Diet or Exercise? Chicken or the Egg?
We know they go hand in hand but which comes first?
I worked with a colleague about 6 years ago speaking in corporations and at gyms. He was a former AFL football player and had written a book on health. We had an interesting discussion about what was the more important thing to do first if you were addicted to the SAD diet and hated exercise, do you get started on a diet or just get exercising?
He was of the mind that diet was more important to get sorted and then move onto exercise when you had a grip on the diet side of things. I was of the mind that exercise was the better thing to tackle first, I still am.
I had lost my first lot of weight through running, I was desperate to lose weight, tried all the diets and though I hated, HATED running I knew if I stuck to it I would lose weight. I was of the belief at that time having tried every diet, pill and potion that I could not control my weight with food, that food had more power over me so I decided to fight food with exercise and so I started running, through hot Australian summer days, torrential rain, late nights, on dirt roads with rednecks yelling out obscenities about my huge ass and even when it looked like it wasn’t making a difference. This was the most important part of running, not giving up when it felt like I wasn’t making a difference to my weight because it became about so much more than my weight.
Something cool began to happen. I noticed that I felt better after every run, yes every run left me feeling better. This was important because I had not long before been suffering severe depression to the point of seeking medical advice where my doctor naturally prescribed drugs, I took them for less than a week, I preferred the depression to the way the drugs made me feel. Within a week of running I could see this was helpful to my depression.
I also noticed that the more I moved my body, the more I was drawn to cleaner foods, less of what I call the Lethal Recipe of highly processed foods with their drug like affects. Then there was the time I spent out moving my body I was not on my butt watching TV and eating the food that was growing the girth of my butt.
The biggest obstacle as always was getting to the front door to put my shoes on and just get out the door, once I was there the rest was much easier.
I managed to get up to running 20kms on the treadmill at the gym, it took me 2 hours, my knees hurt for days and it was the last time I did that. Today I walk, hike, cycle (flat ground, big seats & baskets at the front type cycling) and do hot yoga, I love it, I still struggle sometimes with my hermit tendencies and getting outside is something I do rain, sleet, heat, snow and overcast. Getting out into nature is the strongest motivator for me. It is the most glorious way to move my body and hot yoga (not Bikram) feels like an indulgence. I love doing handstands in my house, on the beach as well as cartwheels despite how comical I’ve been told I look, it makes me feel good. I’ve discovered a love for kayaking and even went on a grueling but glorious 5 day kayaking adventure in the Yukon this past summer. Sometimes I just dance in my office or do yoga like stretching.
The big trick for me was to find something that felt good, not punitive. I don’t like gyms, running for miles and going nowhere, lifting hundreds of pounds without anything to show for it beyond vanity. I’m also inconsistent despite a phrase I learned 11 years ago when it comes to exercise think “a little a lot verse a lot a little” and I take the pressure off myself to be perfect at any of it or live up to anyone else’s standard.
I now exercise for reasons other than weight loss and the less I think about that and the more I focus on how it makes me feel good, the more I am inspired to do it.
In my Anti Diet workshops I get participants to drop and do 20, drop their pen to paper and discover 20 reason’s to get out and move their body beyond weight loss.
There are way more than that of course but here are some of my reasons:
best brain clearer ever
best way to get out of a funk, it is nature’s best antidepressant
I ALWAYS come back feeling better
food tastes better after exercise
I choose better foods than when I am sedentary
it firms my muscles and that feels good
I love getting out in nature
My best thoughts come up for me when I’m out walking/hiking (I always take pen and paper)
Life seems more in perspective and stress is muted
As far as which comes first I always look to nature and in nature you do not eat unless you move, so moving first is my suggestion.
There are more, the trick is to find your own, make it pleasurable, don’t let not being good at any of it stop you from doing it and try to catch yourself in those moments of really appreciating anything that feels good at anytime doing it as well as the buzz of wellbeing after. I’ll paraphrase Nike, “Just Do Something”.