Part 2 -The role of exercise and eating well in your process of Self-Esteeming

26 September, 2010

Don’t worry – this is not a blog lecture on exercise and diet. We all know we need to be eating well and exercising well for our own mental and physical wellbeing, and we know that this needs to be part of a good lifestyle, not a just a short term spurt to achieve some weight-loss or body-toning goal.

And yet:

As Michael Hill says in his book – Toughen Up says:

“Working too many hours, eating junk food late at night at your workstation, going weeks without exercise because you simply haven’t the time – these are all symptoms of something going seriously wrong in your life”.

When we get busy, or stressed, and we get ourselves out of balance the first things to go out of the window are exercise and eating well.

It’s a curious thing. There are a lot of reasons as to why: what I have found in my own life and my practice working with folk one on one, is so much of it is to do with self-esteem – or as I call it, self-esteeming – in a few important ways:

Keeping an agreement with yourself is a very self-affirming thing to do. You said you were going to do something – go for a 5 minute walk, go to that yoga class - and when you do actually it, it is like fulfilling an agreement you have with yourself. You build self-respect and affirm yourself.When you break this agreement with yourself, you can, unfortunately, begin to feel bad about yourself: leading to beating yourself up for not going, telling yourself you “should have” gone and so on. This can spiral into some very unhealthy self talk which, after just a couple of sentences of negative conversation with yourself, is very damaging to your self-esteem and sense of self-worth. At the very least it will lead you into a temporary depressed mood.You get a sense of personal mental achievement when you do something physical. And I am not talking about “big” adventurous physical goals like running up a mountain – don’t be fooled into thinking it has to be that – I am talking about a yoga class today, walking 500 metres after your evening meal, a 20 minute run etc. You have a number of different hormone substances produced and regulated in your brain and body. Cortisol is an example of a “stress hormone” and Endorphins are an example of your body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Physical exercise decreases Cortisol and increases Endorphins, as well as the receptor chemicals serotonin and dopamine. When these natural chemicals are released through physical activity they work together to boost your mood almost instantly and make you feel good. Endorphins are also your body’s natural pain killer and can also help sustain a natural feeling of wellbeing and even euphoria. Anything you can do to feel better will allow you to feel better about yourself, thus contributing to your process of self-esteeming. Physical activity and even short bursts of exercise serve as a very effective “state breaker” or what we might call in NLP a “pattern interrupt”. Now, what does that mean? Without getting into techno-speak, we all know what it is like to have been doing something for too long – staring at our computer screens, squinting over our accounts, sewing or fixing the car in poor lighting. We are hoping perhaps a flash or inspiration or energy will hit us and we can get it finished and then we’ll stop. As your brain patterns naturally go into a trance or dream like state every 90 minutes, when you force yourself through these natural wave patterns without that necessary mind break your brain will suffer. We also get into patterns of moods – we feel bad, lonely, depressed, sad. We’ve just had an argument with our partner and we can’t think clearly. When you take yourself out of any of these “moments” by doing something PHYSICAL – you are breaking the established neurological pattern in your brain from firing and beginning a NEW one – which will, as above, make you feel better. That’s when clarity and concentration are able to return. This in turn, helps you get things done more efficiently, feel better, solve problems, and therefore feel better about yourself – feeding into your self-esteem and self-respect, and therefore your self-worthDESERVING. When you make time for exercise, no matter how small or big your goals are, you are sending a symbolic message to yourself. I DESERVE TO PRIORITISE MYSELF AND TO FEEL GOOD. When you don’t, you are sending the opposite message I’m afraid.

So it may seem that exercise and good food is just stuff that we “should” be doing, and yet, there are much more important reasons to be treating yourself well: It’s all part of a continued process of affirming yourself as an OK person, and feeling good about yourself.

This is a message being sent repeatedly by the New Zealand Government through the Ministry of Health with the John Kirwan mental health awareness programme – specifically This is a wonderful interactive free website –and you don’t have to have had an official experience with “depression” to be able to utilise it! Have a read of what it says here about exercise and fit that in with what we have been talking about above:

My advice here is twofold, both being equally important:

Make an intention to exercise every day (yes, every day in some form – little and often is how to do it to begin with) and plan something you can STICK TO. Advice for sticking to it? START SMALL and SET MANAGEABLE GOALS. It is much better to commit to something you know you will actually do, as oppose to signing up for a year at the gym intending to go four times a week every week when you’ve never done anywhere near that before. If you can set up something that means you will DO IT BECAUSE YOU SAID YOU WOULD that is the best start possible, so you can earn your own self-respect and get that sense of mental achievement, as well as the happy chemicals benefit. To begin with, it doesn’t matter if this is walking to the postbox and back every day, even if that’s just 500 metres. Your confidence in your ability to do what you set out to do will increase, and then you will go onto more ambitious pastures and build it up from there.NEVER make yourself wrong for not exercising. Watch that critical, judgemental self-talk. There are some days that you are not going to do as you intended. I go to yoga every morning and last Thursday I knew that, because of my schedule, if I went to the morning class it was going to make everything else that morning a really tight squeeze - which didn’t feel very good at all. I made a decision that feeling good about my schedule that day was more important than “doing what I said I’d do” exercise wise. My brain was tempted to beat me up, and I let that go pretty quickly. Life is kind of like that sometimes, and the most important thing is not whether you beat yourself up for it, but that you get back on track tomorrow. Just be aware of what is genuine and what’s just an excuse (you will get better at recognising this!).

As always, I welcome your feedback and thoughts about how this blog post has helped you.

With love and esteeming thoughts as always,

Charlotte for coaching services and products

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