Do you force yourself to workout, just to hate every minute of it? Here are my tips as a non-diet dietitian, for enjoying exercise and to incorporate movement intuitively into your day.
Thanks to diet culture, we often associate exercise with weight loss and wanting to change our bodies. Focusing only on changing our bodies through exercise can lead to frustration, exhaustion and in the end, wanting to give up. The same goes for nutrition.
But exercise is so much more than that. When we take the focus away from changing our physical appearance and instead, focus on the physical and mental health benefits of exercise, it can change the way we see movement.
So today, I’m sharing some tips to help you enjoy exercise.
Movement VS Exercise
You’ll notice that I often use the word movement instead of exercise. This is a simple way to change your mindset. While exercise can be associated with negative memories of dieting and wanting to change your body, movement can be something more enjoyable. It’s a simple change that can help if you have a long history of dieting and exercising to change your body. You’ll also notice that many forms of movements aren’t always considered as exercise to many, but everything counts! More on that later.
The All or Nothing Mentality
Do you go from exercising daily to doing no exercise at all? Do you tell yourself that you’ve missed one workout this week, so you might as well give up and try again next week? Would you only count a workout as worth it if you sweat for an hour?
You may have the “all or nothing” mentality when it comes to exercise.
This is a common way of thinking. Diet culture makes us believe that we need to exercise daily and eat a “perfect” diet to be truly healthy. That anything less than perfect is not worth it. This is not true.
Finding an enjoyable way to move and that fits into your lifestyle is what will have the biggest impact on your physical and mental health. The same goes for finding a balance in your diet, where you can enjoy eating nutritious foods because they make you feel your best, while still enjoying some less nutritious foods without guilt.
Finding Joy in Movement and Exercise
Here are my tips as a non-diet dietitian, to help you enjoy exercise and movement.
Forget About Calories
I encourage you to stop looking at exercise as a way to burn calories. Using exercise as a way to burn off what you ate can negatively affect your relationship with exercise (and food). Taking the focus away from your appearance can help you find joy in movement and make it more sustainable long term (as opposed to just another temporary part of a weight loss attempt).
Change Your Mindset
Instead of focusing on the calories, try using exercise as a form of self-care. We can’t deny that movement can benefit our physical and mental wellbeing. So try focusing on that instead. When you move to take care of yourself and to make you feel your best (while still being gentle on yourself), it changes your relationship with exercise and makes it more sustainable long term.
Avoid the All or Nothing Mentality
You don’t need to sweat for an hour daily for it to count as exercise. It’s completely okay to enjoy a longer, more intense workouts some days, then lighter exercises on other days. It’s also okay to rest, which brings us to the next point.
Allow Yourself to Rest
Sometimes resting is more important than exercising. If you didn’t sleep well, feel ill or tired, then take the time to rest. Exercising in those instances can increase stress. This is especially true if you’re injured!
Find Exercises That You Truly Enjoy
I encourage you to try different things until you find a movement that you enjoy. This may change throughout your life, so don’t be afraid to change it up! If you don’t enjoy running or weight lifting, then try something else!
Was there an activity that you enjoyed as a kid? This may be a clue as to which types of movements you’d enjoy.
Is there a type of movement that you enjoy, but wouldn’t count as exercise? A movement that you do for pleasure, but isn’t part of your daily gym workout? Find a way to do it more often!
Don’t Force It
An exercise routine may work for some, but it may be too rigid for others. Instead of being strict on what time and day you exercise, try being flexible. At the beginning of every day or week, ask yourself what type of movement you feel like doing. Change it up or rest as needed. Do what works for you.
Even 15 minutes of exercise can benefit your health. So instead of forcing yourself to workout for an hour, try moving for smaller chunks of time. Maybe the thought of exercising for 20 minutes instead of 1 hour is enough to get you to move. I don’t know about you, but the thought of running for 1 hour is enough to discouraging me. Instead, a 15-20 minute run is much more encouraging and enjoyable to me.
You can also engage in some lighter exercises that you may enjoy, such as yoga, walking or stretching. It doesn’t have to be a long sweaty workout to count.
A few other considerations: Try working out with friends or exercising outside to make it enjoyable!
And that’s it! I would love to hear what you think. Are there exercises that you truly enjoy?
This information is intended for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace individualized nutrition, exercise or medical advice. Note that this post is my personal opinion as a non-diet dietitian.
Looking for more non-diet content? Check out my post on diet culture words to avoid.