Isn't it odd that we see quitting a workout program or quitting the gym as daring? Why? Probably because diet culture shames anyone who does it. They're weak. They gave up. They don't care enough.
Too often we exercise, not because we like it, but because we're afraid.
Fears: We'll gain weight. Our clothes won't fit. Everyone will notice and talk about it. People will think less of us. We'll lose our identity. We'll be unhealthy. Life will be awful. Nobody will love us. It will be unbearable.
Every one of those painful thoughts is just as likely to play out the other way. We won't gain weight, or we will and nobody will notice or care. People will admire us. Our health will improve. We'll be happier than ever, more social, better able to connect with people. I don't know about you, but I was an isolated judgmental jerk face at my most disordered. I projected all of my fears and judgments onto everyone around me, which must have made me a real joy to be around. I shudder now!
We're getting bombarded with diet culture 24/7. It's so important to identify those messages for what they are, to question them, and turn them around. Don't get swept along in the default story that we have to be as light/lean/small as possible, eat as clean and little as possible, and train as hard as possible or we're doing it wrong and very bad things will happen.
If you have negative thoughts about weight or seeing the numbers is counterproductive, don't weigh yourself. Weight means nothing. I've seen many extremely fit women who are shorter and heavier than I am. There are so many examples of people who are fit but not light. Trying to be light above all else actually kept me from being fit because I was tired and hungry and dizzy, no endurance to train, terrible workout recovery, and worsening performance. Dieting and overtraining really undermined what I was hoping to achieve. I wasn't fit or healthy. I was a mess. Health isn't a number on a scale. It's what's going on with your entire person, mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, your relationships, your work/life balance, all of it. Too often we associate health with weight alone and trash everything else in the process. Then we wonder why we're miserable, exhausted, and food obsessed. But we're an "ideal" weight. Isn't that health? Nope. It's not.
Personally, I focus on eating enough to perform well and have tons of energy. I want to eat enough for a BLAZING metabolism. The food comes first, then I have the energy to be active. It's the complete opposite of diet culture nonsense telling us we have to earn food through exercise. I want to be strong. I want muscle. Again, that requires food. It also requires proper recovery - plenty of sleep, rest days, stress management, workout periodization. You can't smash yourself every day and gain or maintain muscle.
My eating disorder would tell me that if I let down my guard at all, I would gain weight quickly and never stop gaining. I would need an electric scooter to get around, and eventually, the fire department would have to fork lift me through the living room window. Thank you, eating disorder! Very creative visuals. Here's the thing though, that particular doom spiral does not line up with someone who is generally active, enjoys lots of healthy whole foods, hates to be uncomfortably full (or uncomfortably anything), and is enthusiastically pursuing happiness, self-care, and quality of life.
One of the biggest parts of this for me was learning that my body knows what it's doing, and that all food/weight problems stem from not listening to it or trusting it. When I was trying to obsessively manage my food intake, cut out whole food groups, eliminate sugar, and embrace math, my results were worse. I felt worse. I was gaining weight on less food. My digestion sucked. My metabolism sucked. My mood definitely sucked. I was very actively screwing things up by not resting when my body was tired and not feeding it what it wanted when it was hungry. That can all be fixed. The trick is recognizing the problem and being willing to do something about it. That something is often the exact opposite of what diet culture dictates.
Yes, enough for what? It's a good question to consider. I've been doing workouts that are 5-15 minutes for about 5 years now. So far, all that's happened is I feel amazing, I have waaaaay more energy for activity outside of formal workouts, my appetite is pleasant and appropriate, and all of my health markers have improved.
For me, doing intense hour-hour long strength/metabolic workouts most days was enough for: broken bones, tendonitis, exhaustion, insomnia, insatiable hunger, frequent illness, and generally foul moods. When you're that tired, EVERY little thing gets on your nerves. And if you're doing it out of fear (of failure, of weight gain, of death), the workouts themselves aren't exactly fun. You're doing a dreaded thing, in spite of bone-weary fatigue, to prevent some other dreaded thing. Weeeeeee! Good times!
Part of my hang-up there was I had internalized a stupid notion of what counts as exercise. Weightlifting and HIIT cardio count. Everything else was not exercise and therefore a waste of time. But is that what science says? What the government recommends? No! Basically any movement is beneficial - walking, gardening, dancing, cleaning the house, taking the stairs. They even did away with the recommendation that exercise occur in bouts of 10 minutes or more. You can reap all the benefits with little bits of activity here and there throughout the day, which is how I do it now. And for those of us who are crazy and prone to overdoing it, REST has magical health benefits. Doing less and sitting down more can improve our health and wellbeing far more than trying to cram as much physical activity as possible into each day.
"I was very actively screwing things up by not resting when my body was tired and not feeding it what it wanted when it was hungry. That can all be fixed. The trick is recognizing the problem and being willing to do something about it. That something is often the exact opposite of what diet culture dictates. "
I think this is where I am right now, especially the not resting when tired. I have been doing workouts that are 20 min. or less for about a year, and while it has been good for my energy level and schedule, I mentally feel like I'm not "doing enough." I am not sure what I think enough is, or why I think that...