Why exercise and how to get started (even if you hate it)

We all know that exercise is an important component of overall health… but did you know that it can actually help you deal with food addiction?

Today, Chef AJ shares how adding exercise to her routine helped her manage her food addiction and why she recommends it to anyone looking to lose weight. 

Plus, she reveals how she got hooked on exercise even though she initially hated it. 

If you want to start exercising but just hate the idea of it (… you’re not alone!), Chef AJ gives a simple hack that can help you turn things around. 



Chef AJ:

Exercise is so important for people with addictions because it’s the only thing that has been proven to actually help people, prevent people from having the addiction in the first place and to rewire the brain, to help people overcome an addiction. And that has nothing to do with diet. And you can find this in the medical literature, how powerful exercise is. And that’s why when you talk about stress and eating for anxiety and depression, use exercise first, before you do drugs. Exercise is a drug if it’s used appropriately and it will give you all those feel-good chemicals that will actually make you stick to your healthy eating plan. And regardless of what weight you are, it will make you feel better. It will make you look better, make you look longer and leaner, whatever weight you are. And when done first thing in the morning especially increases your self-esteem which is what losing weight does, but it takes a little bit longer for the way to come off. Whereas exercise, the effects are absolutely immediate.

So you need to establish a plan of movement. I love how JP teaches people to move throughout the day and have little stations with your bands and your weights and things like that, but find something that you like to do. What did you like to do when you were seven? When you were seven, did you like to swim? Did you like to ride your bike? Did you like to dance? Hopefully the answer isn’t nothing but find what you like to do when you were little and do that now because if there’s a class for it, it’s great. Because sometimes being in a class is more motivating than trying to do it yourself.

So if you like running, go to meetup.com or join a running group. Like Shayda started playing pickleball through meetup.com. Find an activity that you like in doing it in a group, unless you’re a very highly introverted person that’s so disciplined that you can exercise yourself, which I’m at that point. Now I still spend three 90-minute classes a week, but I do it myself. Nobody’s in the room. I don’t need that. But to start out, I needed the energy of the people in the room to get me through the class and the coaching from the instructor. I’m able to do it now, but this is five years later.

So what I did to start exercising is I got a buddy. You know, having a buddy for when you’re wanting to make lifestyle change, whether it’s to quit smoking or quit drinking or start exercising or eating healthily, having a buddy, Dr. Michael Roizen from the Cleveland Clinic says, has been proven more effective than the most effective anti-addictive medicine. There’s something magical about having a buddy or what we call an accountability partner. It doesn’t have to be a live — I mean, it has to be a live person. Doesn’t have to an in-person person. It can be an online person but where exercise is concerned, a live person is great because when I started exercising, I used to go to a class called Cardio Bar with my friend Melanie. And I committed to a time and to pick her up just like I would if I had a dentist appointment, and so I wasn’t going to let Melanie down. And so by having a buddy, I was able to exercise and we used to walk together.

But then once I got bit by the exercise bug and found out what it did for me mentally, which really was to calm me down and make me feel good and make the food part so much easier. I didn’t, it’s not that I don’t enjoy doing things with other people, but I didn’t need it anymore. And it really, it became a habit. And when you do something long enough, it not only becomes a habit, but an automatic habit, but getting started is the hardest, hardest part. If you read the book, The Pleasure Trap, which I recommend, the motivational triad is seek pleasure, avoid pain and conserve energy. And by avoiding exercises you conserve energy and you avoid pain and sometimes it is painful first, if you’ve had a lifetime of inactivity.

I just went a week without exercise because this thing was so acute. I was in too much pain and I was on narcotics. And I’ll tell you, going back today, 5:30 in the morning, it’s so hard to get back to. That’s why just like with the food, when you relapse, it takes so many days to get the food right and to get it to taste good again. When you relapse on exercise, even when you have a medical exception, it’s so much harder to get back to it.

So I tell you little tricks on myself. I would sign up for a spin class. It was $18. That was before I joined a gym where it’s much cheaper. And if you didn’t cancel by a certain time, you lost the money. And I would sleep in my workout clothes, except for my shoes. You know, I just did it. I mean, it’s kind of like what my shirt says. That’s kinda like, you just do it, you build a habit. You don’t have to like it. You just have to do it.

And if you hate all forms of exercise, do the one you hate the least. And for me, that was yoga. That’s where I started. And now I love it. I mean, I can’t imagine not exercising now. It’s almost like if I’m not allowed to exercise, I go crazy. It’s because my brain is so dependent on those chemicals because I’m not getting them from sugar, oil, flour, alcohol, or salt.

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