Good Health: Focus More on Love and Pleasure, Less on Diets and Pressure
I've always been tough on myself around exercise and healthy eating. I never felt like I WANTED to exercise so I forced myself. I craved sugar and carbs and indulged. Then I beat myself up. The more I beat myself up, the more I ate, the less I exercised. This was my pattern. And a pattern for so many.
I've been on a self-love journey for the past decade. I always hoped that if I loved myself more, I'd be more motivated to take better care of myself - to nourish myself with whole and healthy foods, to exercise. I was beginning to think it was a big lie.
So much had changed in my life on this journey - I saved my marriage, I became more authentic, I became kinder to myself, I cultivated closer female friendships, became a better mom. The list is so huge.
But I was still eating crappy foods and was still dragging myself to the gym.
I knew that I ate sugar for pleasure - it was a quick hit of dopamine and it felt good. And I didn't like to exercise because I didn't enjoy it. It was grueling and I did it because I was supposed to, not because I wanted to.
I seriously thought that maybe I was wrong and that the way to good health was going to be to hunker down and form better habits, cultivate better will-power and accept that I would have to force myself to eat things that are "good for me" and sacrifice eating the foods that I enjoy. That I'd have to get a better workout schedule and stick to it. Or that I had to accept that I won't and take the consequences. I was feeling hopeless because none of this felt very self-loving.
About 6 months ago, I got into mountain biking. It's one of the physically hardest things I've ever done. But I love it so much. Being outside, the sense of accomplishment, the views and the roller coaster fun of the downhills! And I was seeing that I was getting stronger and my cardiovascular stamina was increasing. Who knew that exercise could be this fun? It FELT SO GOOD to feel this healthy.
About 2 months ago, I got into "movement" - putting on a song and moving my body (some people would call this dance, but that intimidates me). I fell in love with this movement practice! Even more recently, I've been enjoying short yoga videos - 15-20 minutes (I used to do 90 minute yoga and it always felt too long). These days, I crave moving my body. I want to walk and stretch and lift weights. I've also been choosing healthier foods and I find I eat less food.
This is NOT coming from will-power, better habits, forcing or sacrifice.
Last night I asked my husband what he think changed that has me so inspired to be healthy? Why does he think that now I look forward to exercise? Why I LOVE to move my body? Why I feel motivated to eat healthier? Why I DON'T want to overstuff myself?
Neither one of us was SURE, but we both agreed on these three things:
- I've come to love myself deeply - flaws, imperfections and all. I've claimed my place here in life. I see my inherent value and I know that I am a unique, divine being. I've come to accept and love my body and have let go of the idea that I need to look like a model in Shape magazine. My body is a gift and I want to appreciate the gift I've been given! I actually WANT to be healthy and strong because it FEELS so good.
- I've come to value rest, fun and play. We go for 2-3 hour bike rides. I would never have done that before because I "didn't have the time". I was "too busy" so I forced in a 30-minute cardio treadmill workout instead. (Some of this is because I have older kids and we have a lot more freedom, but a lot of it is that I never gave myself permission to stop DOING and PROVING my value). Now, I do exercise that I enjoy and I do it MY WAY. This is self-fulfilling - the more fun I have doing exercise and cooking foods that nourish my body, the more I want to do it! The stronger I get, the more my body can do.
- I've arrived in my heart. I spent my whole life in my head, cut off from my heart. I used to say "I don't have access to my feelings." But we all can access our feelings - it just takes some time to heal that which cut us off from them. Now I can see that I have so much love in my life. Not just "so many people" but the FEELING of love. I can receive love. I FEEL. I experience love with loved ones and strangers. I experience love within myself and in every moment. I experience life AS LOVE. I enjoy my life and I've found ways to bring pleasure into my life by doing things that FEEL good!
I see that I've reached a pivotal turning point where my love for myself, my life and love itself has shifted me. I can't NOT take care of this vessel I'm blessed to have. I can't NOT find ways for my heart to feel joy and pleasure. I can't NOT wish to live a long healthy life. I want to extend the magic as long as I can.
I didn't THINK about this or DECIDE to do this. I just reclaimed my heart - I fell in love with myself and with love. My heart opened enough to become love. So now I more naturally gravitate to things that are aligned WITH LOVE. And good health, pleasure and taking care of our bodies are all aligned with love.
This is not about perfection. I still eat junk food and candy. But I'm more gentle with myself and I don't use this to fill my pleasure-void or love-void. I'm sure I'll still have times when I'm not as eager to move my body (I still feel scared to go out for mountain bike rides because they are so hard and I still feel afraid I won't be able to do it). But I'm positive that this shift is in rooted in LOVE and I'll find my way back.
This all made even more sense to me when I stumbled upon this video on YouTube. Maybe you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
"If you can love the body and life you have, you will have the body and life you love!" - Jen Oliver