Intuitive Eating – Part 9: Exercise – Feel the Difference

Exercise - Feel the Difference

Intuitive Eating Principle 9 – the importance of healthy exercise in combating eating disorders and becoming an intuitive eater!

Take a moment and reflect on your current exercise patterns, the driving force behind exercise (goal/motivation/intention), and what nutrients you are (or not) putting into your body. First, if you are not eating enough and fueling your body with proper nutrition, receiving adequate sleep, or taking time to rest between workouts then exercise
will be exhausting! At this point, exercise can feel like a “chore” rather than what it can be: a time to enjoy all of what your body is capable of doing! So first, we must fuel our bodies! Our body’s preferred energy source is carbohydrates! If we are not eating enough carbohydrates our body will look for other energy sources — such as muscle protein. Many athletes and endurance athletes consume large amounts of carbohydrates to fuel their bodies before an event to maximize performance. You will find that exercising on an empty stomach or with inadequate nutrition will leave you fatigued, unable to perform at your maximum capacity, and even unable to complete an exercise. So, if we are “dieting” or limiting our carbohydrate intake then exercise will not feel good, which often leads individuals to “give up” on exercise and movement. We can begin our healthy relationship with exercise by fueling our bodies with adequate nutrition, specifically carbohydrates! 

Next, what are some barriers to exercise? If you are battling an eating disorder or have a history of over-exercising it is okay (in fact, I suggest) to take a break from exercise until you are physically and mentally ready. Not exercising for a few weeks or months will not cause a big difference in your overall health. In fact, if we are not nourishing our bodies or respecting our bodies with rest days then it can actually have a detrimental effect on our health. Now, are you ready to begin your journey with healthy exercise?

Focus on how your body feels right now, with exercise and without exercise. Do you have more energy with exercise in your life? If you are taking care of yourself nutritionally, mentally, and physically — the answer will likely be yes. This is a HUGE motivator to continue exercising! Right? It feels good. You feel good. Thus likely, you will make exercise a priority and not a “chore”. 

Now, what is your motivation or intention to exercise? If it is weight loss, then this will likely not motivate you to exercise long term. Now, is exercise with the intention to lose weight a bad thing? Of course not! However, if that is our sole intention, what happens if we are not losing weight? What happens if we gain weight (because increased muscle mass can come with increased weight — and that is okay!)? Do we then stop exercising despite the benefits we are receiving? Do we continue exercising due to sheer fear that we “will” gain weight? (Side note: I often hear from clients that they are no longer losing weight” despite not eating anything. So what does that mean when I encourage food? Internal voice: “I am not losing weight and not eating much, so eating more must mean I will gain weight”. You will be astonished by how our bodies compensate for lack of nutrition. Therefore, food does not mean weight gain. I’m sure you can see where I am going with this!). What happens when we exercise and we are still not satisfied with our body? This may lead to an internal conflict that what I am doing (exercise) or what I am eating is the issue of my unhappiness or dissatisfaction with myself/my body. And I say, this is simply not true!

So why intuitive eating and exercise go hand in hand? I encourage you to focus on the health benefits exercise gives you such as increased bone strength, decreased stress, decreased blood pressure, decreased risk of chronic disease (stroke, heart attack, diabetes, etc.,), increased heart strength, increased lung strength, improved sleep, decreased anxiety, increased endorphins, increased metabolism, improved learning/concentration, improved hunger/satiety cues, and more! After listing out the benefits of exercise, outside of body satisfaction, you can clearly see how exercise can result in an improved quality of life!

Lastly, make exercise fun! Reflect on the types of movement you enjoy and go towards that! Exercise does not have to mean joining a gym, getting a personal trainer, dieting, spending large amounts of money/time, or becoming rigid with your daily schedule. Intuitive eating and exercise can become part of your self-care routine that you enjoy yourself and look forward to. Go on a long walk, play a sport (or just practice that sport like shooting hoops), dance, incorporate yoga, ride a bike, rollerblade, walk your dog, take the stairs, run — whatever it is, be active! Take away the stigma that exercise has to look a certain way. Most of all, take care of yourself. Listen to your body when it needs sleep. Listen to your body when it needs food. Listen to your body when you need to rest.

1TRIBOLE, E. V. E. L. Y. N., & Resch, E. (2020). Intuitive Eating: a revolutionary program that works. S.l.: ST MARTINS ESSENTIALS.

Introduction:  Intuitive Eating: The Anti-Diet
Part 1 – Reject the Diet Mentality
Part 2 – Honor Your Hunger
Part 3 – Make Peace with Food
Part 4 – Challenge the Food Police
Part 5 – Feel Your Fullness
Part 6 – Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Part 7 – Cope With Your Emotions Without Using Food
Part 8 – Respect Your Body