Why I Love to Move
I’m generally active, including riding my bike all over town. Here’s what being active gives me:
• Time for myself. When I exercise, I can let go of the overwhelmed feeling I often have.
• Improved mood and energy.
• A feeling of total freedom. I can let go and forget about everything else but the experience of moving.
• A sense of wholeness. Exercise reminds me that I am more than just my brain.
• Awe at what my body can do. Exercising takes my focus away from how my body looks to how it functions. I love feeling myself get stronger and better at different activities.
• Challenges. I love setting challenges for myself and working toward them, as well as feeling pride and accomplishment.
• Adventure. For instance, I’ve biked from San Francisco to Los Angeles, climbed tall mountains, rafted turbulent rivers, and rappelled down high cliffs.
• Outdoor time. I love feeling connected to the environment.
• Social connections. I love the social aspect of team sports. Playing on a team helps me feel connected to people in a way nothing else can.
• Spontaneity. I can chase my dog because I’m in the mood, quickly run and get something I need.
What does exercise mean to you? What can you do to expand the possible roles that exercise plays in your life?
Ten Ideas to Support You in Becoming More Physically Active
1. Find activities that are
for you, that you can look forward to.
2. Take risks and try new activities and different types of movement.
3. Lighten up! You don’t have to reach a particular heart rate or exertion level for exercise to be beneficial.
4. Enter the flow of movement. When your body and mind are in sync, you are in the moment, and all other concerns are forgotten.
5. Connect to the environment. When you’re outside, try to become more involved in your surroundings. Smell the flowers and notice the scenery.
6. Ditch the self-limiting attitude and challenge the cultural myths about exercise and movement that you’ve internalized. For instance, don’t allow your size, age, or ability to limit your participation.
7. Be confident in your right to exercise. Stand up to people who ridicule you and let them know that
are the ones with the problem. For additional support, try to exercise with people similar in size or ability.
8. Make your exercise social. Involve your family, friends, and pets and try to meet new people through your activities.
9. Be patient. It takes time for your body to adapt to new movements. As you become used to a particular activity, it will become more fun.
Address the Resistance
10. Set goals. Exercise may not always be fun for you. But, if you’re working toward a goal, like participating in a 5K walk for breast cancer, or being less winded when you run after your kids or try to catch the bus, you may be more motivated.
This “just do it” attitude may not work for everyone. We all differ in our attitudes toward physical activity. While some people find movement fun, others find it work. Some want to move and others have to push themselves. There are biologic reasons behind this; for instance, some people produce more endorphins and get more of a feel-good response from physical activity than others. If you don’t get such a strong reward signal, then it’s harder to find the joy in exercise.
What can you do to make exercise more natural and appealing, something you look forward to and crave?
Consider some of your reasons for not liking exercise. The most common ones relate to social stigma.
Fear of humiliation
. Maybe you still remember the humiliation of being picked last for sports teams or being teased about your weight in gym class. Most of us have horror stories from our childhood; kids can be especially cruel in this way. Many of us also associate exercise with punishment for our weight.
To overcome this fear, first accept that you deserve a healthy, strong body. Recognize that neither your size nor your physical ability can determine your right to move. And remind yourself: You no longer have to wait to be chosen to play; as an adult, you can choose yourself!
Fear of ridicule
. Some thinner people feel they have the right to yell insults at larger people who exercise in public. Even if people don’t actually comment, you may still fear they’re thinking bad thoughts and judging you. Larger people also often get treated poorly in organized sports or in fitness clubs, with exercise instructors and coaches making disparaging comments about their weight in order to “motivate” them to move or assigning inappropriate exercises.
To move beyond this type of judgment, let me repeat again: You
a healthy, strong, capable body to facilitate your movement. You have as much right to move your body and feel good about it as anyone. The prejudiced have the “weight problem”—not you!
Fear of looking awkward or ugly.
Do you compare yourself to others and feel you don’t measure up? Do you find exercise clothing too revealing? Do you despise the “jiggle and bounce” you see when you move?
It takes courage to challenge the cultural bias that says you’re unattractive or that you shouldn’t be physically active because of your weight. The best way to get over this fear is to find a safe environment in which to work out. Maybe that’s an exercise DVD in your living room or an exercise class with three of your friends.
Find some comfortable clothes. Exercise clothing designed specifically for larger people is less easily accessible, but you can find a guide to accessing retailers in the resource guide.
Fear that you won’t be able to keep up.
You’re scared that you won’t be able to walk around the block or ride a bike because of your weight.
Exercise builds endurance over time. Maybe one day you can only walk for ten minutes. The next day, however, you might be able to walk for twelve minutes. Within a few months, you’re walking for forty-five minutes a day and your stride is getting faster. You are not competing against anyone except, if you want, yourself.
Fear of injury.
You’re worried that you’ll hurt yourself exercising. To get over this fear, take it slow! Build some warm-up and cool-down into any structured workout. Make sure you have proper equipment, such as a good pair of walking shoes. If you feel any strain or pain, take a day off, or cut back a little. Some muscle soreness is to be expected; it’s a sign your body is getting stronger. Significant pain, however, is not to be expected. And know that you run a greater risk of physical problems by
moving than you do by moving.
If weight-bearing activities are uncomfortable or impossible for you, you just have to get more creative: Check out what you can do in a pool, on a stationary bike, or even in a bed or chair. There’s an exercise routine that can accommodate any specific body challenge. Wheelchair aerobics, in particular, can be way fun! And many larger people find that weight limitations melt away when you have water to support you.
Your body is your physical connection to the world. Becoming active can help you chip away at any bad feelings you may have had for your body, enabling you to appreciate its functionality, de-emphasize its looks, and revel in your strength and capabilities. So now it’s time to put this book down and go play!
When it comes to nutrition, you do have to employ a modest amount of direction to support good health and maintain a healthy setpoint. In the past, when the only options available were nutritious ones, people may have easily selected a nutritious diet when left to their own devices. But modern food processing has done a pretty good job of stripping nutrients from the tastes we’re programmed to love.
Nor will you get cravings for all the little stuff you need. When you are low on zinc, for instance, it is unlikely that you’ll crave zinc-rich foods. The biological drive for variety is probably nature’s way of ensuring you get the range of nutrients you need.
Chapter 4 also alerted us to the fact that many low-nutrient foods don’t trigger your weight-regulation system, making the rules of nutritious eating consistent with healthy weight regulation.
Since your food cravings won’t ensure nutritional adequacy,
conscious effort has to go into choosing foods that ensure you get the nutrients you need to support good health. So here is state-of-the-art nutrition advice—Linda Bacon’s eight magical words to eat by: Enjoy a variety of real food, primarily plants.
Easier than counting your servings of each food group, isn’t it?
But really, it’s that straightforward. This one-sentence rule will help naturally regulate your blood sugar and enable you to get all the nutrients you need. Be sure to combine it with chapter 9’s information about
to eat and chapter 8’s attitude adjustment advice. Prioritize meat from animals raised under more natural conditions; these will be much more nutritious—and will also more actively stoke your weight regulation system.
Let me flesh out a few more details:
Enjoy what you eat.
Really. Eat with gusto. It’s so much more satisfying.
Eat real food.
Real food comes from nature, not a box, can, or bag. Processed foods are typically stripped of vital nutrients and laden with excessive amounts of salt, sugar, fat, and synthetic chemicals. The less food is messed with and the quicker it gets from farm to table, the more nutritious it is, and as discussed in chapter 4, the more likely it is to kick your weight-regulation system into gear.
Be sure to maintain perspective when incorporating this advice rather than get stuck in black and white thinking: Not all of your choices need to be nutrient-dense whole foods! Think big picture and give yourself permission to eat a range of foods. Put your focus on eating whole foods and you’ll naturally find a little less room for the processed stuff.
Eat mostly plants
. Plants are densely packed with nutrients that nourish you. Meat and dairy provide valuable nutrients, but they work better in moderation—as a side dish rather than a habitual main course. The more plant-based foods you eat, the fewer animal-based foods you eat, which is overall much healthier for you. This simple fact is likely the reason populations that eat diets high in meat have higher rates of “diseases of affluence” like diabetes and heart disease than those that follow diets high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. In the United States during World War II, when meat and dairy products were strictly rationed and people ate more plant-based foods, the rate of heart disease temporarily plummeted.
Again, perspective is recommended. Wholesome eating doesn’t require that you become a vegetarian or vegan. Humans are omnivores, meaning that we have the ability to eat and obtain nutrients from a wide range of foods. We have evolved to have choice: We can survive with animal foods as part of our diets or as vegans, and a well-chosen diet in either of these categories can supply us with all of the nutrients we need. Moderation regarding animal foods, not avoidance, is key.
Foods of the same type, and with the same colors, textures, and taste, tend to concentrate the same nutrients. Eating a variety of foods ensures that you get a wider range of nutrients. Aim for foods with vibrant colors and strong aromas, as these often parallel nutrient density. You get more nutrients for your caloric buck, so to speak.
The menu’s not limited to unprocessed plant foods. Just use them to form the base of your diet and complement them with other foods you love.
My advice may seem simplistic, especially given daily nutrition hype in the news, unending talk about super-foods, and excruciating debates over high-carb vs. low-carb eating, good carbs and bad, low-fat and non-fat diets. Remember that fearmongering and confusion serve the weight-loss industry. The same is true for the food industry.