With the explosion of home exercise advice, it may seem as if it’s never been easier to work out at home. But the reality is, it’s probably never been harder. For every person posting a sweaty ‘crushed it’ selfie on Instagram, there’s another one (or four) just trying to endure pandemic-induced stress.
“So you’ve gained weight,” says Elyse Resch, a nutrition therapist. “So what? You’re alive. We’re doing the best we can with the resources we have.” You, too, can shrug off minor or moderate weight gain or the loss of your pre-pandemic fitness level. Read on.
Break the cycle
Above all, have compassion. “I don’t think most people change their minds by being yelled at or punched in the face, but that’s how we talk to ourselves,” says Phoenix Jackson, a clinical psychologist. When Jackson is having trouble speaking to herself as kindly as she might a beloved friend, she likes to find a photo of herself as a child and think of how gently she’d like that person to be spoken to.
Next, recognise that weight and ambitious exercise regimens may offer the illusion of control in a world that seems out of control, but the anxiety they produce is not helpful. This is part of a larger problem: Most of us feel pressure to achieve or maintain a certain body size because we’ve been taught that it’s important. Excess weight has been linked to considerable health risks, though it does not, by definition, mean a person is unhealthy.
Eat if you want to
One tenet of diet culture is that eating for any other reason besides biological hunger is a bad thing. Let’s say food really is giving you comfort. “Go with it, love it, be grateful for it,” Resch says. With one caveat: You’ll need to stay present to get the actual comfort and satisfaction. If you’re too busy judging yourself when you eat, you’re not savouring it.
Ask why you exercise
So you’re not working out enough and you think this is a problem. This may be because, for you, exercise is about controlling your body or compensating for what you’ve been eating – yet another belief to be discarded.
Resch prefers the word ‘movement’ to ‘exercise.’
“Exercise connotes something you have to do,” she says. “You want to take out the sense of doing it for a purpose like weight loss or keeping muscle on.” Instead, ask yourself what makes you feel good in your body. It could just be standing up and stretching.
Channel your energy into something more productive than obsessing about weight and exercise – like working to change diet culture, such as calling out thin-promoting or fat-shaming comments on your social networks.
Suman Ambwani, an associate professor of psychology at Dickinson College, says people are sometimes reluctant to challenge these sorts of statements. “But we found in one study a couple of years ago that someone who called attention to this issue and rejected appearance-related self-worth and the thin ideal was actually seen as more likable than someone who just colluded with body-shaming,” she says. Ambwani suggests following the health-at-every-size movement, a movement that promotes weight inclusivity.
Finally, look at feeling bad – the indicator that something might be ready to change, says Elizabeth Hall, an intuitive eating coach in Farmington, Connecticut. Although people often respond by vowing to buckle down or work harder, she said, the way to end the guilt and shame is actually just to notice those feelings, and to ask yourself if they are serving you or causing suffering.
“Feeling bad is actually an invitation to expand our consciousness and let go of expectations,” she says.
The Daily Telegraph