Exercise and Instant Gratification

I had a weird day.  Sometime around 4am the adrenaline rush of the last 2 days wore off and I became aware that I had fallen asleep at my computer.  I went to bed and, I thought, very carefully set my alarm to get up at 9am so I could make a 10 o’clock meeting.  You know that feeling when you wake up and realize that you are way too rested for how much sleep you were supposed to get?  That was me.  I look at the clock, it’s 10:14. Alarm was set for 9pm.  Damn.

On the other hand my day has been really awesome. You all kicked the fundraising campaign for Georgia kids in the ass.  We raised over $12,000 on our first day and at this moment we’re only 356 individual donors away from unlocking the More of Me to Love Match grant of $5,000.  In addition to a big billboard we’re going to be able to do small billboards in downtown Atlanta as well as backlit, plexiglass covered bus shelter posters that we’ve heard from people in Atlanta are the most hurtful.  Plus we’ve got a major national news show and BBC news making inquiries already and we got a write up in SF Weekly.  (If you want to get involved you can donate a Solidarity Dollar here!)  We’re going to positively affect a lot of people, including a lot of kids, with this and I’m so proud to be a part of this community right now.

So I’m having this weird day and I kept thinking of reasons to postpone working out or not to work out.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with skipping a workout, but I also had this feeling like I wanted to go.  I had skipped yesterday to coordinate the campaign and so I really thought that my body might like to get out and move around today.  So at 1am I got dressed and headed to the gym.

I did a light workout and my body did feel good, and I felt happy that I had gone. It started me thinking about the different ways to measure success of movement. When I was in a diet mentality I would do a workout designed to burn a specific number of calories. It didn’t matter how I felt, I did the entire routine every single day, sometimes more.  Then once a week, always at the exact same time, I got on a scale to see if my exercise had “worked”.  If the number was right, I could be happy for a minute but it was short-lived since the cycle started all over again for the next week.  If the number wasn’t what I hoped for, then that meant a week of feeling bad, guilty, and spending the next week punishing myself.

Dieters are warned not to expect “results” too soon. I remember seeing a poster at the gym that said “If the gym was meant to make you feel better right away, it would be called a bar”.  I guess it was supposed to be motivational, but I wonder – why do you have to feel bad about yourself to start out with? One of the best things about my Health at Every Size (r) practice is that I get to like myself whether or not I work out.  I move because I feel better when I move but I like myself on the way into the gym, I workout based on my dance goals but also based on how my body feels on any given day.  I celebrate my physical accomplishments, but I also celebrate the fact that I worked out.  There’s no scale to consult, I get to claim victory immediately.

One of the things that I love about HAES is that you get to have success early and often and I think that success breeds success.  I used to have the experience of not getting the number I wanted to the scale and thinking “Why do I even bother?  If this is how it’s going to work I’m just going to quit!”.  Now I move my body and I say “I moved my body, yay me!” and then I do my instant gratification butt-shaking happy dance.

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on February 4, 2012 at 9:42 am  Comments (7)  

7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. After recovering from cancer treatment, which took more than a year of my life from me, I’m finally well enough to start living normally. Then, just after Christmas, my mother died from a stroke. Because of those two things, I am extremely motivated to improve my fitness and wellbeing as much as I possibly can – my own medical history, plus my mother’s, tells me I need to really take care of myself or who knows what other horrors are on the horizon. (I know, I know, I should be enjoying movement for its own sake etc, but fear is a very powerful motivator.) Two weeks ago I joined the gym and I’ve started reading everything I can lay my hands on about health and fitness.

    It’s a journey of extreme aggravation. There is virtually nothing written about exercise and nutrition that doesn’t start from the premise that the reader wants to lose weight. Weight and health are constantly conflated.

    I don’t give a rat’s arse about my weight. I really, truly, don’t. I want to know how to improve my cardiovascular fitness and build my strength.

    You’re absolutely right that when the scale isn’t important to you, you get to celebrate other achievements. I started out being so weak I cried if asked to raise my arms above my head. Now I can do 15 bicep curls. Not much by conventional standards, but a big milestone for me.

    There really is a gap in the market for someone to write a book about exercise and nutrition which doesn’t mention weight. That would be both revolutionary and helpful.

    • For advice on health and exercise that isn’t about weight-loss, try http://www.moveandbefree.com. He does talk about weight-loss, but in the sense of “it’s so crappy and stupid that all health and exercise advice is about weight-loss.”

  2. I live in NYC and ride the subway daily. The Health Department has started placing posters geared toward weight loss in the train cars. This has given me time to sit and read and ponder the messages sent through these posters. I am confused! Can’t figure out who they are geared towards but they often have a picture of headless fat people on them (one riding a scooter). It would be fascinating to know how much money has been wasted on this campaign and who it is aimed at. I wondered if anyone has mentioned this to you because I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Check out the campaign here and click on the link to the pictures.

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/cdp/cdp-healthy-portions.shtml

  3. I did the whole “Should I go and Dance for a while or should I stay in bed “thing yesterday evening. I finally got up at the last Min, pulling my Fiance in Tow and got there 15 min late for one of the more relaxed classes. Meaning it was more of a follow the leader, rather then strict instruction. And at this point for me, the Follow the leader classes are better since I will be teaching there soon myself. I digress, the owner hadn’t started class cause no one was showing up…so I decide to dance by myself. I grabbed every prop I could to start training my mind and body to work together. Using the veil, veil fans and Cane (cane was most successful for some reason) to kinda get a feeling of where I was. I went through an upcoming performance, and then the strangest thing happened. My finance was like “let’s work on our piece together” now I know he doesn’t feel well, has a tooth problem atm, and we are waiting for extraction which if you’ve been there you know you feel like crap. But he wanted to dance. So we did, and within seconds he was happy, and I was happier as well. I got to share some fun and dancing WITH him, so the time flew and a LOT was accomplished and I also ended up dancing longer then intended. So all was well. But I am often making that struggle as to weather to go to the studio or not. And for me it is still a battle with my body but more on the pain end. Am I hurting too much to dance, will dancing make me hurt worse.
    And Kudos to my Orthopedicst for mentioning my weight then me going through the guilt trip I usually to say to shut Fr.s up. She stopped me and said ” Are you really unhappy with your weight?” I said ” Actually no, I feel I am fine the way I am. I am strong, you just looked at x-rays od my back neck and shoulders, you can see that they are healthy, nothing I am doing is harmful, and I think my body is fine the way it is ” (first time I have said this to a Dr) She replied ” Ok sounds good to me, as long as you’re happy, eating the best you can (given the eating disorder) and exercising then you’re fine with me” I was astonished! Hurray for a Dr that is on the RIGHT side for once!

    Also Hurray for getting some positive messages to those kids! My friend lives in Atlanta, is a dancer and is about to have a child, I wanna make SURE that this little one can grow up and love his/her body and feel good about themselves. I know the mother and father will do a good job of that, but its what they hear and see in schools and such that can often shape the mind as well all know.

  4. It goes both ways for me too.

    I’m having some wrist/forearm issues lately (due to a combination of cold weather and arm balances). Today, what would feel really good to my body is to do a practice that does stretch but doesn’t stress out my wrists. There’s a lot of ways I can do this, but usually, it means the practice is less intense overall (meaning fewer calories used) than it would be otherwise.

    Years ago, I would have gone with the more calorie-intensive exercise regardless of whether it worked best with my body’s needs for the day. Because that — along with how much “ab defining work” I got — was my main measurement of my workout’s worth. Which, I may still make today’s workout as vigorous as I can — but in a way that’s beneficial to me and that feels good to me, rather than because I’m measuring myself by calories burned.

  5. Considering how I feel when I get back from the gym (exhausted and happy) to when I get back from a bar (tipsy, hoarse, but mostly content) I would say it’s a draw *G*.

  6. “Now I move my body and I say “I moved my body, yay me!” and then I do my instant gratification butt-shaking happy dance.”

    I love this mentality! I’m trying so hard to have this. I have fibromyalgia so some days just getting out of bed gets a happy dance. Shower and clean clothes on = another happy dance. Drying my hair = another happy dance. If I actually exercise (even if I walk 2 houses away and come back) it gets a big happy dance. Then I’m tired from all the happy dances! ;o)


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