Over the past few weeks I’ve been on a lot of 1-2-1 calls with potential clients or as a service for people within companies whereby employees have the opportunity to take up a session with me to get support around any aspect of their wellbeing –mental, emotional and/or physical.
One thing that has really become apparent to me, having now done close to 30 calls, is the amount of unnecessary pressure people put on themselves to ‘eat healthily’ and to do ‘enough exercise’.
It’s as if there’s this holy grail of getting it right with their food and exercise that is always hanging over them because they feel they never do it well enough, leading to a lot of pressure, shame and fear that they don’t even fully realise they are carrying around with them.
I know that might sound a little extreme, but if you go through life with an internal dialogue that sounds like:
“I shouldn’t have eaten that”
“That’ll make me put on weight”
“I should have done (more) exercise today”
“I didn’t eat enough healthy food today”
“I should be exercising every day”
“I’ll lose my shape/weight if I dare miss that workout”
Then you’re self-inflicting pressure and judgement on yourself all of the time.
And the truth is, it is okay to miss a workout or two, or even a week’s worth or more if you need to, sometimes it’s even a good thing so you actually slow down and rest — shock!
It’s okay to eat something that is seen as ‘bad’ sometimes — you know my rule of thumb; to crowd out the good with the bad, whereby you follow the 80/20 rule of 80% good foods 20% seemingly bad. Then there’s a further discussion to be had here around what exactly is ‘bad’ anyway?!
I always go back to asking the fundamental question of: what state are you in and how are you feeling right here and now?
If you are tired, exhausted, worn out, highly stressed, feeling rundown, like you might be coming down with something, hungover — then resting is far better for your health than pushing yourself to exercise … or at the very least tone it down and do something relaxing to unwind.
I appreciate high levels of exercise can sometimes boost your mood and energy, but we have to be careful here because exercise actually ramps up the stress hormones, particularly intense cardio. So that buzz you get after a workout might actually be a high off all the adrenaline and cortisol your body is producing; it’s not necessarily just feel-good endorphins. And if you’re already stressed or run down, then to ramp up the stress hormones further is clearly not a good idea! This is what can lead a person to getting ill or even worse burning out along with serious levels of fatigue.
Foodwise, a pattern I see on a regular basis is that the people who try to ‘eat healthy’ foods all week, end up binging on more ‘unhealthy foods (- usually over the weekend or in the evenings), because that level of restriction is not sustainable and not good for the psyche.
Remember I mentioned the law of polarity a couple of weeks ago in a blog? If you missed it, you can read it HERE.
Well, the same applies with food and exercise and I see this play out all the time…
If someone overdoes it and pushes themselves too much, their body forces them to stop and rest in equal measure — usually by getting ill or getting an injury.
If someone is strict with their food, they’ll ‘binge’ and lose control in equal measure.
It’s also the same as the diet cycle that ultimately sets you up to fail. You create a cycle of binge v restrict, control v lack of control in equal measures.
Life, mother nature or call it the divine intelligence that is always in play, seeks harmony.
There is far too much information out there on food, diet, exercise and what we ‘should’ be doing, and the mistake many people make is to follow this blindly whilst bypassing how they’re actually feeling in the moment and therefore what they need.
I personally believe much of this behaviour is actually a response to stress and a need to feel some form of control in life by being really strict with yourself.
Yes, we need to move and exercise on a regular basis and we need to eat quality food however life sometimes gets in the way and that is okay.
Sometimes we also need to accept that we can’t exercise or prepare perfect meals the same way we did when were single or pre-children or running our business or in a more demanding senior role. There’s an element of being realistic here rather than subjecting yourself to self-imposed guilt and shame. Get honest with yourself about how your priorities may need to be rejigged.
From my perspective, if we’re looking at your overall health and wellbeing, then all of that stress, pressure and tension from what you think you ‘should’ be doing or ‘shouldn’t’ be doing is equally as bad for you!
Think of the yin-yang symbol; it’s all about balance. Your body needs and seeks to restore balance at all times. If you are pushing it out of balance — mentally, physically or emotionally — it will have something to say about that and it speaks to you through symptoms, illness and disease.
For real health, you need to eat and exercise in a balanced way that feels good, pay attention to how you feel and then make your decisions based on what’s best for you in the moment.