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Monday, 24 January 2022 11:11

Aerobics

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In last week’s blog we talked about changing our resistance training to acceptance training. We’re going to resist the process of making changes to our bodies less and accept ourselves exactly as we are so we can transform our habits and ideas. This week let’s explore aerobics. These days, it’s more often called cardio exercise because it’s meant to strengthen our cardiovascular system. But aerobic is the word that I want to work with.

The word ‘aerobic’ means ‘with oxygen.’ That just sounds yummy to me! I’ve experienced allergic asthma since I was about 25 years old. I know how it feels when I’m not getting enough oxygen to renew my cells and energize my muscles. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of exercising doesn’t always sound yummy to me, but the idea of getting enough oxygen, and maybe a little more than enough, sounds wonderful!

You don’t have to be asthmatic to know the difference between getting enough oxygen and being a little bit deprived of it. Any time we think about something unpleasant, and we tense up, we are cutting off our air supply. Our shoulders and our stomach tighten up and our breathing goes shallow. Our whole body reacts negatively to that thought and part of the unpleasantness we feel physically is due to the reduction in our flow of oxygen.

So, if we want to make a change to our body, to lose or gain weight, and our immediate thought about making that change is negative, we start off with a disadvantage. We start off with less air than we need to fully function. We bring less energy to the task because we are starving ourselves of the very breath of life.

When we think about something that’s in alignment with our core values, with our heart’s desire, and that brings us joy, it feels good! We can feel it in our whole body, partly because we relax and allow our breath to energize our bloodstream and our muscles. That thought that feels good and it grounds us in the present moment. The increase in oxygen helps us make a conscious choice to do whatever’s necessary to keep that oxygen flowing!

This may not sound like aerobics in the way you usually think about it. But this is exactly the type of aerobic exercise we want to practice in order to choose the food plan and choose the movement/exercise plan that suits us best. We’ll be more successful for a longer time if we tailor any food or exercise plan to our lifestyle and to our specific needs and goals. But we aren’t likely to even see how to do that if we are tensed up and closed off with an attitude and belief that it’s going to be hard to do and none of it will feel good!

If we take a moment to breathe and relax, we can give ourselves room to see more options for a food and exercise plan than we ever have seen in the past. We can find what worked for us in the past and bring those pieces of the plan into the present. We can find the pieces that didn’t work and analyze why they didn’t work. Then, without the anger, guilt, or resentment to close us off, we can figure out how to modify the pieces that didn’t work or maybe even just drop them this time around.

Let’s look at real world example of the difference between making a conscious choice versus acting out an unconscious behavior. To protect the identity of my client, I’m going to use ‘they’ and ‘them’ as pronouns. The following story is just as they told it to me.

Something good had just happened and they wanted a treat to celebrate. They were in the grocery store looking through the bakery section and happened to see eclairs. That eclair was so pretty just sitting there. The eclairs only came in a package of 2 and they knew they didn’t want two, but nothing else was as appealing. They thought, “You don’t have to have both tonight, but if you do, it’s your choice to do so. You’re a grown person.”

Once they got home and took the first bite, they couldn’t stop. In their words, “It took over. I just kept going. I ate the first one so fast I wasn’t conscious of eating it. Halfway through the second one, I had the thought I could stop, but I didn’t. I ate one and a half without taking a breath. As I finished the second one, I could feel the sugar rush, my body shifted and I thought, ‘that was a big mistake!’”

My client described the time they were actually eating the éclair as a ‘check out moment.’ Did you notice that they described it as eating ‘without taking a breath’? The regret came in once they were breathing again, once they were conscious of what had just happened.

When we check out, we have millions of habits to rely on. We have go-to behaviors that we don’t have to think about. Some of those behaviors are useful and they keep us safe. Other behaviors, like the one my client described, are not so useful and not desired. Making a change in our habits means we have to stay conscious. We have to keep breathing so we can make a choice for ourselves, that gets us closer to our goals, and that brings us joy.

The choices we make when we are fully oxygenated are the ones that we have no regrets about. When we make a conscious choice we accept the outcome, good or bad. We recognize that we’re going to learn something from this choice and while we expect to like what we learn, we may not. But by making the choice consciously, we don’t have to say ‘that was a big mistake’ because we knew the risk going in and were willing to take the chance.

My client made a conscious choice to buy the 2 eclairs. They recognized they might eat them both at once. But once the actual eating started, they stopped breathing, stopped thinking, and an old habit took over. Since that episode and our discussion around it, this client has reported that they had a similar situation and before taking the first bite they stopped, took a deep breath, and made a conscious choice. In this second situation they were bored and ready to eat something they had planned for later in the day. By taking the breath, asking if they were actually hungry or not, they were able to recognize it was boredom that was pushing them to an old habit of using food to fill the gap. In this second situation, they left the food alone until later in the day.

This it the kind of aerobics that will help us stick with a plan. This is the kind of aerobics that will keep us motivated. When we breathe, choose consciously, and stay aware of our choices and actions, we stay out of regret, out of guilt, and out those old habits that are all too easy to slip into.

How will you remember to breathe before taking action? What will you do to interrupt an old habit and transform it into a conscious choice? How willing are you to practice the kind of aerobics that help you drop guilt, shame, and regret forever? Drop a note in the comments. Let’s start the conversation!

Read 335 times Last modified on Thursday, 20 January 2022 09:03
Betty Brink

Betty Brink is an expert on the mental and emotional aspects of dieting and body image. She is the author of "The Main Meal: The New Perspective on Weight Loss." In seminars, speeches, and consultations, she demonstrates practical methods to quiet the diet chatter, and to empower yourself to make conscious choices in diet, in life, and in relationships.

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