Benefits of Exercise (There’s More than just Weight Loss)

In my last post, I talked about why movement and making time to move is important not only for a healthy body, but for a healthy mind-body connection.  After uploading that post, I proceeded with my day and heard an ad on the radio marketing a discounted gym membership for listeners looking to shed that last 10 pounds before swimsuit season.  Waiting in line at the grocery store, I noticed magazines promising a workout to tone your tummy in 7 days or a “Summer Shape-Up” routine to target every zone in “just minutes a day”!

Honestly, I’m just fed up with seeing that kind of marketing everywhere I go.  Why can’t people just exercise and move without weight loss being the ultimate goal?  Can’t we just move our bodies because it feels good?  Why does a progressive action to exercise imply that we’re unhappy with how we look and that we’re doing said action to lose weight or tone-up?

In the modern media, exercise is a means to lose weight and nothing else.  And while exercise does aid in burning fat and building muscle, we cannot forget about the countless other benefits of exercise that have nothing to do with weight loss!  Regular exercise can:

  1. Reduce stress & improve mental clarity (great for combating depression & anxiety),
  2. Positively impact one’s self-image & self-love,
  3. Prevent brain cell degeneration,
  4. Increase productivity & increase one’s ability to relax,
  5. Encourage normal body function to fight disease (i.e. diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure),

And so much more!  Movement of all kind is beneficial to the body; stretching elongates targeted muscles and the surrounding connective tissues to elicit muscle relaxation and increase flexibility.  Joint mobilization stimulates the body’s production of synovial fluid to allow freer joint movement (which is vital as we get older) and increases kinetic (bodily) awareness.

kahyoga3For a healthy mind-body connection, exercise is key.  When we habitually associate exercise with weight loss, it can make us feel that if we’re not losing weight as a result of exercise, our efforts are wasted and then discourages us from continuing.  Get out and move not to get down to a certain size or to fit society’s bologna standards; do it to show your body that you love and accept it just as it is, and that’s why you want to take care of it.

Do it because it feels good and you deserve to feel good!

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Sources:

  • OnHealth
  • Huffpost
  • Benjamin, Patricia. Tappan’s Handbook of Massage Therapy. 6th ed. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc., 2016. Print. Pg 291.

Flow

As I’m writing this, I’m fresh off a practice session.  I can feel the blood moving throughout my body; my muscles contracting and relaxing as I’m now typing.  For the moment, I have a heightened awareness of my body and the world around me and I understand how my physical body interacts with the physical world.

kahyoga1Now I’ll go about my day and my mind may drift to different places and my hands may busy themselves, but my body will maintain that awareness.  Every movement is calculated and without even realizing it I am mindful of said movements.  Walking my dog, sitting on the couch, preparing lunch- each activity is done with an awareness that, had I not practiced, I would not have.

My sister, my mom and I are big fans of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and so we follow the movements of the cast, which has led us to see (twice now) Derek and Julianne Hough’s MOVE Tour.  They have a mantra that they bring up each show that has really resonated with me:

 Motion equals emotion.

kahyoga2The way we move directly affects how we think and how we feel.  How we respond to others.  How we react to the world around us.  I like to use the analogy of a river: Picture a stagnant river- unmoving, gathering pollutants and foam.  Inhabitants of this river are not likely thriving.  Now imagine a flowing river, crashing over rocks and gathering speed as it does so.  Everything within it is alive and well and nourished as its resources are constantly being replenished.  Equate your body to either of these rivers… Which would you rather be?

It doesn’t matter how you move or at what speed you move.  It doesn’t matter that it may not be perfect.  What matters is that you do move.  That you experience your body and what it can do.  What matters is that you move in a way that positively affects your mind-body-soul connection.  That you reap the rewards of a body in motion; the benefits are endless.

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Beyond the Scale

I wrote this several weeks ago but have been hesitant to share it.  Whilst rereading it, I realize it comes off a little… depressive.  But I’ve decided to leave this post as-is because these are all things that I felt at the time I wrote it.  But I think it’s important to note that I do not only feel this way.  Losing weight has been a struggle, but it’s also helped me to learn more about myself.  And while some days are hard, most days are great and I’m a very happy and grateful human.  This is all a part of my journey and I treat each experience as an integral part of that.


As life would have it, shortly after I posted about my weight loss I realized that I wasn’t healthy. On paper, sure, I was healthy- my weight was the lowest it’s been in years which, of course, has other positive bodily effects. But I didn’t feel good.

I was falling into detrimental habits that I am unfortunately all too familiar with. I was obsessing over the number on the scale. People noticed my weight loss and told me how great I looked and congratulated me on such a feat. This should have motivated me but instead it tore me apart. My weight directly affected my self-worth, and as the number on the scale went down my esteem went up- and vice-versa. Suddenly, I only saw myself as a number on the scale.

Feeling like I had no purpose other than to be skinny, I turned to food for comfort and started gaining weight… Again. My mind began to fog. Those around me noticed my weight loss, so surely they would notice my gain. My face isn’t as thin as it was only four weeks ago; my waist not as slim. In my mind, everything I was eating was “bad”. I felt guilty eating anything. When I was home alone with only my dog I would actually put food back because JEEZ terriers are so judgmental!

In hindsight, I can tell that my behavior over the past month has been destructive. But I didn’t realize how bad things had actually gotten until two weekends ago when Jeff and I went away. On our mini-vacation, the hotel we stayed at offered a buffet breakfast. I could have eaten every single item lined up there and even if I felt like I was about to burst I would keep eating just because it was there. While I was eating delicious pancakes all I could think about was the next thing I was going to eat. It was here that I realized just how much of what I was eating was being eaten just because it was there. Starving or stuffed, food was my life whether I even enjoyed it or not. I always had to be eating. I felt ashamed.

In the beginning, I was determined to lose weight to look “good” in a bikini. I didn’t want to look back on my wedding photos and hate what I saw. I wanted to feel good about myself. But as people began to notice my weight loss, my reasons why morphed into just one reason: I wanted people to think that I was skinny; and if they didn’t, it meant I was nothing. (I realize that this has everything to do with me and NOTHING to do with my family and peers who only saw how hard I was working to reach my goal and were graciously congratulating me for it.)

But at the time, I couldn’t see what was happening. I was losing weight and so my self-worth and esteem were high and that was all that mattered. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t stop thinking about the leftovers in the fridge. It didn’t matter that no matter how much I lost it would never be enough. It didn’t matter that if I felt I’d indulged too much I would degrade myself with words like “fat” or “pig” or “ugly” or “dumb”. It didn’t matter because every day I was getting skinnier.

My mind wasn’t healthy;  I was so detached from my body and what it truly needed.  For some, like myself, there is so much more to losing weight than eating less.  For me, it’s a lifestyle change, and as I’m adjusting my whole life I’m having to deal with stuff from every part of my life that has brought me here.

A lifestyle change isn’t always just about eating less, but may include changing how we handle problems or learning to eat mindfully instead of eating just because it’s there.  Everyone’s journey is different, and this is a part of mine.  I’m having to realize why I feel compelled to eat a whole bag of chips instead of a healthy-sized serving.  I need to recognize when my body feels satisfied instead of just eating until I can’t breathe.

I wanted to share this because this is honestly where I’m at.  It’s certainly not pretty, but I promised to share the good, the bad and the ugly parts of my journey.  Going through this has been difficult, but I think it’s also made me a better person.  Writing this has helped me learn more about myself and by sharing it here, I hope to shed light on an issue not often discussed when people talk about losing weight.

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Mental and emotional health are just as important as physical health.  I’m taking some time to reevaluate and prioritize my long-term goals.  Bodily health means nothing to me if my mind and soul aren’t also healthy.  My personal journey is about finding balance in my body and in life, and my blog is a direct extension of that.  Holistic health considers all parts of the body and though for the moment I’ve lost sight of that, I’m hopeful and know that each struggle only makes me stronger.

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Learning Not to Compare

Up until recently, I was an avid follower of Instagram-famous folk such as Iskra Lawrence, a woman with large hips and a flat tummy whose body-positive movement has gained her millions of followers.  She posts pictures of herself working out at the gym or wearing a bra and panties while eating a slice of pizza to encourage her followers not to restrict their diets and to promote a balanced lifestyle.

But here’s the thing: I exercise and eat pizza just like she does, but I do not look like her.  While I was drawn to her because of her curves and I felt I could relate, my stomach has never been flat and may never be flat.  But I would scroll through her Insta feed in an attempt to mimic her lifestyle and would only find myself discouraged and disappointed.

The truth is, Iskra is a model first and foremost.  She lives by parameters that are just not attainable for me.  Her body holds weight differently than mine, which is something that was determined at birth.  No matter how much I will myself to look like her, I never will.  Everything she eats, does and lives by is different from my own lifestyle, so why would I believe I could ever look like her?  I even see my friends and peers moving up in the world and getting healthier and I compare my own live to theirs and then feel saddened by the fact that I am not where they are.

LearningNottoCompareWhat I try to remember is that we are born to be different.  Every human’s thoughts and ideas- every human’s life– is different.  This is what has caused our society to grow and progress over time.  Imagine if we celebrated the differences in our bodies like we do our ideologies.  Each of us has experienced different things and has struggled through various situations to get to where we are.  Our lifestyles are all vastly different and so our bodies should all be equally as different.

Nobody wins when we compare ourselves to others; it only distracts us from our own journey.  No amount of progress that we make in our own lives will ever be enough if we continue to compare our individual journeys to those of our peers.  It is so important to discover what the parameters are for your life and to live by those.  Turning to others for inspiration may seem like a positive motivator but in many cases it only veers us away from our own path.

Focus on what you can do to better yourself instead of what you can do to be more like this person or that person.  Doing so allows you to recognize your own successes and that makes your life so much sweeter.

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