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The Diet Survivor’s Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating Acceptance and Self-Care

NEW LESSON: SPRING 2013

Fitness promotes health. As you feel ready, move your body in ways that feel comfortable to you.

Fitness helps just about everything. It can improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. It can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and improve a variety of aches and pains. It can help reduce fatigue, increase energy, and lead to mental well-being. It can improve your mortality rate. All of these benefits take place, regardless of whether any weight is lost.

If you already have a regular exercise routine that works well for you, that’s terrific. However, as a diet survivor you may have a difficult time starting or sustaining exercise. In fact, you may approach exercise like any other diet. Your motivation is weight loss. You begin with the resolve that this time you will make it work. You start out with great enthusiasm, but when the day comes where you miss your workout, you just stop. You feel guilty that you should be exercising, but just can’t get yourself to do it. So, you do nothing.

It can take time to break the associations between exercise, dieting, and weight loss. In order to do so, think about other reasons to take care of yourself in this way. Do you want to become more fit? Healthier? Stronger? More flexible? All of these reasons can give you the motivation to begin to move your body without focusing on weight.

There are many types of exercise. Aerobic activity, such as walking, swimming and bike riding, improve your heart functioning. Anaerobic exercise, such as lifting weights, increases your muscle mass and helps reduces the risk of osteoporosis. Dance, yoga, and Pilates improve your balance, flexibility, and strength.

If you do not exercise at this time, think about what you might enjoy. Consider what would be the most comfortable setting for you. Do you prefer to walk on your own, or does it sound more appealing to take a yoga class? Do you like the idea of joining a health club that has lots of equipment or classes to choose from? If you do decide to go to a more formal program, make sure not to get caught up in their focus on weight loss as the primary reason for joining. Let them know that you are there to improve your overall physical well-being, and choose not to be weighed or measured. If, however, being in this setting fosters negative body thoughts for you, consider finding a less competitive atmosphere.

When you start to engage in physical activity, think about the amount that feels right to you. It’s okay to start out slowly. It’s okay to build up to a level that is comfortable for you and stick with it. You do not have to keep doing more and more. The key is to start moving and pay attention to how you feel. If you find pleasure in what you are doing, or at least feel better after you do it, you are much more likely to integrate activity into your life.

Some diet survivors may find themselves at the opposite end of the continuum. If you must workout for long periods of time every day in order to feel “okay,” then you may have a problem with compulsive exercise. While you others may admire you for your dedication to exercise, over activity is a serious problem that can negatively affect your health. Try to cut back on your routine. If you cannot do this on your own, consult with a professional.

Exercise is an important element of self-care. Allow yourself the time and space to experiment with the many ways to move your body. Remember that if weight loss is your motivation to become active, it is likely to backfire. Instead, focus on the joy of movement and the knowledge that when you choose to exercise, you are choosing to take good care of yourself.

Activity: Stepping out and stepping up!

Below is a list of activities you might want to consider. Put a ☺ next to the ones you think you’d like to try, a ? next to the ones you might want to try and a ☹ next to the ones that hold no interest for you.

Aerobics Class_____ Ballet_____ Belly Dancing____ Biking_____ Bowling______ Dance______ Fencing_____ Fitness Center_______ Hiking_____ Karate______ Pilates______ Rollerblading______ Running_______ Racquet ball_______ Spinning_______ Swimming_______ Tai Chi______Tennis_______ Walking_____ Weight Lifting______ Yoga_____

Walking is an excellent exercise. At 65, my grandmother began walking five miles a day. She’s now 100-and we have no idea where she is.
– Robert B. Reich (repeating an old joke)