Exercising to lose weight – a personal story
Exercising to lose weight – a personal story
I have struggled with my weight and body image most of my life. I used excessive exercise to keep my weight down over the years, starting with athletics when I was seven or eight years old.
Sprinting and high jump were my specialties. I played sport at school – netball, hockey, tennis, cricket, swimming, badminton – and at university I added squash. I also swam and bodysurfed a lot in the summers – and later, when I was working I added running, yoga, cycling and fitness training in the gym.
I left my job in law when I was 40 and studied sports science and yoga, after which exercise became my main job, as well as my passion. I worked as a fitness instructor in a gym for four years and also taught yoga. After that, I taught 10-11 yoga classes and 3 aqua aerobic classes a week and gave some one-on-one personal training sessions.
I was also:
- cycling 2-4 times a week for 1-3 hours each session
- walking most days
- going to the gym, including aerobic classes every day at some stage
- swimming (long distance) and boogie boarding (summer)
- skiing (winter)
In effect, I was exercising about 4 hours a day (more when I was on holiday) – this was the peak of my devotion to exercise.
So naturally I could eat whatever I wanted to! Around this time was the only time I can remember liking my body: looking back now, yes, I was slim, but I was also very muscly and masculine looking.
Then, in 2010, I hit menopause and found that I could not keep up that punishing exercise regime – it was damaging my body. I was starting to get sore knees and hips and sprained ankles, and sometimes I felt very tired, often to the point of exhaustion. I often had a sore neck and back from cycling too, and sometimes sore shoulders from long swims.
Soon after that, in 2011, I heard a presentation by philosopher Serge Benhayon that asked us to consider if moderate exercise was gentler for the body. This rang a bell for me as when I was cycling I had noticed how much pressure it had put on my reproductive area and I had suffered blocked fallopian tubes and was unable to have children. Also, it made sense to me to cut down my exercise as I knew my body could not handle it much longer.
So, from 2011 I gradually cut down my classes and stopped my excessive exercise regime, and eventually even gave up cycling. I changed to exercising moderately each day, which might include walking, light weights, stretching, aqua aerobics or swimming.
But . . . I kept eating the same quantities I ate when I was exercising to excess! So . . . the weight started to pile on . . . I realised that exercise alone – and especially moderate exercise – was not enough to keep my weight down; that my diet was also really important. I started to experiment with my diet and ate mainly raw foods. Later I reintroduced meat because I found a vegetarian diet did not suit my body.
I had never been a big alcohol drinker, but I decided to stop drinking alcohol completely, and later cut out fruit juices and flavoured soda water. Gradually (over 2-3 years) I also cut out gluten and dairy from my diet, and I lost most of the weight I put on after menopause. This was not easy and my particular nemesis was chocolate! I kept eating dairy-free chocolate for a long time.
It wasn’t until I started to appreciate that I was, in fact, one amazing woman(!) that I noticed I did not want chocolate anymore.
This lasted for more than two years. However recently, due to the deaths of my mother and mother-in-law, ongoing illnesses of close family members and a new job mediating family disputes, I went back to reaching for chocolate at times when I was:
- Wanting my familiar ‘survival kit’
- Wanting to numb what I was feeling
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Really tired (exhausted)
- Reaching for a reward after a harrowing (or even a successful) day
- Not wanting to feel the conflict that was around me in my job
In these situations I have noticed that willpower does not work. The only thing that does work is connecting back to my body and feeling why it is I am wanting chocolate or something sweet.
I have also observed that confirming myself for the things I am doing well, rather than giving myself a hard time for the things I am not doing so well (such as eating chocolate), makes a big difference to how I feel and therefore what I eat. By building this I am developing a more loving, kind and understanding relationship with myself. This impacts on my choices on how and what I eat.
Anne aged 62 in 2018
I am gradually connecting more to my body now and starting to feel better about myself, with the support of Esoteric Healing Practitioners and Universal Medicine students, all of whom have inspired me to love my body no matter what my weight. Although this is still very much a work in progress, I no longer feel the need to exercise to extreme and I am much more honouring of my body when I do exercise. There is no longer the drive to exercise to lose weight that I had for much of my life.
Now I understand that weight loss is not about excessive exercise, or willpower or special diets – it is first and foremost about connection to my body.
This started by letting go of my drive to exercise, and finding out that it is about ensuring all my behaviours – including what I eat and how I exercise, as well as how I communicate and relate to myself and others – are honouring my body rather than abusing it.
The way we use our bodies is not true
There is a truer way to use our body which feels beautiful.