AHHH, hello! I am VERY excited to have Charlotte, from Take a Paws, as MSBLife’s first ever guest post! Charlotte is going to be talking a bit about her health and fitness journey and how ditching diet culture can change your relationship with exercise. Take it away Charlotte!
How Ditching Diet Culture can Change your Relationship with Exercise
From a young age, I only saw exercise as a means to change my body. At school, I played football and netball but any self-motivated exercise was for one reason – to lose weight. I would search the internet looking for my favourite celebrity’s workout routine. When my parents bought a treadmill, I was probably the person who used it the most. I was so fixated on changing my body shape that I never stopped to ask myself, which exercises do I actually enjoy?
When I started university, I joined the campus gym and a whole bunch of classes that I had never tried before became available to me. During that time, I was reading Women’s Health quite a lot and I was becoming familiar with how certain classes could shape my arms, legs, abs and glutes. My choice of exercise class was consistent with the body part that I was most dissatisfied with at the time. HIIT classes, spin classes, body pump (weight training) and yoga/pilates were all part of my weekly routine. Sometimes I would do two classes back to back – I wasn’t addicted, but I wasn’t exercising for the right reasons.
At first, I enjoyed the classes. HIIT and spin gave me an adrenaline rush that felt amazing afterwards but after a while, I would feel demotivated in the middle of a class. I wasn’t seeing the results I expected from the magazines which made me less interested in going to the classes. I began to find HIIT and spin too difficult, like I was pushing my body too hard.
Once I started embracing the body positivity and anti-diet community, I realised I preferred slower movements. I started training with a personal trainer and we focused on learning to use the weight equipment properly and practising good form. Yoga and Pilates remained central to my workouts but my focus was on building my core to support my weight training, rather than aiming for lean, long limbs.
I’ve also stopped putting pressure on myself to workout too often. I listen to my body and exercise depending on how I’m feeling. If I’m feeling sluggish, I try to raise my heart rate, whether that be with a brisk walk, a steady jog or a bodyweight HIIT session. If I feel tired, I ask myself if exercising is the right thing to do, at which point I either rest or do some yoga. Exercising becomes much easier to do when you listen to your intuition and stop forcing your muscles to work harder than they want to.
Since leaving university, I don’t have access to a gym so I have invested in small pieces of equipment that I can incorporate into my workouts and can be used for a range of exercises. If you want to build a mini home gym, buy pieces that you know you will enjoy using. Here is what I’ve got at home:
- 8kg kettlebell.
- Resistant bands ranging from light to heavy resistance.
- Yoga mat.
- Yoga ball.
- Skipping rope.
- Ab roll out wheel.
- Pilates ring.
Now ask yourself:
- Why do you exercise?
- Do you enjoy the workouts you do?
- Which is your favourite workout?
Take some time to reflect on the exercising that you do and decide if you need to make any changes in order to feel happier about exercising. Exercise has been found to improve mental well-being but putting pressures on yourself to do something you don’t enjoy is counter-intuitive. Start the new year by practising your listening skills – with yourself!
Written by Charlotte Smith MBPsS
YAY! Thank you so much Charlotte for sharing your story on how your relationship with exercise changed after ditching diet culture. It’s unusual to see someone exercising and think that they may be doing it as a result of something negative. This relationship just emphasises how important mindset really is.