I used to be a gym rat. I was definitely a class guru – spin, boot camp, body pump, yoga, you name it. About eight or so years ago, working out became a bit of an addiction for me. I found myself thinking that even an hour class wasn’t enough gym time so I needed to stay for another one. I can’t believe I often did two hours of hard core classes after a long, stressful day at work. I know exercise is stress relief in many ways, but I was past the point of using it in a healthy way. When guilt started to creep in if I didn’t or couldn’t make it to the gym, I realized something was off. My mentor in the life group I was part of asked me, “What will happen if you miss a workout?” We got to the bottom of it and so much was wrapped up in counting calories and the fear of gaining weight if I didn’t hit the gym as scheduled. It became clear I was not listening to what my body was trying to say (or that I didn’t really know how to). Over time, I was able to bridge the mind/body gap or at least start the connecting process. Instead of worrying about tracking calories, I started checking in with my body after a meal. When I over ate, I would realize how gross I felt and mentally make a note so I didn’t do the same thing the next time I indulged.
As I mentioned, I don’t often have much time for sitting and eating slowly these days. But what I can do is check in with myself to gauge how my body handles a certain food or food group. Does this food make me feel energized or does it slow me down? Even the next day is pretty telling. Do I feel bloated or like my body is efficiently processing what I’m eating? This practice helps me choose foods that fill me with energy. I feel best if I eat mostly fruits, veggies, fish, nuts, chicken and occasionally, beef and pork. For you, it may be a vegan or vegetarian diet and for some, it may be as simple as eliminating processed foods. We’re all different and what works for one person doesn’t always work for another.
Connecting with my body also helps me determine what exercise works best for me on a given day. The important thing for me is not overdoing it. If I had a planned workout day but my knee feels some pain, I’ll listen to that and maybe substitute a walk instead. If I wake up feeling like I need to focus more on mental self care rather than my normal workout, I’ll do something to nourish myself in that way. It’s about realizing what you need and responding.
Building a bridge isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s a series of steps, a practice and a journey. It takes time but the hope of change and resulting freedom is well worth it.