Six-Packs are Overrated

I had a six-pack once. For a week when I was 14….

I was still growing and I had just spent a week at swim camp. We were in the pool for 4 hours a day and doing "dry land training," AKA plyometric exercise, for an hour. That’s 5 hours a day of training, and I was growing, AND I had the metabolism of a 14 year old.

My early athleticism gave me a taste for a certain body type. Athletic training made me feel like being the cover girl on a magazine was attainable.

And it is attainable…provided you’ve got the metabolism of a 14 year old, 5 hours a day to exercise and your mom is cooking you well-rounded meals with lean meats, vegetables and whole grains. When I was 14, I felt like exercise was my secret weapon for having the body I wanted.

I am grateful for my athletic background but, until I changed my relationship with food, I also had an unhealthy relationship with exercise. Whenever I ate “too much” of a “bad food,” I'd vow to exercise it off. If I "ate too many calories," I'd just go hit the treadmill.  This felt sane to me.

I thought that if I had a consistent exercise routine, I'd worry less. It just felt like a clean slate. Like going to confession. I felt like I could erase my bad deeds.

But, of course, that’s not really how it worked. This is not to say that I ballooned or anything (which is not a bad thing anyway). It’s just that vowing to never eat cookies, eating 5 cookies and running 3 miles on the treadmill is not intuitive eating.  And because exercise was a punishment, I didn’t exactly jump for joy at the prospect of a run, even on a beautiful spring day in a beautiful place.

So, here’s my recommendation:  

Lean in and LISTEN to how YOUR body is feeling when you feel inclined to exercise. Why do you want to exercise?  Does exercise feel rough and exhausting? Are you giving yourself enough time to digest? Or do you just feel like you need some fresh air? Time to think? A good stretch? A little competition?

Experiment with me for just a week. Only do the workouts that sound like fun – the ones you have energy and inspiration to do. If nothing sounds fun, maybe you need to couch-potato for a while. I PROMISE that you won’t couch-potato forever if you really ALLOW yourself to couch-potato (think about how you feel after a really long Netflix binge - you probably want to move if only to get outside and get some fresh air or take a shower). Variety is the spice of life.

When you trade in the "calorie-busting booty building boot-camp" for a yoga class you actually want to go to, life is going to improve enormously for you. If you’re lucky, you might even start to like exercise again. And, I think that’s better than a six-pack. 

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