Wednesday, 13 April 2016

This is your brain on post-exercise endorphins

A funny thing happens when you live your mindful eating practice instead of putting all of your energy into reading and writing about it: your thought patterns start to change without you even noticing.  Surprise!

This week I started swimming with a master's group again.  It's been many years since I participated in one of these structured, hour-long swim practices.  Instead, I'd been going for 20 minute floaty swims on my own when the fancy struck me, accepting that people several decades my senior pass me with ease.

Today I swam harder than I have in my whole entire life.  That's what it felt like anyway.  At one point I told the coach I was going to stop for a sec because I was feeling a little barfy.  His reply?  "Don't stop - I'll get you a bucket".

I came out of there smiling, feeling energetic, alive, and fantastic.  Oh, and a little hungry.  In the ol' pre-mindful eating days, my gobbley brain would have convinced me to eat all 4 of the pieces of homemade pizza I'd brought for lunch, since I had just earned them with that big workout (and they were quite delicious, I don't mind admitting).  After that it would have convinced me to go buy a fancy coffee or some other treat on top of that, since I *deserved* it.

But now I have mindful eating brain, with a new set of thought patterns.  What do you know?  I automatically checked in with stomach hunger - about a 7 - and ate 2 small pieces of my pizza.  Then I naturally checked in with my stomach again and noticed I was full.  I even went grocery shopping afterwards and had no interest in treats.  Part of my fantastic feeling I was experiencing included a complete lack of desire for chocolate or jelly beans.  So novel.

Is this funny cuz it's true,
or just really sad cuz it's true?
My intention for exercising still has a very small weight loss component - old habits die hard, especially when reinforced by the massive bulk of media.  Mostly I exercise because it's fun, makes me feel great, and prepares my body for aging and for all the extreme activities my sweetheart has me doing.

I cringe when I hear people talking about the calories they're burning while working out, or the amount of exercise they'll have to do to compensate for some delicious thing they're enjoying.  Worst of all - hearing about their Fitbits.

What a way to suck the joy out of two inherently pleasurable activities - eating and exercise, that is. Why make one the penance for the other?  Why not enjoy each fully for their own sake?  I'm aware that somewhere in the equation between energy in and energy out there is a place where my clothes fit better or worse.  But I know if I get all hung up about the relationship between the two, I'll sink into unhealthy and stressful patterns that lead nowhere good.  Forget Fitbit - just do something you love and see where it leads you.  I bet that place won't be the cookie aisle.