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Limiting Ideas, Intuitive Eating, and the Gym

First of all, check out this funny gym picture:

Source

I love how everyone is smiling. I don’t know about you, but my gym looks a whole lot different 🙂

Several months ago, I posted a piece I wrote in college about why I hate the gym. I meant every word. Yesterday though, Sam and I decided to get a gym membership at our local fitness center, which is actually a really nice facility with really reasonable prices.

I usually can’t stand exercise machines because I feel like a hamster on a wheel. I don’t like “artificial” feeling exercise. I’d much rather walk or run outside, do yoga, go for a bike ride, or go hiking.

It’s kinda hard to keep that up in the winter though.

I resisted the idea for awhile. The main reason was that it seemed silly to pay to exercise when I have a few perfectly good workout dvds at home, a yoga mat, and walking shoes. The other reason is that the gym didn’t fit with my idea of living as an intuitive eater/exerciser. It liked it to counting calories and measuring portions rather than listening to what my body needs.

Over the past few months though, I’ve realized that there’s no one way to live intuitively. For some people, this looks like a daily walk and three square meals a day. For others, it’s a gym membership and nibbling all day without set meals. Others may eliminate certain foods from their diet for health reasons. Some might use calories or measuring as a way to gain consciousness of their eating before they’re comfortable to fly on their own. For me, intuitive living is different at different times of year. During the summer, it’s little meals and snacks all day long and lots of walking with a little running and yoga thrown in. During the winter though, I’ve realized that I need something different. I’ve had to change my ideas about my lifestyle, which I was surprised to find were a little rigid despite flexibility being the whole point of intuitive eating.

Here are a few reasons why I no longer hate the gym and why I feel it’s necessary right now:

  • My body has been asking for more intense exercise than I’ve been giving it lately, and though I can bundle up and walk in the cold or do one of the exercise DVD’s that I have memorized, but it gets old. The gym has lots of different options like classes, the pool, plenty of machines, a track, free weights, and sports if for some reason I decided to experiment with that.
  • My knees have been hurting like they always do when I start sitting at a desk for most of the day. I really don’t have a low to no impact cardio option at home, but at the gym I have the pool, a stationary bike, or an elliptical. Any of those are a great way to build strength without taxing my knees further.
  • Sam and I barely see each other with both of us working weird hours and him going to school. He’s been wanting to exercise, so this might be a way to spend some time together in a healthier way than going to Buffalo Wild Wings at 9pm.
  • I’ve been wanting to build a little muscle because I have very little upper body strength (I can’t even do one full-on push up. Not even close.) and I’ve noticed that my abs are feeling a little weak as well. I could certainly do this with yoga or just with old school body weight exercises at home, but I hate the body weight exercises, I don’t really push myself with yoga at home, and I’d rather  do gentler yoga at home. The gym does have a Saturday yoga class I could go to, but weights offer a lot more variety and they’re faster. I even had fun even though years ago I likened the weight room to a torture chamber.
  • This might be a better way to blow off stress after work than munching. I don’t tend to be hungry in the evenings, but I often snack when I get home just because I feel like I should because it’s dinner time or something, and also because I usually feel spun out. Going to the gym after work a few days a week might help me regulate work stress and eating a little better as well as giving me an energy boost, because I tend to come home and crash until bedtime. Sometimes I paint in the evenings, but I’m a morning person and I do most of my artmaking in the morning before I leave. Going to the gym won’t give me more time for my art, but my body needs it. I could use a little more energy to push through these last few weeks of winter.

Flexibility isn’t about rebellion or avoiding things that you think don’t fit in your flexible lifestyle. It’s about adjusting your ideas according to what your body and spirit actually need. Rethink some of your limiting ideas such as “intuitive eaters don’t go to the gym” or “artists don’t worry about what they eat.” Yes, these are kind of silly ideas, but our subconscious can hold a death grip on silly things like these. Pay attention to your limiting thoughts. We all have them. Examine them. Question them. Are they serving you, or do you need something different right now? Do you need rest, or would a short trip to the gym make you feel amazing?

There are no rules, only consciousness, caring, and a little humility.

Are you hanging on to any limiting ideas?

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And we do not Move an Inch: Why I Hate the Gym

While rummaging through some old files recently, I unearthed this piece I wrote during my sophomore year of college, before I’d discovered intuitive eating, joyful movement, or the concept of body love. I already realized how ridiculous the idea of gyms and losing weight to be happy is, but I wasn’t quite on board with the alternative yet. I hope you enjoy it 🙂

(Source)

The gym can be such a sad place.

I think of the young blonde girl on the elliptical trainer next to me. She can’t be more than sixteen. The paperback mystery and bottled grapefruit juice in front of her, both unopened; 185 strides per minute. I consider the tiny Asian woman on the treadmill to my left; with her cheap Hello Kitty CD player. What in the world is she listening to? The skinny, ruddy-faced teenager grunting on the bench press; the old woman in the SpongeBob tee shirt; the heavy, miserable looking man on the stationary bike. Why are we all here? What are we after? We gather here in this long, unattractive room to walk, climb, pedal, row, to perform movements that are designed to mobilize us; to get us somewhere, but we remain stationary. We exert Herculean efforts, but we do not move an inch.

Like the condemned before a firing squad, the machines are lined up facing the large windows that overlook the pool: the ultimate test, the gauntlet. We judge them; we scrutinize them in cruel, merciless ways that most of us would never admit ourselves to being capable of. We think to ourselves, “This is why I am here.”  To look like the tan, slender woman in the black string bikini or to avoid looking like the heavy, balding man with the bad skin and the hairy back. We are here to rid ourselves of our spare flesh, to banish certain parts of our bodies, as if every problem we have ever faced is stored there; as if losing our saddlebags will rid us of our insecurities. Shedding our love handles will dissolve our grief and fear of failure. We will be different, happier people when those last fifteen pounds have disappeared. We will be beautiful and therefore powerful.

There is also the prospect of what is to be gained by losing. The harder your stomach, the more lovable you will be. The firmer your thighs, the more popular you will be. You will no longer feel helpless. Every harsh word, every classmate that ever called you “fatty” or “slowpoke” will not matter anymore. Every cruel word will be erased from your memory, and those that mocked you will be silenced. Everything depends on the state of the body.

So here we gather in this long, unattractive room to walk, climb, pedal, row, and remain completely stationary. Long sessions on metal machines, devices that may appear to be terrifying devices of torture to someone who had never seen them before, to someone who had never experienced thoughts like these.

To be accepted. To become someone you feel comfortable with. To redo, to reshape an identity, to understand yourself, to become someone worth understanding. Is this what is important?