Quite obviously, I’m not an expert in this. I can only draw on my experiences and the experiences of my friends. Sometimes I think that is better though; I’m not an amazingly motivated person, I’m not an athlete or personal trainer, I haven’t got a degree in nutrition – basically I don’t exercise and eat well for a living. What I do have is a full time job, a part-time masters, a blog, a social life, hobbies and somehow an exercise routine and a diet that I attempt to keep healthy. I’m trying to be the best I can be within the constrains of a pretty regular life. Plus I’m a scientist, so I love knowing how things work.
One thing I know a lot about is feedback loops, the concept that a change in one thing affects another – which may in turn go on to affect yet another or the original. Whilst I have been studying these in relation to the climate of Earth, the definitely also apply to the human body (homoeostasis anyone?) as well as an exercise routine.
Once you start exercising, your body starts releasing endorphins – which make you feel awesome. If the joy at the release of those endorphins outweigh any effort required to exercise – you’ll be more likely to want to do it again. Your brain will start forming a positive association. This is why I started small with my exercise routine, I wanted to make sure that the gain was better than the pain.
Another thing into the loop is that your body starts to look better with regular exercise – assuming that you don’t just gorge on cake because you’ve done half an hour of swimming (hello someone I know). Another positive feedback. Who doesn’t want to look better? Especially in this day and age.
One more that I’ve noticed, as have several of my friends; once you start exercising you want to keep the benefits. So long as you manage to keep clear of the ‘well, I’ve exercised so I can have that extra chocolate bar’ thought pattern. Turn it on its head – ask: ‘if I eat this, will it be worth the amount of time I’d have to spend in the gym?’. The thought of spending an hour running to burn of a small chocolate bar is awful right?! Also, having done that exercise, I want to keep the benefits! I genuinely look at a cream cake and ask ‘are you worth the calories? What benefits can you offer me?’ and the answer is none. Instead (if I’m hungry and want a treat) I’ll have a protein shake that tastes like a strawberry milkshake, or a gingerbread protein cupcake (a recent amazing discovery) or a slice of absolutely terrible chocolate cake that makes my mouth water thinking about it. Sure the chocolate cake is a disaster but it’s worth the calories, I’ll happily go and spin for an hour, plus it motivates me to keep the rest of my days calories as healthy as possible. Plus, through exercise I’ve re-learnt how hungry feels and it’s not a bad feeling, it means I appreciate the food I eat far more. Everything tastes better when you’re hungry.
Eating well leads to eating well. I know it sounds ridiculous but think about it. Not instantly but over a long period of time… I went pescatarian over the summer, so I won’t eat meat. This also meant saying goodbye to my Haribo habit, probably my major source of sugar intake. I was definitely super crabby for a bit but then my cravings started subsiding. Whereas before I’d have seriously struggled to walk past the sweet isle, I now do so with ease. In fact, I’m even finding things that I used to love and eat all the time far too sweet. I can even say no to dessert?! What happened to the Fleur I knew?
In fact, I can tell that I’m becoming mentally stronger. With every time I exercise and say no to putting junk into my body it becomes easier. Sure, there are times when it isn’t and I’m currently having a very fat February. Overall though, I am more disciplined in all areas of my life. Studying has become easier. Planning out a day and sticking to my timetable too.
Best of all, I’m happier. There are still times when I want to sit in a corner and cry but they are so rare now. What could be better? Especially when being more positive feeds back into every other aspect of my life to make it easier and better. Exercising, releasing those endorphins on a regular basis is just perfect.
I hope this hasn’t seemed boring, or like a lecture. Having been someone who was completely inactive I can genuinely see what the changes are. I’d have love to have been able to read this two years ago and think ‘you know what, that all sounds pretty good, lets give this exercise lark a go again’.