Fitness and Diet Routine
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How “Healthy” is Your Fitness and Diet Routine? 3 Things to Consider

“To lose confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in oneself.”
~Simone de Beauvoir

For many of us, maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a balanced fitness and diet routine is challenging.  Scheduling activities that nourish our different needs is a helpful way to combat daily stress, stay focused, and recharge amidst a chaotic environment. Some self-care actives are daily rituals, while others involve shifting our mindset to be less self-critical and more positive of ourselves and others. Exercising, and eating healthy are common self-care activities that reduce stress and helps us feel better.

But what happens when we stop feeling nourished by our activities and start feeling stressed, self-conscious, or anxious about our fitness and bodies? Think about your own ideas about fitness as you continue reading.  Are you using exercise and dieting to feel better and improve your physical health, or do you possibly have an unhealthy view of wellness?

Here are three things to consider when your fitness and diet routine starts to have unintended consequences:

1. Avoid judgement and self-criticism: Be flexible with your workouts and diet!

Does missing a scheduled workout due to a last minute dinner invitation or an unexpected work meeting leave you feeling stressed and distracted? Being flexible with your calorie consumption and workout routine protects your self-esteem and help you to avoid black and white thinking in terms of eating and exercise.

When we follow rigid workout routines or rationalize food choices based on whether we have burned off the required amount of calories, then exercise and diet are no longer serving their intended purpose of maintaining health.  They sometimes create a pattern of using food and exercise as a reward or punishment that is associated with how we feel about ourselves.  That’s when they start to impact our self-esteem.

So be careful if you find yourself asking if you “deserve” a cookie with lunch or something similar. You may be creating a connection with your self-worth and not realize it!

2. All foods fit! Lose the “good” and “bad” labels.

Do you categorize different food as “good” or “bad”? Or maybe have designated “cheat foods” that you only eat on certain days of the week?

Having strict rules about food can increase our risk of over eating foods that we deem “bad.” The idea is that after “cheating,” or over-consuming “bad” foods, we sometimes believe that we have fallen off the wagon.  From there, it feels like there is no coming back from the cheat day and then, we might as well go all out.  For some, the expectation is that tomorrow we can get back on track.  These beliefs may lead to guilty feelings about food and eating that will leave us feeling distressed and can actually increase cravings for comfort (“bad”) food as our mood dips.

3. Know the facts about losing weight and “looking healthy.”

It is common for our bodies to fluctuate in shape and weight. The number on the scale can (and does) change throughout the day based on a number of factors including: water retention, the food you eat, and type of exercise you’ve done.  Be mindful that a quick and significant drop in weight is likely unrelated to a reduction in overall body mass, and more likely the result of a change in fluids.

With mounting pressure from the media to look a certain way it is easy to equate thinness and weight loss with health. Much of what we see in the media is not an accurate reflection of the human form and leads people to aspire to unrealistic and unattainable ideals.  Take time to educate yourself about the media’s influence on the image of a healthy body and remember that most of the images we see in magazines and on TV have been retouched.  Many people know that the media has a strong influence on the culture, but it is sometimes difficult to apply this knowledge to our own bodies and goals.

What do you do as part of a balanced self-care routine?

Cate Hickey - NYC Therapist

Cate Hickey - NYC Therapist

Psychotherapist at myTherapyNYC
Offers individual and couples counseling in NYC. She specializes in LGBTQ, Eating Disorders, and Trauma.
Cate Hickey - NYC Therapist
12 replies
  1. Ryan
    Ryan says:

    Great topic! I think it is so easy to get caught up in the cycle of punishing oneself for what we don’t do as far as healthy behavior and not rewarding what we accomplish. I know I have been disappointed in myself for skipping a work out or two in the past. It’s so important to focus on the positive aspects of your healthy choices and attaining a balance.

    Reply
  2. Frances Holden
    Frances Holden says:

    Yes, for younger women, weight fluctuates not only throughout the day but throughout the month and is appropriate.

    What I appreciate most are your comments about deserving a food or not! We often have the echos of childhood food treats/denial of treats for approved/disapproved behavior. It’s important to rethink and choose our own healthy voice in those food decisions.

    Reply
    • Cate
      Cate says:

      Hi Frances,

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful response! You’re right, we absolutely hold on to learned values of food from earlier experiences. Even if we don’t remember specific memories, those experiences shaped how we think about food and rewards/ punishment for so many of us.

      Reply
  3. Jenny
    Jenny says:

    I am currently testing a new app that tracks sleep, diet and exercise, water consumption etc., along with mood, energy, focus, etc. in an interactive way. I am now thinking of the usefulness of a component that captures my relationship with my behaviors during the process . While using the app fosters awareness of behaviors and correlates them with physical and mental feeling and functioning, I am also noticing I am feeling “bad” about myself on days when I “don’t do well” (most days!). This has given me a lot to ponder – thanks!

    Reply
  4. Nikki
    Nikki says:

    I agree that we need to be flexible with ourselves because if we are too rigid with our routine, we will focus solely on the “bad’ things that we couldn’t get to instead of all the good we’ve done that week! It’s important to remember that plans change, and it’s unhealthy to fixate on these changes as bad things when they happen. I agree with Ryan that we must learn to reward our accomplishments each week (or day, or month) rather than focusing on the one day we skipped the gym for drinks with a friend!

    Reply
  5. omar
    omar says:

    I love the “all foods fit” comment! Its allowing people to still enjoy the foods they eat without any feeling of shame which typically only ruins a diet anyway! Love it!

    Reply
  6. Glenn
    Glenn says:

    I appreciate the reminder to focus on our accomplishments and to have a healthy and compassionate approach to exercise and diet.

    Reply
  7. Fay Simone
    Fay Simone says:

    Wonderdul post, coming at a perfect time. I think people have a tendency to hone in on goals at the change of seasons and this mindset can easily backfire when it comes to diet and exercise routines and mindset. I think flexibility and labels are great ways to check in with oneself to ensure their attitudes fit a healthy and balanced lifestyle! Thank you Cate =)

    Reply
  8. James
    James says:

    Thanks for this awesome blog Cate! The guilt of comfort food and managing weight are not often spoken about in the same context. Most people (like me) think comfort food or extra hours at the gym, but after reading your blog, I think I can enjoy both without the guilt of one out weighing the other. Of course too much comfort food can be risky but with the guilt removed I imagine that I will enjoy my comfort food with some comfort. Nice work!

    Reply
  9. Matt
    Matt says:

    This is great. We all have many issues around food and diet. I offer that my client explore their relationship to food and emotions. This helps to see food differently. It;s not about losing what but instead releasing the weight. Good job.

    Reply
  10. Candace Dayaz
    Candace Dayaz says:

    Really wonderful article. It’s so important to stop criticizing yourself when you begin a fitness journey. Remember why you are doing it and know that you are moving in the right direction! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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