Getting Rid of The ‘Exercise to Lose Weight’ Head


Friendswalk_1 I went for a nice leisurely walk Sunday after having surgery just a few days ago, because I was told that it’s critical to get on your feet as soon as you can. (Getting things ‘operational’, if you know what I mean).  But recovery time also means staying out of the gym for a couple weeks, so I need to consider what kind of movement will work for me in the meantime.

Years ago, the idea of little or no exercise for a prolonged period of time might have really depressed me, especially if I was going through one of my ‘exercising phases’.  That sense of dread would come because I never really looked at exercise as a way of life. It was always a means to an end – just like a diet. The more religiously and rigorously I did it, the faster I’d get to where I wanted to be – thinner. Any time missed could be disastrous, sending me reeling backwards.

I can honestly say that today I live without the ‘exercise to lose weight’ head.  And it’s liberating. There was a recent study which suggests that for most women, working out for any reason other than to lose weight, will keep us moving for the long haul.  The study was lead by Michelle Segar, a University of Michigan psychology researcher who collaborated with Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, former U of M psychology professor, and Donna Spruijt-Metz of the Institute of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Los Angeles. 

From the study:

Women exercising with a body-shape motivation reported walking 2 ½ times less than women with non-body shape motives, (16 percent vs. 55 percent).

Women with body-shape motivation reported taking classes and going to gyms/fitness centers three times as often as women with non-body shape motives (52 percent vs. 12 percent), showing that women with this goal used exercise techniques they might not enjoy more frequently because they thought it would help them lose weight the fastest.

Women who exercised for body-shaping reasons reported participating in physical activities that are higher intensity. They also selected activities that fit into the more traditional definition of exercise—more formal and structured activities—with the idea that they had to go some place for it to count as exercise.

As we’ve often written here, finding the intrinsic joy in exercise is the key to getting a healthier body, mind and improving your outlook on just about anything. It takes a little practice, but once you get there you feel such joy and accomplishment, nothing feels quite so good.

Source: Joe Serwach – University of Michigan News Service

2 responses to “Getting Rid of The ‘Exercise to Lose Weight’ Head”

  1. JJ says:

    I think I’ve finally overcome the “exercise to lose weight head”. I am instead motivated by an event that I need to train for or die taking part in! However, I cannot get rid of my “eat to lose weight head”. There seems to be no internal motivation to make good food choices. While I understand that I will progress further in my training if I eat healthier, I seem to be perfectly content with the progress that I make now, eating the way I do. I really want to kick these bad food habits. Any advice?

  2. Cindy says:

    Hey JJ. I think in regard to both eating and exercising, there’s a balance that one tries to achieve – especially when our behavior leans toward an ‘all or nothing’ mentality. If you can, try not to think of less healthy food choices as ‘bad’. You should feel ok about incorporating some of these foods into your diet, just in a more moderated way (unless you’re training for an elite athletic event – and that’s only temporary). Obviously, you’re eating these foods now because you enjoy them and don’t want to give them up – entirely. Give yourself permission to have and enjoy the foods you love on occasion. It is liberating! I suspect that your current eating plan may not be a result of bad habits, but more about making better choices that could be easily made so you don’t feel deprived or punished as a result of your desire to eat healthier. Hope that made sense.

    Please stop by again and let us know how you’re doing. Also, if you go to the following link, there are several articles on this very subject you might find interesting.

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