By Jennifer Taylor Wagner
We live in a world that has a lot to say about our bodies. There’s no shortage of advice about what foods to eat or avoid, which workout regimen will burn the most calories, or what the ideal size or weight might be. The whirlwind of messages comes at us from every angle, and before we know it, we’ve traded an authentic journey toward health and wellness for a surface-level pursuit of living in a smaller body.
Today I’d like to offer you a question to ponder:
What would life look like if your approach to health and wellness was transformed into a steady walk toward freedom in your relationships with food, exercise, and your body?
No more jumping on the next exciting weight-loss plan. No more reducing every bite of food to a scientific equation in order to lower the number on the scale. No more using exercise as punishment for eating unhealthy foods.
It seems like a tall ask for those of us who have been riding the dieting rollercoaster for a very long time, but I’d imagine this freedom is something we’d be willing to work for—if it meant finally deboarding the dieting train once and for all.
Most of us have a desire to nourish and care for our bodies, but we’re unsure how to do so in a way that isn’t motivated by deliberately fixing or shrinking our bodies. Living a healthy life sounds amazing, but it gets confusing when that desire is coupled with the choice to move away from the dieting mentality we’ve been accustomed to for so long.
YOUR MINDSET MATTERS
Throughout my own journey of losing more than 150 pounds, I can honestly say that I’ve taken the dieting world by storm. I’ve done every diet imaginable, treated my body like a never-ending project, and focused solely on shrinking my body in hopes of being accepted by the world around me. My journey has been one of deep soul-searching and relentlessly seeking to understand the reasoning behind my feelings that my body is never good enough no matter how much I change its composition.
What I’ve learned is that it all comes down to mindset. And I don’t mean adopting a stronger willpower, finally making the decision to eat differently, or flexing our determination muscles in order to start a diet and stick to it. In fact, approaching wellness with that mindset might actually push us further away from the freedom we crave in our health journeys.
Haven’t we all experienced this common cycle that leaves us feeling defeated over and over again? We get fed up with our current weight, excitedly start a new diet, work heartily toward the goal, drop a little weight, get tired of being so strict, revert back to previous habits, gain back the weight, feel defeated, and start the cycle all over again.
A NEW APPROACH
I’d love to invite you to imagine what your life would look like if you began shifting your entire approach to food, exercise, and the way you see your body. What if every bite of food you ate wasn’t motivated by a desire to see the number on the scale decrease? What if instead of using exercise as punishment for what you ate yesterday, you simply moved your body in ways you enjoy? Our wellness extends far beyond what we eat or how we work out. It encompasses the why behind those things.
I could write a five-day meal plan and give you twenty-five tips for weight loss, but if you don’t get to the heart of the matter, you’ll be chasing a smaller body and driving yourself crazy. You’ll never experience the incredible freedom that comes with shifting your approach toward caring for your body.
Instead of an exhaustive list of dos and don’ts, let’s take a look at the three main aspects of our wellness journey and discover how our thought processes might change as we learn to simply move, fuel, and love our good bodies.
MOVEMENT, NOT PUNISHMENT
Instead of looking at exercise as a rigid regimen you have to stick to in order to move the scale in a certain direction, let’s start to lean into movement. Whether you love a nice long walk in your neighborhood or you’re more of a high-intensity boot camper, what is the motivation behind your fitness choices? Before you slip into that spin class, do you ask yourself how many calories you need to burn in order to make up for what you ate yesterday, or do you get excited about all the endorphins you’ll experience for the remainder of the day?
Moving our bodies becomes enjoyable when we remove rigidity and become more in tune with what actually feels good physically, emotionally, and mentally. This means that every day might look a little different as we learn to respond to our need for rest, an extra hearty workout, or even a softer approach altogether.
Rather than trying to quantify how long you need to torture yourself to make up for food choices, ask yourself, “How can I move my body today?”
Remember, movement isn’t punishment. If you absolutely hate it, you’re doing it wrong! Give yourself permission to do what you love, no strings attached.
Figuring out what to eat gets tricky when the world around us is constantly chiming in. That, coupled with the fact that we have to eat several times a day, every day of our lives, makes things even more complex.
The fact of the matter is that we live in these amazing bodies that need food. All kinds of food from every food group, without restrictions and rules. While there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to breaking away from the dieting mentality, one of the first steps toward food freedom is getting curious about the physical needs of our bodies.
Our bodies are constantly sending us signals—whether it’s hunger, fullness, thirst, fatigue, or satisfaction. This is an exciting truth, but the challenge is that many of us have ignored these signals for so long that we no longer even notice, let alone respond, to them.
What would happen if we started tuning into our bodies’ cues and got curious about how it feels when our bodies are telling us something?
To put this into action, make a decision to eat something at the very first sign of biological hunger today. Choose to eat something that sounds really good to you in that moment. As you’re enjoying your food, take note of the taste, smell, texture, and temperature. Be present and pause about halfway through to evaluate your fullness. If you’re still hungry, keep eating. If not, finish and move on with your day until the next time you’re hungry.
The goal in fueling our bodies is to pull down the walls of restriction and learn to eat intuitively so we can nourish our bodies with foods we love while feeling our absolute best.
LOVE YOUR GOOD BODY
Probably one of the most challenging things to do in the middle of a health-and-wellness journey is to actually love our bodies. Can I give you a helpful nugget, friend? The good news is that we can journey toward our healthiest selves by letting love lead the way instead of body-loathe.
One of the most powerful things we can do is start appreciating our bodies, right now, today. So often we think that when we lose weight, or fit into a certain size, or reach a certain number on the scale, we’ll love our bodies then. But the truth is that our right-now bodies are good. Amazing, even. They woke up this morning. We have breath in our lungs. A heart pumping blood that keeps us alive.
If we can notice every time a negative thought comes into our minds, then we can catch it and replace it with something more compassionate. This will rewrite the negative narrative that replays in our hearts and minds, telling us our bodies will never be good enough.
Seeing our bodies as good, and maybe even learning to love them right now, today, will make all the difference in how we choose to move and nourish our bodies in our everyday lives.
THE HEALTHIEST ME YET
Implementing these three mindset shifts into our wellness journeys will change absolutely everything as we walk toward the healthiest version of ourselves yet.
Jennifer Taylor Wagner is a certified fitness instructor and successful blogger. She is passionate about challenging the way we think about health, wellness, and regularly writes on the topics of healthy living and body positivity. Whether it’s hosting online webinars, speaking in churches, or chatting at MOPS meetings, she is committed to helping others find hope in their journey. Jennifer lives in Virginia with her husband, Phil and their two kids. Visit her online at jennifertaylorwagner.com.
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