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The best way to sabotage your health

Ashleigh Went

Should I be putting camu camu in my acai bowls?

I should probably be able to handstand. 

Should I try altitude training?

I should buy those gloves/heart rate monitor/belt/shake weights/sauna suit before I can get serious about training. 

There are enough ‘shoulds’ in our lives. Career ‘shoulds’, relationship ‘shoulds’, financial ‘shoulds’, parenting ‘shoulds’… you don’t need unnecessary exercise ‘shoulds’ any more than you ‘need’ that camu camu or sauna suit (yes this is a thing – google it).

What I’m trying to get at is that fitness is supposed to be something that makes life easier, more enjoyable and importantly, makes you feel good. Am I suggesting that every workout will be a delight and every healthy meal with tantalise your tastebuds? Certainly not.

However, often we attach self-imposed and unnecessary stress to our diet and fitness. When you consider that stress is the root cause of most health conditions, it seems a little ridiculous to stress yourself out about the activities that are supposed to be helping to manage your stress levels and make you feel good!

Here are your ‘shoulds’ when it comes to health and fitness:

  • You should move your body a little bit every day
  • You should eat a balanced diet with plenty of nutrients
  • You should try and get enough good quality sleep every night
  • you should take a chill pill (the metaphorical kind of course) and enjoy the benefits of good health

Let’s talk about the different ways that we sabotage our food and training with stress, and how to simplify and focus on what’s important:

You get sucked in by external influences

You’re training your butt off but your friend Suze has started this new exercise class and is getting awesome results so you should probably start doing that instead.

You thought your diet was pretty solid but after reading the latest issue of a fitness magazine, you’re fairly confident you need some lucuma and teff in your life immediately.

Sound familiar? There’s nothing wrong with listening to other people’s opinions and experiences. There’s also nothing wrong with experimenting with the wealth of ‘superfoods’ that we have access to and doing your research on healthy eating. However, just because you’re not doing the same thing as someone else or eating the latest ancient grain or supplement doesn’t mean that you’re not healthy.

You’re so wound up about food that every meal makes you anxious

We are so lucky to have a wealth of information available at our fingertips, but often the advice and even the research that’s out there is conflicting and confusing. The result is often feeling confused and overwhelmed, and obsessing about what’s on your plate. Most of us know what’s good for us – we know that in general, foods that grow from the ground are better than those that come from a packet. Our bodies will tell us when we’re full, and when we eat something that doesn’t agree with us.

When we overthink and overanalyse our food choices, it’s easy to create unnecessary stress.

If you’re anxious because you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to your diet, go see an expert like Kate Freeman and her team at the Healthy Eating Hub.

You’re exercising purely to burn off the food that you’ve eaten

I’ve so been there! In my experience this often stems from guilt. You’ve got to ask yourself – is it justified? In an otherwise healthy diet for a reasonably active person, a treat every now and then isn’t anything to stress over. Remember – a ‘bad’ meal won’t make you fat in the same way a ‘good’ meal doesn’t make you healthy.

More importantly, this is a very negative reason to be exercising. You’re far more likely to be successful over the long term if you find an activity that you enjoy doing. Hate lifting weights? Great, why not try dancing.

Can’t stand pilates? No problems, try something else – and keep trying until you find a way to move your body that brings you joy and makes your body feel good!

You neglect to appreciate your health

Often we focus on what we don’t have (abs, toned arms, a million dollars, Channing Tatum…) and forget to appreciate what we do have. Don’t take your health for granted and remember to show your body some love.

After all, having the ‘perfect’ body or diet won’t make you love yourself any more than you do right now – that comes from within yourself.

Don’t make your health another chore or an endless series of boxes to tick – remember to relax and enjoy the plethora benefits that healthy eating and exercise bring.

Image of ‘young woman…‘ via Shutterstock

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Ashleigh Went

HerCanberra ACTIVE Editor Ashleigh Went has a passion for all things health and wellness. As someone who loves champagne and cheese almost as she loves a sweaty workout, she's all about living a healthy, balanced lifestyle. She can usually be found with her nose in a book, planning her next adventure, in the gym or updating her Instagram @wentworthavenue. More about the Author