Does your motivation for diet and exercise peak when you're feeling negatively about yourself? Do you think about what you dislike in yourself when you work out, rather than the strength you want to cultivate? While it's a common approach, it's not the healthiest one. A better way is to think of diet and exercise as ways you can practice self-love and self-care. Here are practical strategies for doing just that.
Seek Exercise You Connect With
Exercise is important for everyone, but not everyone needs to exercise the same way. For example, some people crave the serenity found after a few miles of vigorous running while others find running painful and dull.
Rather than force yourself into an activity that drains you, seek exercise that makes you feel energized and uplifted. When you enjoy an activity, you're more likely to continue doing it. Ultimately, it's consistent exercise — not one activity or another — that's most important.
While it's good to let your preferences guide your exercise choices, you should aim to include a variety of physical activity in your fitness regimen. A healthy body needs cardiovascular exercise, strength-training exercise, and balance and flexibility training to stay strong and limber. You can learn more about designing a balanced exercise program at the Cleveland Clinic. Don't forget to stretch after each exercise session and schedule weekly rest days to reduce your chance of injury.
There's no such thing as a perfect diet. Rather than obsessing over “good foods” and “bad foods” or counting every last calorie, learn how to tune into how your diet makes you feel.
The first step is learning to interpret hunger cues. Your body signals when it's time to eat, but many of us have ignored those signals for so long that we can no longer distinguish thirst, emotion and boredom from true hunger. We may also ignore signals that our body is satisfied and continue eating to the point of discomfort. Before you reach for food, spend a moment listening to your body and hearing what it's really telling you.
When you do eat, notice how you feel afterward. Do you feel satisfied and energized or heavy and sluggish? Paying attention to these signals helps you choose healthy foods that make you feel your best.
If you've had poor eating habits for a long time, you may find it difficult to adhere to mindful eating practices. In that case, consider using a fresh food delivery service to guide your eating choices. A fresh food delivery service takes the stress out of choosing healthy foods and simplifies portion control so it's easier to lose weight if that's your goal. A delivery service will also expose you to new foods and cooking methods so you can discover ingredients that you might have been too intimidated to try at the grocery store. It can be just the push you need to break out of unhealthy eating habits and become a more mindful eater.
Connect with the Earth
Our modern lifestyles keep us indoors more often than not, but the value of time in nature can't be overstated. As Mother Earth Living explains, simply spending time in natural settings has been shown to reduce stress, improve cognitive performance, increase energy, help you sleep, and strengthen your immune system. Certain microbes found in the soil even boost your body's production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that's essential for balancing moods and mental health. In short, connection with nature is key to a healthier body and mind.
Find ways to get outdoors as much as you can. Exercise outside, start a garden, or take your meditation routine outdoors to reap the healing benefits of natural light. Protect your skin when the sun is high and hot, but allow 10-15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure to absorb vitamin D.
There are so many reasons to live an active, healthy lifestyle. While many people wish to change how they look, it's in changing how you feel that the true benefits are found. By grounding your diet and exercise choices in self-care, you achieve your wellness goals and lift yourself up in the process.
Image via Puran Kaur