What would it be like if you dropped all expectations when it comes to exercise, especially as it relates to weight loss? What would that look like for you? More importantly, how do you think that would feel?
Imagine going to the gym or doing whatever form of movement and exercise you prefer and expecting nothing in return. It wouldn't matter how many inches you lose, or how many pounds you drop. You would simply be participating in movement for the joy it brings, and to celebrate everything your body can do.
Are you reading this and thinking that's not possible? Are you reading this thinking I must be crazy?
That’s okay. Please keep reading.
Last week I joined a gym. I haven’t belonged to a gym for several years, definitely not since we moved to Georgia. Any time I joined a gym in the past it was always in an effort to lose weight, get fit, and reduce inches from my body. I spent a lot of time in various types of gyms. I did boot camp, heavy lifting, and tons of cardio. I used to go daily, sometimes twice. I hired personal trainers to help push me. When I wasn’t at the gym I was working out at home. I was focused on the time spent, calories burned, and amount of sweat dripping. That is what determined if I had a good workout, and when I could be done. It became an obsession. The only reason I was working out was to lose weight. I was trying to achieve the body of my dreams. I sacrificed so much time and effort chasing the body I thought I wanted. I never, not for a second, appreciated the one I already had.
My one and only expectation was to lose weight. I never stopped to realize everything my body was doing, and all that I was putting her through. I never thanked her. I never thought to check in and see how she felt. I didn’t know that was an option. Instead, I kept getting hurt. I tripped over the ship rope and sprained my ankle. I had tennis elbow. I damaged my shoulder, which still hurts when I lift too much. I hurt my wrists. I didn’t stop. I kept going. I kept pushing. I held on so tightly to my expectation that I landed in my very own pressure cooker. It became a prison. It didn’t feel good. These are not fond memories to look back on. I was trying to achieve a body that, in the end, I still wouldn't love. I knew how to burn calories, but I didn’t know how to listen to my body. The hard lesson I learned is that the pounds and inches lost will never teach you how to appreciate your body. That has to be an inside job.
I was forced to stop the madness when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In some ways, I think my body had enough. There was no choice. I had to quit. My expectation shifted to survival. Since then I have dabbled with different forms of exercise. I have experimented with various types of movement in an attempt to learn what my body likes, and how she loves to move. I learned how to listen to my body and pay attention the messages she sends me. I learned how to let the expectation of weight loss go and instead focus solely on how I feel.
I joined a gym. I don’t work out to lose weight. I don’t exercise to burn calories. I don’t pay attention to the numbers. Half the time I don’t know how long I was there. It doesn’t matter. I wake up in the morning excited to go. I don’t need anything in return. I go to move my body, because that feels really good. I go because my mind and body agree that this is what they want. I go because I love it. I see this new adventure as a way to thank my body for everything she has done for me throughout the years. It feels like freedom. It feels delicious. I swear that every time I go I hear my body whisper "thank you".
Next time you work out, will you try putting your expectations on the shelf? See what happens. Notice if your experience is any different. Maybe you'll feel the freedom, too. xo