Do you view food and movement as something you should do or have to do? When did the shift happen that we feel we must “eat healthy,” “be on a diet,” or “drop those last 10 pounds” rather than adopt a lifestyle that is sustainable for long-term health and happiness? Where is the big picture of enjoying and appreciating wholesome foods and the thrill of movement and exercise?
We live in a world that BOMBARDS us with the messages of “be thinner” and “do more,” yet we are getting fatter and sicker as a nation. Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH, is the author of “No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness.” Michelle has five key strategies that can help you reshape your approach to healthy living. The commonality of all five steps is to do what makes you feel good and stop what makes you feel bad.
1. Start with the right reason why
We are not motivated by logic; we’re motivated by how we feel. A study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity asked 385 women, ages 40-60 years old, why they exercise. Then, they were tracked for one year to see how much time they actually exercised.
64 percent of the participants said they exercise for weight or health related reasons, while 22 percent exercised to enhance the quality of their daily lives.
The group who exercised for weight loss or better health exercised the least amount! The study concluded that exercising for weight loss and health benefits seems sensible, but this often makes exercise a “should,” turning it into a chore.
To find the right why for you, focus on what makes you feel good now. A byproduct of finding your movement why will be weight loss and improved long-term health.
2. Transform exercise from a chore to a gift
In order to transform exercise from a task into a gift, you need to “exorcise it,” according to Segar. “Get rid of all the beliefs, expectations, and wrong whys undermining your relationship with exercise and your motivation to move.”
Try picking activities that make you feel good and reframe the meaning behind the activity. Are you walking to burn calories? Or, are you walking to explore a new trail or get fresh air?
When this gift becomes a part of your daily life as something that gives you pleasure, you reach a point where you can’t imagine not exercising. Segar stated, “It becomes a source of fuel for everything you want to be in life.”
3. Get your essential self-care every day
Ever find yourself caring for others but neglecting your own needs? You must find a healthy balance to generate your own energy and well-being. This may be getting 8 hours of sleep, taking a walk in the woods, or 15 minutes of meditation.
To identify what fuels you, think of what you do for yourself on days you feel great versus those days when you feel sub-par.
Physical activity, when viewed as self-care, becomes a gift that energizes and nurtures you on a daily basis. It becomes a nonnegotiable daily habit.
4. Know that everything counts
Learn to love OTMs! What are OTMs? Opportunities To Move! If you start this treasure hunt, you will see movement opportunities everywhere. You can park a little farther out at work, play with your kids at the park, take the stairs and pass on the elevator, or take a stroll on your lunch break. Every minute adds up and contributes to your fitness and well-being.
5. Keep a learning mindset
A renowned Brazilian educator and philosopher, Paulo Freire, believed that through learning we can “make and remake” ourselves. Essentially, we can constantly be learning and adapting as we live our lives! Failure becomes irrelevant if you adopt the mindset that we are always learning.
You become your own experiment of how you feel when you exercise versus when you don’t; when you get quality sleep versus when you toss and turn; and when you eat nourishing, whole foods versus when you eat processed foods. You can log the data and see trends emerge on what makes you feel good. This removes the feeling of failure and shame on “bad” days and allows you to view them as opportunities to learn and grow!
These five key strategies can help you identify your movement why. Once you find your why, you will ditch the “should” mentality and realize that movement is a gift to yourself that you can enjoy daily.
If you want to find your movement why, pick up a copy of Michelle Segar’s book No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness.