Diet and Exercise as Self-Care

My spin instructor never said “this next part is going to be hard” or “this is going to burn”, instead she used positive expressions like “we’re really gonna love these hills coming up” and “this is gonna feel so great”. It seemed silly to me at first, but on a deeper level the psychology actually worked. Just like when we hear the word diet, most of us cringe because there are so many negative connotations with that word. We immediately think of salad lunches with no dressing or avocado, bacon scrambled eggs with extra butter for those who have tried Keto. Ok, that breakfast actually sounds yummy! But what if diet wasn’t some horribly restricted meal plan measured by points or coloured scoops, and exercise wasn’t some draconian regiment on equipment vaguely reminiscent of a torture chamber. What if diet and exercise were a great part of our self-care?

We know Diet and Exercise are good for us, but What is It Really All About?

1. It’s about improving your sense of well-being and your health. Changing your diet can improve your energy levels, balance your sugar levels, and make you feel better, whether it’s moving to three meals a day from one, cutting down on sugar, or tracking and cutting out the foods that make you feel poorly. Regular exercise, whether walks, workouts, or yoga, can combat back pain, stress, and even fatigue. Added benefits are improved stamina, mobility, and balance that help keep you moving safely as you age.

2. It’s about setting personal goals that are meaningful and choosing activities that you enjoy. We’re all motivated by different things and our goals will reflect that. I know several people who took up running and set a goals of a 10K race, and a marathon. They joined running groups, got guidance and support, and made new friends along the way. One friend combined his goal of marathon running with his love of travel and has raced in some wonderful cities around the world.

My partner and I keep fit, so we can enjoy being on the slopes during the ski season. I’m also grateful that my exercise program has helped address my lower back pain. On the dietary side, along with my dairy restrictions, there is a restriction on aged foods in our house, as they trigger migraines for my partner. My goal in cooking is to keep the fat content low, avoid dairy, and lower migraine and acid reflux triggers. This has necessitated a new and fun cooking challenge.

3. It’s about finding a diet and exercise routine that work for you. Once you’ve set your goals, you need to find a fun and sustainable way to get there. The Canada Food Guides exist to give us a basic idea of what is good for us and a place to start. But diets also vary due to ethical, environmental, cultural, and religious considerations, along with addressing health and wellness concerns. Some diets lower cholesterol, others help reduce symptoms of acid reflux, while gluten free diets alleviate symptoms of IBS. There are low carb diets for losing weight and high protein diets for those building muscle. Why not tailor your diet to your specific needs and take the same approach to exercising? We’re not all built the same and certain exercises may work great for one person, but cause others injury. Research now suggests that women respond to exercises differently than men, and age makes a difference as well.

4. It’s about taking the time and making the effort to review what you are doing and analyze what does and doesn’t work. Coming up with a diet and an exercise routine that works for you and your family, takes time and effort. I’m always on the hunt for recipes that work for our diet and actually taste good, and a recent set back in my work-outs has me realizing I need to recalibrate, again. Take your time to figure out what works for you, what helps you meet your goals at your own pace. Plus, life continues to throw changes at us that may require you to adapt, or you may just stumble across a ‘better way’. Doing this will ensure you won’t get bored!

5. It’s about your headspace/mindset. If the words diet and exercise hold negative connotations for you, you are less likely to be interested in either. Or it may be a real struggle and take a lot of will power to stick to routines you’ve built. Finding positive associations with either one or both helps keep you motivated. Think of it as a running club with a great group of friends, a daily walk that’s a great way to see the neighbourhood, or an office lunch that’s heathy and leaves you feeling energized for the afternoon.

My mantra in high school was “It’s not reality that matters, it’s how you look at it that makes your day!” High school was a long time ago and I’m still trying to live up to that mantra. Putting a positive spin on difficult tasks and days can be challenging, but it really does make a difference. Looking at diet and exercise as ‘must dos’ to add to an already full schedule may increase your resistance to them. Reminding yourself of the positives, both in the activities involved in eating healthy and working out, and the rewards will make it easier to commit to both. Feeding your body nutritious food will improve your energy levels, your immune system, and can help reduce symptoms of numerous health issues. The same goes for a proper exercise routine that is personalized to your needs. Self-care is in part about attitude, the attitude that looking after ourselves is important and can improve our life experience.

Join us at our Self-Care Through Diet and Exercise event, where Kelly Summers, Megan Barefoot, and Kelsey Davidson will host a Panel Discussion on this topic.

Register HERE to participate in the Zoom webinar on Wednesday, October 21st at NOON MST.

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