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Exercise shouldn't come at the expense of your mental health.

Have you ever caught a peek of yourself in the mirror during a workout and absolutely hated your body? Yup, well me too. Let's talk intrusive thoughts and how to make working out a happy and healthy space for you and your body.

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I’ve always had a rocky relationship with exercise. It was never fun for me. I blame the ballet trauma. But the truth is, it’s incredibly normal in this society to try and hate yourself into a skinner body through exercise. The “bikini body”, “lose 10kg’s quick”, “celebrity carrying extra weight”, culture will always sit with us. But what a great day to start healing.

First let’s define those intrusive thoughts, for me they looked like seeing my body in the mirror, hating it, saying in my head, I look ugly, and then working so hard I couldn’t walk the next day. Intense. But they also looked like swirling phrases in my head, “you’re not good enough”, “you’re not capable”, “you’ll never be strong enough”. And that’s just as hard because they swirl and swirl until you physically and mentally fatigued or you give up.

Intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts that can pop into our heads without warning, at any time. They're often repetitive – with the same kind of thought cropping up again and again – and they can be disturbing or even distressing..” - iesohealth

There are two solutions to this we can look at. The first one in tackling the thoughts. The next would be changing the environment. Let’s look at tackling the thoughts:

Tackling the thoughts:

My suggestion for this one would be to slow down your exercise regiment while you try and mend this relationship. It’s a slow and loving process. And sometimes that’s easier within a 10 minute workout rather than a 30 minute workout at first. So step one would be noticing the thought. Acknowledging that that thought doesn’t serve you. And then putting something in its place that does. For instance, “I’m not capable.” Great. That doesn’t serve me, in the most basic way it makes me feel bad. I’ll replace it with, “I am capable.”(it doesn’t necessarily have to be the opposite. You can find something that resonates with you) Sometimes I find it helpful to think of times I’ve been capable in my life. And remind myself of those in that moment. To prove to myself that I am in-fact capable. It sounds super simple. And it really is that simple, your brain is an incredible thing and if you can learn to change those neurological pathways. You can slowly mend that relationship one intrusive thought at a time. But it’s going to take just that. Time. Be gracious with yourself. Give yourself time. That’s the key.

Changing the environment:

Let’s talk about changing the environment. For me this one worked the best. I often found myself on apps or “fitness challenges” that didn’t meet me where I was. And I never ever finished them because of that. The only goal was weight loss and that become very destructive to my mental health. For me to find peace in exercise, it took deleting every app/challenge that didn’t make me feel good. Then I went back to basics. “What brings me joy,” dance does. So I was able to find things with more of a dance focus that brought me so much joy I wasn’t even able to think about anything else. For you it might be walking on the beach. Or playing a sport. Or swimming. Possibly yoga. I was then able to build on that and find joy in other forms of exercise. Slowly. Don’t try and rush this process. You need to work at your own pace. And if you feel thoughts creep up. Use the changing your thoughts method as well. Find what works for you.

Let's Get Inspired

Here’s the key though. Get rid of the idea that you need to exercise to lose weight. Lean into radicle acceptance of your body as it is. And then lean into exercise as a form of expression

or movement that is a loving act of health for your body. There is no way to hate yourself skinny. You will just end up hating yourself. Mending the relationship with exercise is essential to a more fulfilled and loving relationship with your body. I hope this helped. And remember. Baby steps to healing. Nobody is rushing you on this journey to discovering a love for healthy movement.


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