What does restriction mean to you?
What comes up for you when you hear the word “restriction”? For me, it brings up a whole lot of negative emotion. I think about not being able to breathe freely or do what I want to do. I think about rules I’ve set in place, and how they stifle my creativity. Overall, it’s not the best word to surround our eating and exercise habits. Yet so many of us engage in restrictive behaviors when it comes to food and movement.
So how do you know if your “fitness” routine is restrictive? It will vary from person to person, but here are some things to consider:
Do you exercise even when it might serve you better to get more sleep?
Do you workout even when you’re injured or sick?
Do you feel like a failure if you don’t exercise for a certain amount of days/time, etc.?
Do you TRULY enjoy the type of movement you engage in, or do you move your body in order to manipulate her size or shape or burn off food you’ve eaten?
Does the movement you engage in feel good in your body? Or does it feel like a punishment?
This is the tip of the iceberg, friends, but it’s a good start. One of the most important things I’ve learned from my own healing process is that your intention behind your habits means everything. Are you moving your body for joy and for true stress relief? Or are you moving your body to manipulate her size? These intentions are super different. One is freeing and non-restrictive, and speaks to a healthy relationship with your body. The other speaks to the exhaustive nature of the culture we live in, and can cause MORE anxiety and stress in the body.
A decade ago, the “why” behind my restrictive exercise patterns was to protect myself from vulnerability and meaningful connections with humans. I was terrified of getting hurt. As a little girl I hurt a lot, and I didn’t trust myself as an adult to handle pain, so I numbed my emotions and stayed small, tried to disappear. I had zero healthy mechanisms for coping, so in a way, my behaviors did something for me at the time. Brene Brown says “we cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” Gosh, that was so true for me. I kept my pain at bay, but I also missed out on love, laughing, connecting with friends, and all the really good things in life. Often restrictive behaviors do that to us.
Your “why” will likely be different. We all walk different paths and have different experiences. Once you identify the intent behind patterns that create unhappiness and dissatisfaction in your life, those patterns are much easier to change into ones that create happiness and light in your life. In the end, we all want to be happy. If it’s painful for you to dig deeper into your intentions, it’s something you can do with a trusted therapist or friend. A lot of times it might involve going back in time a bit and showing your inner child some unconditional love and letting her know you’ve got this <3.
I have another Brene Brown quote for you :). My take home point is to highlight here that perfectionism is not something that will bring you happiness. Perfectionism is like a bad friend, and if we are honest with ourselves, a lot of the time we use restrictive behaviors we are trying to get closer to perfect. Brene says “Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: if I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.” It’s human nature to want to avoid painful feelings. Personally, I’d much rather feel sunny and cheerful 100% of the time. But the people I love most in my life are those that accept all of my emotions, even the sad or cranky ones, and I accept theirs, too. The opposite of restriction, for me, is showing up authentically in my life and being who I am. It’s incredibly freeing. When I look back at this path to freedom and authenticity, it started with listening to my body. I know that sounds simple and maybe even absurd, but if you start tuning in and asking yourself “What do I need more of today? What do I need less of? What kind of movement do I truly enjoy? Am I hungry? Tired? Do I need fresh air?” It might shock you how good it feels to honor and respect your body’s needs. You’ll want to feel good in other areas of your life and you can use your intuition to get there. It’s a beautiful domino effect that starts with your intentions.
There are lots of things in life that are obligatory. There are lots of things that are sad, or make us angry. So why would we choose to do more things that make us feel bad, isolated, or restricted? You deserve to engage in movement you enjoy. You deserve to eat foods you love. You deserve to exist peacefully in your natural body and take care of her in ways that feel good to you. I believe that everyone can get there.
Does any of this resonate with you? In what ways can you be kinder to yourself? I’d love to hear in the comments below!