The power of physical activity beyond the scale: a non-diet approach to exercise and finding your body’s natural weight.
It’s no secret exercise has been linked to weight management and loss in many cases. Essentially the basic function of exercise is to use the energy we get from eating or stored energy on our bodies (aka body fat).
Even though it may seem like a long time ago, there was a point in the not so distant past when people were naturally more physically active as a way of life, and a means for survival.
However, with time and the many modern advances (most of which) have made our lives easier, we’ve lost a lot of the physical activity that would have come from more manual labor or having to work a field or farm for our food. We don’t walk near as much as the generations before us, and most of our jobs these days keep us strapped to a desk.
It is likely you’ve heard terms like caloric deficit or perhaps even the analogy of your weight being like a bank where you’re always either making deposits (the food you eat) and withdraws (exercise).
On a very basic level, then it would make sense that if you could just figure out the right balance of energy coming in vs. energy going on (in the form of calories), then you could predict exactly how much weight you could lose on a daily basis. However, it is also likely that if you’ve tried losing weight in the past, you know it doesn’t always work like that.
In theory, this is a great analogy but is also grossly oversimplified as there are many other factors that play a role in our body’s weight. If we are simply relying on the calorie counts on food labels, we could be working with a margin of error of up to 25%. That means if something says it has 100 calories in it, it could actually be between 75-125. Yikes.
The same holds true for fitness trackers and activity monitors as well. As handy as those devices are, they still carry a margin of error with them when it comes to the number of calories you burned. Another downside is these trackers don’t account for things like muscle mass, which also greatly affects your body’s ability to burn calories even at rest.
With less and less physical activity in our daily lives, we’ve been forced to look at the alternative: exercise–forced physical activity in short bursts.
Weight loss isn’t the only reason to move your body: a non-diet approach to exercise.
For many, the word exercise creates a feeling of stress, anxiety, and perhaps even outright rebellion. Depending on how exercise has been used by you and on you, your mental, emotional, and the physical reaction is expected and normal.
If, for example, exercise was used as a form of punishment for bad behavior at practice or the way you ate earlier that day or week, then you are likely to view exercise in a negative light.
If you’ve only ever exercised as a way to feel better about your body, then it is understandable you would see it as a chore or something you ‘have to do.’
It’s hard to want to stick to something when we can only associate it with negative feelings.
Oftentimes, we don’t even see the results right away, so if the only reason you’re exercising is to lose weight, it’s easy to become discouraged and give up altogether.
I want to propose there is a way you can learn to appreciate and enjoy exercise regardless of what the scale is or isn’t doing.
As I’ve hinted at above, the magic happens in your thinking about exercise. Instead of seeing it as a form of punishment or a chore, you could choose to think about it in a way that is useful and motivating. Which ultimately means you’re way more likely to stick with it.
Make exercise more enjoyable in 3 simple steps.
a) The first step is to notice what you actually think about exercise.
Start to get curious about the thoughts you have and the experiences you’ve had around exercise.
b) Next, ask whether or not that current story around exercise is helping you or hindering you. What would you edit about the story if you could? How would you rather think about exercise?
c) Lastly, begin rewriting your story with exercise. What do you want to think about and feel about exercise… on purpose? Learn what kinds of exercise you actually enjoy doing. Push yourself to think about exercise as more than a tool for weight loss. This will help on the days you feel discouraged when you don’t see the results coming. Or when you’d rather stay in bed.
While exercise can be a useful tool in helping you find your body’s natural weight range, it isn’t the end all be all. You must also factor in things like sleep, stress, nutrition, and of course, learn how to manage the things you think about. Build up emotional resilience, so you don’t succumb to life’s stressful or busy seasons.
If you really want to use exercise effectively in finding your natural weight, understand how you are using (or not using) exercise now. And try to find as many ways as you can to be physically active during the day.
It all counts. It all adds up. And it all works together to help you find a weight that is easy for you to maintain without the stress and exhaustion dieting creates.