Five experts weigh in on weight loss versus mental health

Written by Yasmin Singh

Five experts give us their thoughts on mental health benefits of exercise.

Traditionally the fitness industry puts weight loss on a pedestal unlike anything else and, sure, moving a few kgs after a year in lockdown might be something you want to achieve. That’s okay.

However, shifting your focus towards the mental health benefits of exercise could improve your relationship with exercise. Below, five fitness experts give us their opinion on why the mental health benefits of exercise matter.

Pamela Kaur Sidu — yoga teacher and artist
In my experience, the mental benefits of exercise far outweigh the result of weight loss because the release, joy, and empowerment, we feel as we connect to our bodies, is both an immediate and ongoing benefit and ongoing be for.

This experience is connected to the in-moment process of exercise whereas weight loss is a by-product of exercise, which is often not what motivates people to stay active.

My hope is that exercise/movement becomes an on-going part of all our lives and is a celebration or what our bodies can do, not punishment for what we ate because, when connected to love, anything is sustainable.

Connor Adams — Grave Runners
For me it’s all about feeling good over looking good. I’ve exercised, in the past, to feed my own ego which never really works as the ego is insatiable. I started exercising to stimulate my own mind and help for clear decision-making in other aspects of my life. With excessive exercise, I naturally started to lose weight which made me feel better about myself however this wasn’t the main goal or intention.

Further to this, it started to feel contradictory fueling my body with things I used to eat that aren’t healthy. Like, why exercise to feel good than eat food that makes you feel like shit? This never made sense to me. I understand that balance is definitely key and, in some cases, I need to look good to feel good but feeling good mentally, physically and emotionally will always outweigh looking good.

Abby Simons — pilates instructor 
A positive focus on mental and physical wellness triumphs that of a sole focus on the aesthetic or desire of weight loss alone. I’m a strong believer in living life with the best intentions. Not only for those around you but for yourself also.

If you learn to tune in to this mindset, you’ll slowly develop more awareness and tools that will help you make choices out of respect for physical and mental body. The flow-on effect of this is you will feel and see the positive changes, eventually developing a lifestyle. Creating these healthy habits is far more sustainable and positive than a fad focus on weight loss alone. If you’re not connecting and respecting yourself, even if you lose the kgs, it won’t bring you contentment.

Life isn’t about the end game. It’s about exploring the process and doing your best as you work towards something. Therefore, weight loss is not the end game, it’s a result of positive choices and dedication to yourself.

Photo: Juergen Teller System Magazine #3 

Elliot de Lautour — Fitness All Together
The benefits of exercise is a topic that’s widely discussed and can be easily misinterpreted and misinformed in today’s influential society. As my knowledge and experience has expanded, the effects of exercise on mental, social and emotional well-being has revealed itself to be of significant value and match the physical impacts.

I truly believe that, if you are heavily focused on the aesthetic manifestations of exercise, you may not fully appreciate the benefits on your overall well being. Everyone has their own goals and genetic makeup but my advice is to capture and absorb those moments during exercise of feeling stimulated, alive and maybe liberated with a sense of joyness. This might be from a sudden rush of endorphins during a bush run or entering a state of euphoria jumping into the water after a run along the beach. These are the moments that will give you the fire you need to keep progressing, not only noticing that you’ve dropped two kgs on the treadmill. 

The fitness industry and culture can be dominated by structured and methodical movement with a specific goal in mind, however, variety is the spice of life so be playful with your exercise routine and don’t always have expected outcomes within a given mindframe. Exercise should be a critical catalyst for your overall health and wellbeing. We should also pay close attention to how exercise makes you feel as we strive for longevity and vitality in our older years.

I continue to build a business based on the benefits of outdoor exercise with other like-minded health enthusiasts. We have since incorporated yoga and breathwork into our events as we believe taking a more holistic approach is a critical part to your journey of better health. If this is something that appeals to you or you would like to hear more then come down to Silo Park for a free session with our highly experienced instructors and rad community.

Monica Cronin — yoga teacher
As a yoga teacher, I very much embody and teach from a place that is far from the intention of working out to focus on weight loss. The teachings of yoga are very focused on our internal environment and exploring how we can use our body as a tool for our awakening.

I am so deeply involved in this world that when I come across workouts labelled ‘fat burning’ and ‘fat shredding’, I find it quite jarring. It sadness me that, as a society, we are still so invested in this way of thinking, that we are moving our bodies from a place of not being good enough. However, I do believe we are slowly but surely progressing away from this toxic way of thinking and moving into a place where we appreciate and understand our bodies, movement and exercise as a privilege.

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