Physical Fitness and Mental Health

I am not naturally thin. It was a sad realization for me as a young teen. I will never look like a supermodel. I will never be "thin" easily or without effort. I will never be one of those who complains "I eat, I just can't gain weight!" (I've been told this is a frustrating and painful experience, but I must say it looks so appealing from my position).

Much of my young adulthood my weight has varied slightly, depending on my motivation level. And of course, every time I hit the gym, it was with great irritation at myself. My only physical activity was motivated by a sense of shame and self-loathing. I do not say this proudly. I wished to be one of those people who craved physical activity- one of those who had experienced the elusive "runner's high". But that just didn't seem to be in my physiology. And so it was with a great (self-punitive) effort that I ever brought myself to a sweat.

That is, until I was pregnant with my son. Pregnancy was very hard for me. I will spare the details, but among other things I had a condition known as SPD (pelvic separation). Walking became excruciating, and I quickly learned that exercise only exacerbated the condition. I spent most of my pregnancy sitting and/or lying down (luckily my job easily accommodates this- I even have a sofa in my office- ha!)

You know how it is often said "Youth is wasted on the young"? Well, I think its true because the young have no perspective. They only know vitality. For me, pregnancy made me instantly much, much older. Almost overnight I went from a (somewhat) young woman to a hobbled, ill one.

Why do I share this (you might be thinking I lost my point here)? Because that experience (lasting well over a year when all was said and done) forever changed my perspective on my body. Health and fitness was no longer totally about being physically attractive. Suddenly, I experienced joy in the movement! The fact that my body could move, walk, run, jump, lift weights, swim, throw a ball, roll around on the floor and sleep without pain- was like a sudden return to youth.

The euphoria by no means stayed as strong... time has a way of dampening these things. But I still carry a part of that lesson with me now. I am not naturally thin... but I can move. And as I move more and more now, I am aware of its impact on my mental health. My mood, my energy, my emotional output is better on days when my body gets out and moves! Research backs these findings- even mild to moderate depression in women can be helped or cured by activity!

And I wonder how many of you approach exercise in that punitive, "I-hate-my-#$%-body" way that I am all too familiar with. What would it take to shift your thinking to health as a whole body concept, instead of just one more way to see yourself as lacking?

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