Not long ago, my views on exercise were very different. I was exercising intensely twice a day, and I could never figure out how I was actually gaining weight!
I was seeing a dietician at the time and would be in tears each appointment. How was it possible that I was burning more energy than I was consuming and still unable to shift my weight?
Even now, when I find myself getting hyped up about a new exercise program or fun class at the gym and doing more exercise than usual, I feel more frantic and my body seems to hold onto weight.
Believe it or not, when I exercise moderately for 30 minutes a day (no more!) and enjoy rest days, my body loves it. My clothes fit comfortably and I feel calmer too. It’s true!
That’s the reason so many of us also tend to lose weight when we’re on holidays – because we’re resting. We eat more than usual and still lose weight? It always brings so much confusion to my patients in clinic.
Why do you think it is? You guessed it – it’s your body telling you again that it prefers to be rested.
I am constantly telling my clients and readers about the devastating effects of high cortisol in my own body and I believe that’s the reason intense exercise never served me. Studies have shown that intense exercise can increase cortisol levels, and high cortisol does not allow fat to be burned. It also impacts thyroid function.
I advise most people with very long hour jobs to enjoy restorative exercise most days after work or on the weekend, such as yoga, Pilates, brisk walking and meditation. Or simply lying with your feet up against the wall for 10 minutes to allow the blood to flow through your body and allow your body to rest and repair.
When I advise people to cut back on their extreme exercise regime, they are at first incredibly resistant and scared. And when I ask them to just try it for one week by swapping the crazy workouts to less times a week or to more restorative versions they are amazed at the results. I believe when the body is rested and in a state of parasympathetic mode and hormonal balance, you are better able to burn fat.
I also go on about the importance of rest. I truly believe that a rested body is a healthy body. I commit to rest daily – whether my schedule allows it or not. I make the time and I make it a priority, and if I don’t I can feel my health suffer.
Now don’t get the wrong message: as a health practitioner, I know how incredibly beneficial exercise is for the body. It’s especially crucial for the cardiovascular system. It keeps you strong and fit, and it releases those happy hormones – endorphins.
What I am saying is that exercise is an important part of your routine – just not too much. Why do we feel the need to overdo it? Why do we need to push our bodies to the extreme? Our bodies were not designed for that.
If we trust our bodies and really listen when it tells us we need a break, this is the first step in developing a happy, healthy and in-tune relationship with ourselves.
About Jess Sepel
Jess is a qualified nutritionist, book author and popular international health blogger, who believes the path to great health starts with good nutrition and positive lifestyle changes. “If you can get those right, all of those things you want and deserve will follow naturally: better moods, energy levels, and digestion, and less stress and weight struggles,” she says on her blog, JS Health by Jessica Sepel. Her latest book The Healthy Life, published by Pan Macmillan, is a complete plan for glowing skin, a healthy gut, weight loss, better sleep and less stess. Follow Jess on Instagram here.