I have a confession to make…

I haven’t been to the gym or eaten very healthily for a while.  Some people may say, ‘So what?  You’re not the only one’.  And that is true.

But the reason why this is unusual for me is that my interest in health and fitness and my desire to live well are a large part of who I am.  I am always reading and studying about these topics and I am usually very consistent with my exercise and nutrition.  Some people at work even refer to me as a ‘gym junkie’, (which I find amusing as the most I ever go the gym is three times a week).

So when I fall into a bit of a funk and stop going to the gym and start to eat unhealthy foods, I feel a bit like a fraud.  Those around me expect me to be constantly motivated to eat well and to exercise often.  They are generally surprised when I fall off the rails.

So if you who struggle to consistently exercise and to eat healthily (and only do so out of guilt because you’ve been told that you should), please know that you are not alone.  Even supposed ‘gym junkies’ struggle with their healthy lifestyle at times and lose motivation.

Today was my first day back at the gym after a long break and I won’t lie – it was hard.  I was tired and had a headache. I felt lost. I didn’t see any familiar faces.  All I could think of was going home and drinking an unhealthy soda drink.

But I stuck with it.  I didn’t stay for a long time – just 30 minutes.  I didn’t do a super hard workout, but I made sure that I worked every major muscle group.

So why did I go when I really didn’t feel like it?  Why did I stay when my head was thumping?

Because deep down I knew that I would feel better for doing so – not just physically, but mentally as well.  And I knew that these benefits would seep into other parts of my life: I’d be a better parent; a better wife; a better employee; and a better friend.  Everything and everyone in my life (including me) would benefit when I started to look after myself again.

Sure, I knew that I should exercise and I knew why.  But until I actively experienced and was mindful of the benefits that exercise and eating healthily brought me, I was just doing it because I’d been told to – because I should.

A colleague of mine who dislikes exercise often asks what motivates me, and others like me, to exercise and to eat well?  Perhaps she is looking for that magical elixir that will compel her to be more active and feed her body with the best nutrients?

What inspires people to start looking after their body will be different for everyone, as too will be what motivates them to keep on looking after themselves when it’s no longer a novelty, or life’s challenges arise.

However, I am starting to believe that the key to someone finding their motivation to move more and eat better could be the same for everyone.  That is, whilst the what and the why will differ between people, the how to find this motivation could be the same for us all.

I think that if we allow ourselves a bit of time to be mindful of how activity and healthy food actually makes us feel and take the time to notice what benefits flow from these, then maybe it will be easier to get back on the track of a healthier life when we have strayed from the path (and we all stray from that path).

So what makes me return?

I know that when I regularly exercise: I am happier; I feel stronger; I get less neck pain; I am more positive; I am more confident; I fell more youthful; and less stressed.  Also, when I exercise more, I have fewer cravings for unhealthy foods.

I know that when I eat healthier: my mind is sharper; I am happier within myself; and I am more vibrant, energetic and less tired.

Eating healthier and moving my body makes me feel better – more alive.

So my recent return to a healthier life didn’t happen because “they” told me that I should exercise three times a week and because “they” told me that I should eat healthier, it happened because I am acutely aware of how those things make me feel and what those things actually do for me – and I really wanted to feel those things again.

Your benefits from healthier choices could be quite different to mine – that’s ok.  What’s important is that you take some time to find out what moving more and eating better do for you, how they make you feel and how these things impact on your life.

Introducing healthier choices into your life, and allowing yourself time to listen to your body tell you how it feels as a result of these choices, is such an important gift that you can give yourself because you can draw on your memory of these feelings whenever you need to get back on the healthier life track.  Your memories of these feelings will provide much stronger motivation to look after yourself than anything an expert may tell you.

What draws you back to healthier life choices?

Have a happy day, my friends.

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