42. Your Body Wants to Move
Welcome to episode 42 of the Mindful Weight Loss Podcast. I am your host and your coach, Emily Erekuff and today I am talking about a belief that is really helpful to cultivate weight loss and that is the idea that your body wants to move.
And now I'm not saying that exercise is the be-all end all of weight loss. That title belongs to ending overeating. When you get rid of all the mental drama about food and really listen to your body, you stop overeating and that's when you lose weight.
But, I think we really underestimate the role that, exercise/movement/activity - whatever you want to call it - can play in helping us do just that. And it's not because of the calories it burns, it's all the other intangible benefits many of which we take completely for granted or simply don't even recognize.
And before I get into those, I want to be clear about why I chose the wording I did. Notice that I don't say "your body wants to exercise" because this is bigger than exercise. When we talk about exercise we tend to have a very specific idea of what that means. It tends to be a set time in your day that you devote to moving your body with a goal of keeping or getting fit or becoming stronger or maybe losing weight. And that's wonderful. If you do that and enjoy that, great. And yes, I do think that your body does want exercise.
But I think a more helpful belief to cultivate is simply that your body wants to move because that can absolutely include exercise, but it also includes the other 16 hours of your day when you are awake where there is so much opportunity, not to cram in more exercise, but simply to move - to blow off steam and stagnancy for our physical health but even more so for our mental health.
I've said before and I will say it again, we spend way too much time in our heads, thinking, ruminating, planning, creating problems simply so that we can solve them. And we tend to forget about our bodies. And if we don't delight in how our body looks or feels, we may outright avoid our bodies - looking at them and feeling them.
But we really can't ignore the body without detrimental effects. Try as we might, we can't deny that we are physical, animal beings that were born to move. We are meant to interact with and explore the world, and we need to honor that aspect of ourselves.
I'm a big fan of the dog trainer, Cesar Milan, and he consistently teaches that dogs need exercise, discipline and affection and in that order. And I believe that is the case for humans too. And you might think, "well, wait a minute, for humans exercise can't be more important than affection" but consider how you react to affection if you're feeling anxious.
If you don't feel good, if you feel out of sorts, neither discipline nor affection are really as valuable or effective as they could be if you are feeling at ease. And movement or exercise, if you want to call it that, is an incredible tool to reduce anxiety in both dogs and people.
With dogs, lack of exercise leads to anxiety and anxiety leads to destructive behavior. If you have a destructive dog, one of the first questions any trainer will ask is how much exercise that dog gets, and so much of the time if you simply give your dog enough exercise, destructive behaviors like chewing the furniture can be eliminated. And it's not that you wear the dog out, you simply allow it to release tension and stress through movement.
And the same thing is true for humans. Our emotions are literally energy in motion and they need somewhere to go. If we don't release that emotional energy, just like dogs, we develop destructive behaviors, except instead of chewing on the furniture, we tend to over consume things like food, alcohol, tv and good old stuff.
Many of us sit at a desk for a solid eight hours a day. And we might sit in a car or on a train to commute on top of that. And then we wonder why we are anxious. And that sedentary behavior can ironically leave you feeling really lethargic so that the last thing you feel like doing is exercising for an hour. Sitting for long periods uninterrupted also reduces the blood flow to your brain so it's not really doing your work any favors. Add to that recent findings that show that focus exhausts your brain and that ideal performance occurs when we switch back and forth between periods of focus and unfocus.
So really, even when you are working or maybe especially when you are working, it's incredibly important to build activity into your day. Your body was meant for movement and your brain benefits from frequent breaks. Your body and brain want you to move.
And the more you demonstrate your belief in this idea and give yourself those breaks - maybe something as simple as taking a lap around the office every time you use the bathroom - the better your body and brain will respond. You will feel better and start to recognize that movement is the cause. And the more that happens, the more you will become someone who looks forward too, even craves activity, and that includes longer bouts of planned activity - i.e. exercise.
And when you begin to exercise regularly, the benefits are really incredible. According to helpguide.org exercise eases symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, PTSD as well as ADHD. And it can also lead to sharper memory and thinking, higher self-esteem, better sleep, more energy, and stronger resilience.
And that exercise doesn't have to mean killing yourself at a gym for an hour. According to the Mayo Clinic, 30 minutes of activity just 3 to 5 days a week can reduce depression or anxiety. And if 30 minutes isn't doable, breaking that up into smaller chunks of 10 to fifteen minutes can still make a difference. Spending time outdoors has also been found to ease anxiety and depression, so just taking a walk outside each day is a really wonderful habit to develop.
And I can attest that I really notice the difference when I don't get at least a walk in during the day. I walk my dogs every day and I credit them with helping me create that habit because without them I'm sure I wouldn't do it so faithfully. To my mind, it would be cruel to deny them of their exercise. And it's taken me a while but I finally see that it's cruel to deny my body and myself of exercise as well. I mean, look at all the benefits. If someone told you that you could take a pill that would do all these amazing things for you and it didn't have any negative side effects, I'm pretty sure you'd take it.
Even maximum security prisoners get two hours of exercise time each day. Kids get recess during school. But what about you? How much time do you move your body each day? If movement is not a priority, hopefully I've convinced you that it should be, again not for the calorie burn, but for all those other benefits. Because those benefits help you lose weight. When you are well fed and you feel good, it's so much easier not to overeat.
Repeat after me: My body wants to move.
Make this your mantra and start giving your body more of what it wants.
Take care, and I'll see you next week.