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How to switch to intuitive movement - without it affecting your weight

Updated: May 2, 2023

How I started moving my body intuitively, stopped structured exercise and the benefits it brought to my body and mind.

About 5 years ago I stopped my normal exercise routine of regular runs, hatha yoga and body resistance exercises; I will forever be grateful for how intuitive movement transformed my life, my body, and my mind. First, I’ll tell you the 5 Steps I took to switch from regimented exercise to intuitive movement and then I’ll tell you the 4 reasons I am able to use intuitive movement without gaining weight.


5 Steps to Switching to Intuitive Movement:

Step 1) Check in – drop from your mind into your body.

  • Ask yourself: "Do I feel like moving today?" "What type of movement do I feel like doing today?"

Step 2) Acknowledge the external motivator.

  • Simply observe your desire to dictate what type of exercise to do based on how you want your body to look & check back in with what your body actually desires to do today

Step 3) Honor your push cues.

  • If you're body is saying/feeling like it would feel good to go _________ (type of movement) then honor that pull as soon as possible.

Step 4) Honor your rest cues.

  • If you're body is saying/feeling like it would feel good to rest or simply stretch or some other type of restorative movement, then honor that.

Step 5) Empower the present moment.

  • Do your best to let the present moment inform your workout. Stay in touch with how your body is feeling and what it is asking, even if it means changing course half way through your workout.

Keep reading to know each step more in depth and how this path didn't lead me to gain weight.


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What is Intuitive Movement or Intuitive Exercise?

Intuitive Movement is all about moving in a way that feels good for the body. Unlike regimented exercise, the principle of intuitive movement is to let your body guide you through exercise which can be very empowering and may even help you increase the consistency or frequency of exercise.


If you’re someone who always seems to start off exercising for a week and then inevitably stop exercising for long periods of time – this may be related to the lack of a mind-body connection.


When exercise desires are completely driven or informed from external sources, e.g. Your partner or health care provider telling you need to lose weight OR you’re trying to fit into a certain dress size for an upcoming occasion, then exercise consistency can be fleeting.


The problem here is the motivator is more external than internal. Plus, you’re potentially selecting your movement type based on what will get you a certain result (weight loss) and disregarding how that movement makes you feel in the moment or what type of movement your body is desiring in the moment.



The 5 Steps I took to transition to Intuitive Movement

After learning how capable my body was at navigating what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat for my best health, I wondered if the same thing could be true around my exercise. I wondered if my deepest fear of, I would never want to exercise again if I stopped my regimented routine, would come true. I wondered if my body was even capable of telling me it was time to move and how moving intuitively would affect my self-regulated appetite that I gained with intuitive eating.


If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent years controlling your intake and exercise to (or try to) ensure you stay at a certain weight. Maybe you even have evidence that if you don’t do this you’re weight will go up and up (like mine did – until I learned intuitive eating).


Just like my wish to be able to eat whatever I want, whenever I want, how much I want AND still be my healthiest self (aka be an Intuitive Eater) felt so absurd and out of reach for me before, the idea that I could just exercise whenever I truly wanted to, in a way that I truly desired vs the years of having to push myself through workouts seemed completely impossible and too good to be true.


BUT that little voice inside said, "but what if!!? How nice would that be!!? Try it."

Healing my relationship with exercise/movement was the last step in my entire intuitive eating journey. For the early part of my intuitive eating journey, I would let myself eat X if I also had exercise planned to work it off. Realizing that my body is so wise and completely capable or "tracking" my intake and managing energy expenditure (i.e. appetite, cravings and movement cues) I slowly eased into allowing my body to tell me when, how much and what type of movement it needed.


Here's how:


Step 1) Check in – drop from your mind into your body.

  • Ask yourself: "Do I feel like moving today?" "What type of movement do I feel like doing today?"

I gave myself permission to ask myself if I really wanted to do the planned exercise I had that day. Because I had a long history of ignoring my body's cues and desires, I needed a long period of radical permission to just take it easy. This was very healing for my mind and my body. My joints healed, my nails got stronger and my inner rebel that would always scream "UGH, I hate exercise!!" started to vanish.


Step 2) Acknowledge the external motivator.

  • Simply observe your desire to dictate what type of exercise to do based on how you want your body to look & check back in with what your body actually desires to do today.

We live in a world that force feeds us images of toned bodies working out and medical advice centered around weight loss. For many years I lived under the belief that movement was primarily for healthy weight maintenance and bikini body season. The idea of just being active for the joy of it!? That piece of me was gone, vanished with childhood. I truly believed that if given the choice, I would never want to exercise. Sure I felt great after exercising and loved the health benefits, but I had convinced myself that I needed to control the process mentally otherwise my body would betray me.

To get a different outcome, we need to take a different approach. I knew that if I wanted a body that was truly intuitive, I needed to start allowing my internal body cues to take the driver's seat, instead of all the external beliefs and tools I had collected and used. This means, any time my body asked for a simple stretch session but my mind freaked out and said, "WHAT!!? Do you know how many carbs we ate yesterday!!? We should be runnniinnnggg!!"... I would simply observe the thought, acknowledge that I didn't really know the outcome to my new approach, and then would sink into enjoying what my body asked for that day.


Step 3) Honor your push cues.

  • If you're body is saying/feeling like it would feel good to go _________ (type/intensity of movement) then honor that pull as soon as possible.

Guess what happened!? Despite my greatest fear that I would never really want to exercise, I would start to get "push" cues, or even jolts or energy that I hadn't experienced in years. True internal desires of, "oh my gosh it would feel so good to run right now", started to hit out of the blue. I felt like a little kid - I just wanted to - for the fun of it, and it felt good.


There is another type of push cue I want to talk about. Since my exercise was no longer regimented, I no longer had a routine. On the busy work days with endless to-dos I would often feel a cue from my body saying, "ugh, it would feel so good to move right now"... BUT my mind was exhausted, or stressed out from the long day. HERE is where honoring what our intuition is nudging (most often - don't make it a rule) is so important. Observing that our mind would rather us check out and sit on the couch, we can observe that thought and ask, "is there something that would soothe my mind and body at the same time?". For me, it can look like a gentle walk on the treadmill so that I can zone out with a tv show. Win-win! Or I remind myself I've been saving a podcast episode for this exact moment, so that I all of a sudden feel excited to walk around the block and listen at the same time.


REMEMBER - You are NOT lazy - you feel tired because you're not doing enough of what fills your cup. Listen to your intuition, it is the ultimate cup filler.


Step 4) Honor your rest cues.

  • If you're body is saying/feeling like it would feel good to rest or simply stretch or some other type of restorative movement, then honor that.

On the flip side I had and still have many long stressful days where my body isn't giving me the internal cue of go move. Instead, when I check in, it says rest. Or, "man your neck hurts, go stretch it... Maybe do a few supermans against the wall to rebalance that feeling". And that's all I do for the day.


Step 5) Empower the present moment.

  • Do your best to let the present moment inform your workout. Stay in touch with how your body is feeling and what it is asking, even if it means changing course half way through your workout.

If you have a strong inner rebel like I do, this trick can be life changing. Take the example of a push cue after a long exhausting day - I would tell myself all I'm going to do is listen to the push cue of go be outside. Then I would sit outside. Then I would follow the next push cue of maybe a walk around the block would be nice. Then half way around the block I would start to feel amazing and want to do 3 more blocks.


If I had started in my head thinking, "ok, my body is wanting movement so I better walk for 3miles", my inner rebel would scream and I would find some way to procrastinate all night - and then feel terrible physically and mentally with guilt.


See how this mindful permissive approach lead by our intuition can give us such a beautiful holistic outcome? For myself, it lead to much more consistent exercise that felt great on my body.


REMEMBER - When you feel good, you DO good. You don't need to push, punish or restrict your way into "health". Even this statement highlights how that cannot be your ultimate health approach - right!?


My body started to feel great - and it therefore was completely capable of regulating my intake and movement. I needed to nurture it, before it could nurture me. I no longer needed the mental control that took up so much of my life and joy for so long. The symptoms of overeating and not wanting to exercise that I felt I needed to micromanage where signs (cries, pleas) from my body to listen. I'm proud that I finally did - in this current world - it can be a hard path to take - but most rewarding.



How switching from regimented exercise to intuitive movement DIDN’T make me gain weight.**

1) Less stress - I was running my body into the ground with dieting and regimented exercise. This was depleting my metabolism and most likely increasing my cortisol. Letting go of all of that allowed my body to relax and mend.


2) Less false hunger – Constantly pushing myself to do things I truly didn't want to do, emptied my bucket further, which in turn triggered cravings. The very thing I was trying to control (weight gain) was an inevitable cycle with broken approach to exercise and health. Remember your body is wise, it is keeping score, if you ignore the need to fill your cup (with rest for example), your body will search and grasp for the next best thing, often in the form of a craving. I was never addicted to food - I just felt like it because I was ignoring my intuition.


3) Self-regulated appetite – due to my intuitive eating skills, I'm able to hear/feel my body's cues of regulating my hunger related to physiological needs. Meaning my body simply adjusts my hunger level based on my activity level. My ability to follow my hunger cues and not overeat has become an effortless, second nature ability thanks to my intuitive eating journey.


4) Energy regulation – how much do you have in your tank?

What's "better"?

- 5 mediocre, dragging your butt - workouts per week

OR

- 2 lit up on fire inside, can't believe how good I feel - workouts per week


See how smart that body of yours is? It's going to regulate even when you think you're the one regulating.


I know which one I'd choose.


I hope you liked my first blog post! Love you all xx


Shayna


** We want you to know what we here at NS Nutrition are weight neutral, body positive and can't wait for the conversation to completely navigate away from weight. We feel meeting you (or our readers) where you/they are at is the best approach to getting there one day. To be honest this is how we started our intuitive eating journeys (thoughts around weight) and so we don't want to leave anyone out of this beautiful journey back to ourselves. If this is your starting point, amazing, so glad to have you here. If you experience weight gain during your journey or are ashamed of your body in any way please know that you are beautiful, so freaking worthy and that you've landed on a safe space to let your body be and be healed.













DISCLAIMER - This blog post is for informational purposes only and not a suitable substitute for working with your medical professional.

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