One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident


How do you view exercise?

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Question of the weekI’ve been pondering this question for some time now but haven’t quite been able to wrap my head around how to phrase it. "View" is about the only thing I could come up with. Let me explain as I explore my own personal views of exercise through the years. I can easily group them into 3 phases…

Phase 1: Exercise because I have to

All during my 15 years of failed diet attempts (or short term successes) I had the mentality that the only thing exercise was good for was weight loss and weight loss alone. The only reason people exercised was to burn more calories, right? I did not understand people who ran on vacation, enjoyed fitness classes or even those that played sports.

During this phase I would halfheartedly attempt to workout because that’s what you are "suppose to do". I’d plan to wake up early to walk but never get out of bed. I’d go to the gym but not really workout. I kind of liked the idea of exercising because I thought it would help me lose weight but didn’t really get it or have the desire/stamina to stick with any sort of routine.

Phase 2: Exercise through everyday activities.

I entered my next phase after having my son and joining Weight Watchers. This phase lasted throughout the entire time I lost all the weight and about a year afterwards. My mindset was completely different at this point. I accepted that I was NOT an exerciser. I decided that if I was going to lose weight I was going to have to do it on my terms and my terms did NOT include a gym membership or any home equipment.

I simply decided it was time to get more active. Active was a word I could live with. It’s more appealing then exercise. Exercise is for those crazy athletic people. Staying active is for us ‘normal’ people. I went for walks around my neighborhood after dinner, looked for nature trails in my area, started taking the stairs, danced around my living room with my son and simply looked for reasons not to sit on the couch. That’s how I "stayed active."

Phase 3: Exercising because I want to.

Phase 2 slowing began to morph into phase 3. After losing the weight (on my terms I might add) and staying active my body seemed to want more. Walks were getting too easy, and frankly, boring. Taking the stairs was now a habit and dancing with a toddler is different then dancing with a baby. ;)

So I decided to try this whole gym idea out. Not because I had to but because I wanted to. I started slow, a step class here, some weight lifting there. Because I wasn’t working out to lose weight my mind was freed up to measure progress in other ways. Could I make it through a whole step class without stopping? Was I able to lift more weight then last time? Do more reps?

I started to really enjoy my time at the gym and as a working mom it was about the only time I took. That hour 3-4 days a week became an outlet. Something I did for me and me alone. No toddler. No husband. No phone. No email. Just me and my thoughts. Just thinking about it makes me smile. I’m sure other moms will understand. ;)

Anyway, the mind shift from phase 1 to phase 3 didn’t happen overnight and I’m not sure it could have. I needed the transition period in between. I needed to stop viewing exercising as merely a way to lose weight, a chore or a punishment just because I was fat. When I separate exercise from weight loss (diet) I had much more success. For me, viewing exercise as a seperate activity away from my weight loss efforts helped me see it in a new light.

So I’m curious, can you relate to any of my phases? How do YOU view exercise?

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There are 28 comments so far.

    I am definitely in between phase 2 and 3. I do love exercise, but there are days where I’d much rather just be active. :)


    June 8, 2010

    I began seriously exercising when I married my husband 34 years ago because he was a bodybuilder. He got me into lifting weights. I still lift today, but over the years I have done all kinds of programs. I also used to be a runner – now I have heel pain and can’t run. I miss it and hope to be able to get back to it. I look at exercise as something I just do, like I brush my teeth every day. It’s such a habit, but I do enjoy it, too. My whole family exercises. Today my 26 year old daughter, my husband, and I worked out at the gym together. It was a hard workout, but fun. My other 2 daughters also exercise regularly. I think your example is so great for Ryan. I’m sure he will grow up as one who loves exercise, too, because of you.


    June 8, 2010

    Phase Two all the way these days. I’ve made peace with it over the past year or so… I used to really enjoy exercising. And like you, found that joy when it was no longer attached to my weight, loss or maintenance. But now I’ll never exercise because I want to. I never want to because my knee never wants to. Even though I know the gym could be good for it in a limited capacity, I have yet to see a study that tells me I need to be doing more than I am now. I am desperate to preserve what’s left of my mobility.

    Being mobile allows me to not own a car in downtown Boston and walk where I need to go, supplemented by public transportation and my bicycle. Currently laid up I miss being out, seeing the city on foot is something I really enjoy and I have learned that simply living is enough exercise for me. I plan it into my day and off I go. Getting out, being able to get out and feel the sun (or the rain) on me is something I want to continue to do. My knee only has so much wear and tear left (and I only have so much tolerance for pain) and so I am content using up my miles where they really count.


    June 8, 2010

    Maria – Sometimes I regress back to phase 2 too. ;)

    jen (@jeninRL)

    June 8, 2010

    I totally get you. Fitbloggin helped me move between phases. Seriously, so many fitness-minded people in one spot…aaahhmazing. A month after FB I started LA Boxing and that helped me move into phase 3. Somehow though, I have forgotten about phase 2. I think that HAS to be a part of it all (at least for me). Thanks Roni, it was nice to see it all broken down. and to know I am not alone.


    June 8, 2010

    Jeanine – try heel cups. Not just in your running shoes, but in ALL your shoes. It works.


    June 8, 2010

    I started because I had to as well. An attempt to lower my familial cholesterol in my 30s. I started walking. Eventually I joined a gym when I quit work to stay home full time. Because I no longer had an excuse not to and thought I should start to strength train. At some point I also evolved into exercising because I like to. Well… to be honest, I am not sure how much I like it while I am doing it. But I like it when it is over:)


    June 8, 2010

    I have to say I’m somewhere between 2 and 3. I love walking for exercise, but I am just coming out of a slump and maybe it is boredom. I recently got a new bicycle and try to be active riding with my kids, but I don’t look at that as exercise, it’s just “fun with the kids”. Maybe I need to find some biking challenges for myself to beat the boredom? I can say that I see other benefits than maintaining my weight, physical activity (exercise) definately boosts my mood.


    June 8, 2010

    Is it possible to move through the phases over and over? I go from weeks of forcing myself to do it but not really doing it (like this week) to rocking it and loving it… I wish I could stay in phase three more!

    I just found your blog. It’s great! I would say I’m moving into phase three. I had my third child in Oct. This spring I read the book Run Like a Mother (which I recommend!). I realized how much running helps my mental health as much as my physical health. I love the time alone to clear my mind!


    June 8, 2010

    I mostly live in phase one. I have a love/hate relationship with exercise. I hate exercising but I love the feeling I get from being active. A funny thing happens as I develop a routine and workout on a regular basis, I start to hate it less. (Doesn’t mean I like it though.)

    I try to be more active during the day, but I have a desk job and an hour commute each way. Though next year I might be moving to a new building, second floor. I’m looking forward to the stairs. :)

    Lori K.

    June 8, 2010

    I think I am currently working into Phase 3, but entirely there yet. I have not joined a gym, probably more due to the fear of the leaving my comfort zone rather than a lack of desire to exercise (if that makes any sense).

    Prior to this year I would have considered myself somewhere between phase 1 & 2; we would take walks or go geocaching in the woods when the weather was nice but that was the extent of my exercise. At the beginning of this year I began setting monthly goals for myself (initially in order to lose a little weight), one of my goals was to sign up for a 5k in September. I had never run before in my life, now I am up and out of bed running every other morning, opposite mornings it’s a pilates video. Sometimes I enjoy it, sometimes I curse it but it is no longer about losing weight, now it’s about improving my time and feeling good about my accomplishments.


    June 8, 2010

    Phase 1 – definitely.

    But I wonder, also, if I was thinner and more fit, if going to a gym would be something I would like to do……in my mind I think I would enjoy going to the gym once I’m at a certain weight, whereas right now, I would be embarrassed to join a gym or even attempt gym activities. Does anyone else feel this way?


    June 8, 2010

    Beverly – I think a lot of people feel that way. You are NOT alone. I know I didn’t do a lot of activities before I lost the weight because I was worried about how I looked. It’s so counterproductive but very much a reality. I think that’s why it was so important for me to lose the weight on my terms. Once I saw success on the scale the exercising seemed like a natural next step.


    June 8, 2010

    Without sounding really corny your post really spoke to me. For years I hated exercise and viewed it as either a punishment for being fat or something that I had to do to lose weight. Now I am firmly in Phase 2 with small forays into Phase 3. I love walking and right now that’s my main form of exercise. Sometimes however when the only thing I can do is jump on my stationary bike at home I imagine I’m an athlete and am training for the olympics or something, pushing my body. I know it sounds silly but it helps me to enjoy my time on the bike instead of feeling like it’s a punishment. There’s nothing worse than 30 minutes of punishment but 30 minutes of training for the olympics, now that’s exhilirating!

    I can go between phase 2 and phase 3 — although I am 90% at phase three. I really love walking and hiking and being outdoors so that is my first choice. I also have a gym membership and have recently been trying a few classes here and there.

    I also use to love swimming and I am thinking of adding that back in the picture.

    The two areas that I haven’t incorporated are weight training and I always seem to leave the classes when they start the abs part.


    June 8, 2010

    Right now I’m in various levels of all three “phases.” I exercise with the frequency and determination that I do “because I have to.” My WW daily points are so low; I’ve NEVER been able to ONLY do daily points. I’m just too starved, and there just aren’t enough WPs anymore. I’m also involved in a corporate wellness program with incentives for greater and greater amounts of exercise over time.

    But I do make a point to be active, basically because I don’t like sitting on my hind end all day. I climb three flights of stairs to the bathroom (even though there’s a bathroom on each of the two floors between where I work and where I go to the bathroom), I walk around campus on breaks, around Walmart on a boring evening, anything to keep moving. I haven’t regretted moving into a two-story townhouse.

    But I really do enjoy my Zumba classes. I’ll continue doing them long after I reach goal. I love hiking, swimming, dancing, and yoga. I also enjoy riding my bike and want to someday compete in a long-distance bike race. I’d also like to participate in a charity run.

    I think the biggest difference after reaching goal will be the alleviated pressure to meet some sort of “calorie burn.” If I exercise because it makes me feel good, physically and mentally, I’m more likely to stick with a routine.

    Mine was similar except I wanted to start going to the gym once I saw some losses on the scale with just walking in my neighborhood and playing with kids. I gave a step class a try and actually liked it and now Hunni and I find excuses to exercise together like biking and running.


    June 8, 2010

    Love this! I’ve been struggling with exercise my whole life. Was never the athletic type, or active for that matter. But I always felt like you had to exercise in order to lose weight and feel great.

    However, I recently re-discovered a pair of rollerblades I’ve had for 10 years (and never used might I add) and since the first moment I was on them I’ve enjoyed it and have been on them everyday since.

    I haven’t lost any weight yet, but everything I read (including Weight Watchers) tells me it has a high fat burning level. it just seems like way too much fun for it to burn any calories, but my heart monitor and calorie counter in my watch says it burns 650 calories per 30 minutes (based on heart rate).

    To everyone struggling with the exercise piece, JUST GET ACTIVE. You will WANT to do it all the time. I even brought my skates to work and plan to rollerblade during lunch everyday.


    Skyler Meine

    June 8, 2010

    As I have come to really believe in the benefits of exercise and felt them. It has become a must do in the planning of my days. I use exercise as a release and a time to relax mentally.


    June 8, 2010

    Oh phase one, how I loathe you. I am desperately trying to get beyond it, but i’m just starting out again and working out is hard and forced. Though, I know from past experience, an object in motion is likely to stay in motion and soon my body will catch up with my intentions and then I will be dancing along and running merrily. Here’s hoping ;)


    June 8, 2010

    I feel like I’m a combination of them all. I exercise because I like it and it makes me feel good. I’m cranky when I don’t. I exercise because I “have” to as well–I will always struggle with my weight and I love eating…that means exercise. I also find little ways to fit in activities like walking.


    June 8, 2010

    My experience was kind of backwards here; I started exercising to feel better back in 1992 and loved it immediately…the issue has always been having my body keep up with my mind when it comes to working out. Have maintained the 50 pound weight loss with lots of exercise but since last Fall, have dealt with recurring foot problems that slowed me down a lot. So now being able to do moderate exercise is a “treat” and I’ve really got to watch my food intake more closely than before. I miss spin classes like an old friend…does that make me a freak? :)


    June 8, 2010

    I view exercise partly that I have to because I love to eat and have a hard time curbing my binges. I exercise to maintain that balance for maintaining my weight and also be healthy. I have managed a good balance whether it is healthy or not. I also now enjoy exercise and get a little crazy when life allows me not to get any exercise in.


    June 8, 2010

    I flop around so much its hard to pin down what phase I’m in. Right now I have an event that I really want to do so I’ve been working out hard. It’s been something I have make myself start (as in just get in the car and GO TO THE GYM) but I don’t mind it once I start and I love the feeling when I’m done. I guess I’ve really just been thinking about how I always have these daydreams about what I want to do but I wasn’t doing anything to make them happen. So now, I’m doing something and making it happen. And that feels pretty good :)

    Lola Fierce

    June 9, 2010

    This is EXACTLY my progression as well. Now, I think I’m mostly in Phase 3, but I do have my Phase 2 moments. I think the realization for me that “being active” could be more than just formally exercising was huge. Understanding that I could burn calories by just doing regular stuff, like cleaning, dancing, washing the car, etc, was a huge milestone.


    June 9, 2010

    I LOVE EXERCISE!!!. That is what got me started at my 70lb. weight loss. The weight watchers came later and I lost the last 15 lbs. I’m a group exercise instructor now. Totally addicted!


    June 9, 2010

    I can not only relate to these three phases, but I can say that for me all three are integrated and one or the other is dominant at any given time.

    Sometimes exercising feels more like a battle than other times- I find that even after spending time in your phase 3 for a few weeks, the phase 1 feelings can creep back in. One thing I absolutely can count on: weight gain if I don’t exercise (this has to do with not being as in control of my diet as I should be).

    So for the past couple of years I stick to my routine most of the time, and am grateful when my run or weight lifting session feels 90% or more like phase 3! When it doesn’t, I just trudge through keeping in mind that the workouts do “work” for me.