order to be accepted... and, to be honest, in many cases it is, which is part of the problem; expecting a certain appearance from people doesn't help them stay healthy or lose weight (if weight loss is what they actually need to achieve for health.  You can't know that for sure if you don't observe their daily habits, and unless you're living with them, doing so would be, um, creepy and probably illegal?).

I had an eating disorder in college, and although it never got to the point of hospitalization or feeding tubes, it drastically affected the way I viewed exercise.  Exercise was for burning calories. It started out as an activity to burn calories from the burger, fries, and coke I had for dinner last night.  Then it turned into burning calories from that sandwich I had for lunch.  Then I needed to burn calories from the 2 egg whites and half a turkey sausage I ate for breakfast.  It was so exhausting that I finally decided simply not to consume more than 1000 calories a day.  I was proud of myself when they added up to 800, devastated if I ever had a day that came close to 1500.

Exercise was a chore that only indicated when I'd done something bad to deserve it.  And (full disclosure) it never occurred to me to think about it any other way until only recently.  One reason I began this blog was in the hopes that I could help people from falling into the same spiral of guilt, shame, and body hatred with which I've struggled.  I never imagined that it would open me up to a community of wonderful, vibrant women and men who can balance being body positive with trying to be healthy on their own terms.  They've all had their struggles and setbacks, but I've been encouraged by their attitudes to think of exercise not in terms of calories burned or even in terms of how it makes my body look, but in terms of how it makes my body strong.  How it helps aches and pains and endurance and posture.

I decided to get a Y membership and only do exercise that I enjoyed.  I promised myself that if it felt too much like work, I would find something else.  That isn't to say I wouldn't extend my limitations and push myself at all; I just wouldn't allow exercise to become my job.  I felt dread when I thought about returning to do the elliptical.  I found lifting weights monotonous.  Pilates was OK, but I knew I needed to build up a bit of strength first in order to really reap the benefits of it. Finally, I went to yoga one day and a dance class the next.  And when the time for yoga and then the time for dance came around again, I was excited about going.  I love almost any and all music, and dancing around to it makes getting my heart rate up fun rather than grueling.  With yoga, I've already seen a significant decrease in back pain, and I can use my abdominal muscles to hold me up without slouching (much) without it hurting.  My weight and outward appearance haven't changed, at least noticeably, but I feel good.

I'm planning on doing one more post in October on not worrying about looking foolish while exercising, because I do look pretty silly in both dance and yoga.  But... that's OK!

Have you ever had a change of perspective or revelation about your exercise routine?

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