Exercise can be very supportive to weight loss…however it needs to be the right type of exercise for you, otherwise it can create the complete opposite effect to what you are trying to achieve.
If you have been pushing yourself to the limits with your exercise program and it doesn’t seem to be helping with your weight loss, there could be a very good reason for this and it may be a good time to readjust your exercise routine to be more supportive to your weight loss goals.
When you don’t get pleasure from your exercise and you are physically putting your body under stress, then your body may be in a stress response, also known as ‘fight or flight’.
When your body is in a stress response the brain triggers the body to increased cortisol and insulin, decreased growth hormone and thyroid hormone, all of which signal the body to store weight, store fat, and not build muscle.
If you are dedicating yourself to an exercise program, you want to get the most benefit from this, so it is very important that you are enjoying what you are doing.
While watching the calorie counter at the gym when you are pushing to the extreme with your exercise, you will certainly appear to be losing calories. However, this may not equate to weight loss as the benefits of that session will be impacted enormously by your body’s reaction to stress if the exercise is not pleasurable.
Any time you push your body too hard your brain will trigger the stress response due to this perceived self-attack. This will result in changes in your body which include the shut down of your digestion and muscle building. None of these changes will be supportive to your weight loss efforts.
If your exercise routine has triggered a stress response, this then can impact on your weight loss efforts for the rest of your day.
If you are not able to take a few deep breaths through your day, reduce your stress levels and slow down to enjoy your meals, you will continue to be in a low-level physiologic stress response. This may also be further affected by stress from work, friction with colleagues, more of life’s demands and your relationship with food.
If you are unable to move from the stress response of ‘fight or flight’ into ‘rest and digest‘ response (relaxation response) the brain will continue to signal the body to store weight, store fat and not build muscle. This will significantly affect your ability to digest any food you eat and also limits your nutrient absorption.
Unfortunately this can lead to binge eating and overeating regardless of how much you have been eating.
When you are exercising, feel into your body to see how it is coping with the demands of your exercise routine and try to ignore those thoughts that tell you to push harder, no pain – no gain. We have been so conditioned to think that we cannot lose weight unless we eat less and exercise more (and feel the pain from our efforts), it is completely understandable why we have taken this approach.
Unfortunately, when you listen to these thoughts you can over-ride what your body is communicating and then dismiss the signals that your body is sending. The aches, pains, cramps and the little messages continually received from your body.
Ignoring these signs (annoying niggles), may result in louder communication from your body in the form of illness or disease. This is our body’s way of slowing us down, to get us to change direction and perhaps look at the way we are currently living.
So, how can you exercise to support weight loss?
Your exercise program needs to be something that you enjoy as the body is not designed to be pushed to the limit physically or emotionally. If you enjoy your workout and come away feeling refreshed and full of energy, then your exercise will have a much better chance of supporting your weight loss journey.
However, if you are punishing yourself at the gym to lose weight and do not enjoy your workout, and you don’t seem to be getting the results that you want, try a gentler approach as an experiment and feel into the difference.
You may be pleasantly surprised to find that the quality of your exercise (rather than intensity) can bring a bigger shift to your body, resulting in a more sustainable weight loss, and the more you enjoy your movement the better the results.
A great question to ask yourself is ∼ Could I do this exercise long term, is it something that I could implement into my lifestyle indefinitely, because I enjoy it?
Your body is going to respond to movement that brings you pleasure, something that you look forward to and something that does not leave your body feeling exhausted. Find something that you truly enjoy.
Write down a list of activities that you feel you would really enjoyed and that you would be happy to do on a long term basis, then experiment with some of these ideas until you find your perfect exercise
Dancing, Swimming, walking, belly dancing, yoga…as long as it gives you pleasure. The benefits of this kind of movement are very much underestimated.
Quality exercise that gets your heart pumping without draining you, puts a smile on your face and makes you feel great about what you are doing will help to maintain your body in the ‘rest and digest’ response. This is crucial to your natural long-term sustainable weight loss.
The more you can relax into your exercise and into your day, the less stress that will build up in your body. This will support your body to be in relaxation mode, rather than being in an ongoing low-level physiologic stress response.
This means your parasympathetic nervous system is on, your digestive system is active, your body can assimilate the food you eat and all of this helps you lose weight and not store fat.
Give it a try for a few months. If you are not enjoying your current exercise program and find that you are having to talk yourself into doing the exercise, swap and try something new.
Get involved in something that is moving your body, but not punishing it. Something that you look forward to and that makes you feel good, as this can have such a positive impact on the rest of your day, your week, your health and your weight.
I hope this information has given you some insight and ideas as to what could be your best exercise program to support you with your long-term weight loss goals.
By Kerrie Cox ~ True Body Connection | Mind Body Nutrition Coach & Mindfulness Eating Practitioner