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Why To Exercise Today, Valentine: Not For Perfect Legs

This article is more than 10 years old.
Author Maryjeanne Hunt now (Courtesy)
Author Maryjeanne Hunt now (Courtesy)

You may be feeling a little gooey and edgy from the great media shower of candy, hearts and flowers today, so forgive me for piling on, but today's reason to exercise is about love.

Not that hyped, romantic love, though, but the sane self-love that prompts us to make healthy choices like working out. Okay, end of Oprah segment. But I just wanted to share my favorite section of a book we recently featured, Eating To Lose: Healing From a Life of Diabulimia.

The author, Maryjeanne Hunt of Millis, MA, has Type 1 diabetes and used to skip the insulin she needed, despite huge risks, in order to lose weight. She also got deeply into fitness, as both participant and instructor, and says she "abused" exercise as well. But at least exercise is generally healthy — and regular exercise remains part of her far saner approach to her weight these days. With her permission, this comes from the section of her book titled "Cookie Power:"

It was a Friday morning at 6:30 a.m., several years later in July. My cardio interval class had just ended.

"Thanks," one of the participants sighed breathlessly as she toweled off the sweat from her face and neck. "That was a great workout! I really needed that today."

Yes, you'll be amazed by the benefits of exercise, and no, you won't have my legs — ever.

I turned to face the woman, whose voice I didn't recognize, and smiled. "I think we all did."

"I've been in a slump," she continued. "This was the first week since New Year's that I've actually made it to the gym all five days?"

"Well, congratulations, then. And by the way, Happy New Year!" We chuckled and continued walking toward the lockers.

"How many days a week do you work out?" she asked.

"Almost every day."

"So if I do this every day, how long will it take me to have legs like yours?"

"Probably as long as it will take me to have your beautiful young skin or teeth or smile."

She laughed modestly, then continued to pursue her information quest. "Seriously, will an hour a day work?"

"Yes...and no."

"What do you mean?"

"Yes, you'll be amazed at how just one hour a day spent reaching a little beyond your physical limits will benefit your body, and your mind, and your soul, and your energy, and, and, and. And no, you won't have my legs — ever."

I noticed the playfully annoyed expression on her face saying, "Come on, you idiot. Stop playing word-games with me. You know what I'm getting at."

"Of course I get you," I continued. "The thing is, it's never really about redesigning our bodies. Have you ever met a single human being on this planet that was capable of doing that? And yet we're conditioned to believe we can and should. A protein powder, a Bow-flex machine, a detox diet, a low-carb diet, a boob job, a nose job, lap-band surgery...It doesn't matter what tool we use; they all fail in the end because they don't accomplish what we don't even realize we're really trying to accomplish."

"Which is what, exactly?"

"We're just trying to like ourselves. And we think if we change ourselves on the outside, we'll get there. But it's not true. What really has to change is what we look through to see ourselves. We have to stop looking through the muddy stuff."

"So what's the muddy stuff?"

"All the body stuff is muddy when that's what you're looking through to see the real you. If I'm taking care of my body and making sure it's getting the stuff it needs — like food, exercise, sleep, fresh air, work, play, not to mention kindness, acceptance and compassion — then my body is just going to look like what it looks like. It's a waste of my energy to evaluate it, period. Once I free myself of that temptation to evaluate and critique my body, I get to feel all the real living and being that's always been available to me."

If ever a passage had the ring of hard-won wisdom, doesn't that one? You can listen to Maryjeanne's recent segment on Radio Boston here, and our post about her book is here.

This program aired on February 14, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.



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