For most of my adult life, my relationship with exercise existed on a cycle. After I finished high school and no longer played competitive basketball, I found myself in college trying to figure out fitness outside of the context of team sports. For most people, this would mean discovering the type of exercise that made them feel best, or which workout they enjoyed the most.
For me—someone who had had been trying to be smaller since I was 12 years old (I'm now 26), yet always had hours of sports activities each week to accomplish this—it meant researching what could help me lose weight in the quickest, most effective way.
During college and for a long time after, I would weigh myself or look at myself in the mirror closely. If I noticed a change—a new stretch mark, an extra 5-10 pounds—I would panic. Eventually, I would turn this panic into action, convincing myself that I had to do something to get my body back to the way it was. I was a problem to be fixed.
I would go on Pinterest or Instagram and map out a plan. I would sign up for a half-marathon and print out a scheduled training program. I would buy a huge pack of SoulCycle classes with money I didn’t have. I would order some fitness Instagrammer’s at-home bodyweight workout plan. I would shell out thousands on an expensive yearly gym membership and convince myself that the high price would be motivation for me to go to the gym regularly (spoiler alert: this rarely works).
In my early 20s, I would have said that my desire to exercise was just me trying to be healthy, get stronger, and stay focused. But the truth is that I wouldn’t have done any of it if someone told me that my workouts would never result in weight loss. I wouldn’t have done it to improve my mental health, anxiety, or energy, nor to build strength or endurance. I wouldn’t have done it for any reason at all if it didn't make me smaller.
A love-hate relationship with fitness
It’s no surprise, then, that I never stuck with any of my fitness routines long-term. Sometimes this was because I didn’t enjoy whatever the exercise was, despite feeling like I should (looking at you, hot yoga). Other times it was because I read or heard that a particular type of exercise probably wasn’t going to make me lose weight at all, even if I did enjoy it (jogging, walking, spinning).
I would abandon a fitness routine and then spend a long while not exercising regularly at all, feeling guilty. Eventually, the pattern would continue all over again. The shame, the plan, the money, the lack of exercise. All of it. But recently, I decided to stop.
Inspired by a new career, home, and the desire to live life intentionally, I looked this exercise cycle dead in the face for what it was: an unsustainable, toxic recipe for never learning to like exercise at all—and for never appreciating fitness for the mental or physical health benefits it offers that have nothing to do with weight loss.
So I decided to retrain myself. I made a decision to stop hemorrhaging money in the hopes of buying motivation or thinness. Instead, I bought a $2.99 running app for beginners on my phone and started jogging once a week, then twice a week. No weigh-ins before and after workouts. In fact, no weight-ins at all. I threw out my scale and focused on how I felt after each workout.
Slowly, something started to shift. I noticed how I felt a little bit stronger on each run. My breathing got easier. My legs felt more powerful. And the anxiety that's plagued me since college, compelling me to worry about mundane things to the point where I can't focus on anything else nor fall asleep at night? After every 30-minute run, it felt like the anxiety was cut in half. Sometimes it disappeared entirely.
Feeling stronger, healthier–and happier
For the first time in my life, I've started to crave going on a run when I feel anxious or nervous. For the first time in my life, I'm able to enjoy exercise without beating myself up for not being good enough, or simply being enough. The only reason any of this is possible is because I separated exercise from the idea of weight loss.
When I run now, I don’t do it picturing a smaller version of myself in my head; I picture a happier version. Like so many people, I feel happier when I exercise regularly. I simply never viewed happiness as enough in the past; happiness without thinness was an impossibility to me.
Rebuilding a healthy relationship with exercise can be understandably difficult for people with complicated feelings surrounding their bodies and weight loss. The first thing that helped me was reacquainting myself with the science-proven benefits of working out that have nothing to do with shedding pounds. Divorcing exercise from weight loss is something Liz Josefsberg, a nutrition exercise specialist and nutritional advisor to The Vitamin Shoppe, does with her clients.
“I ask them to connect to what it feels like to effortlessly play with their kids or grandkids, to remember that we exercise for strength, balance, and stability, and for better mental health as we age and to live the lives we dream of,” Josefsberg tells Health. “It really helps to keep them motivated and consistent.”
"Exercise is a gift, not a punishment"
If focusing on the long-term health benefits of fitness outside of weight loss don't motivate you, consider the instant gains. As a freelancer with a need for concentration, this was my motivation. “Exercise improves and maintains cognitive function,” certified health and wellness coach Roxanne Summerville tells Health.
Another immediate benefit of exercise is something everyone's heard of thanks to Legally Blonde: endorphins. Working out causes our bodies to release endorphins, which are sometimes thought of as natural antidepressants. "We experience a dramatic lift in mood after completing a workout,” says Summerville.
If you want to score the benefits of exercise yet can’t figure out where to start, focus on movement rather than calories burned or specific classes or types of fitness.
“My recommendations for the average person looking to start a fitness routine would be to aim for 3-5 hours of activity per week," certified personal trainer and owner of M.O.V.E N.J Jarrett Hahan tells Health. "That does not mean spending an hour to an hour and a half in a gym 3 to 5 days per week. It just means to get active and move your body for that total amount of time over the course of the week."
What helps me to keep exercise separate from weight loss is to remember this phrase: "exercise is a gift, not a punishment." Every time I run now, I feel grateful that I’m able to give the gift of exercise to my body.
This was true even before I changed my relationship with exercise. All those times I would close my eyes and push myself harder, pushing myself to go faster, get better—my body was amazing then, too. The difference is, I actually believe it now.
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The Sunday Times says that after three days of assessing allegations against Tiso Blackstar associate editor Ranjeni Munusamy, it withdrew her column in last weekend’s edition of the newspaper.
The publication said that it learnt of the allegations last week when Munusamy was informed by the Zondo commission, looking into state capture, that she was to be implicated in testimony before it.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Tiso Black Star said Munusamy had been placed on special leave while internal investigations were under way.
On Thursday, News24 reported that Senior Hawks investigator Colonel Kobus Roelofse told the inquiry he had contacted Munusamy at least three times in 2014 about allegations regarding a Crime Intelligence secret slush fund.
“I did, in fact, contact Ms Munusamy. I informed her of what I found and asked her for her version and explanation,” he told the commission on his third day of testimony.
“I spoke to her about three times and she said she would speak to her legal representative. I didn’t receive any communications from her,” he said.
Roelofse told the commission the day before that alleged payments made to Munusamy were discovered while investigating claims of corruption between Crime Intelligence officers and Atlantis Motors, which is based in Centurion.
“We were able to uncover an amount of R143 621.78. It was paid from the Atlantis Motors business account to Wesbank vehicle finance account in the settlement agreement of the vehicle in the name of Ms Ranjeni Munusamy. As far as I know, she is a journalist,” he said.
The amount was debited on July 30, 2008.
He alleged that the money came from an account within the Atlantis motors account.
However, he said his investigations did not establish why Munusamy received the money.
Munusamy told News24 she would defend herself against the allegations.
“I deny the allegations made against me at the Zondo commission today. They are baseless. I am working with my lawyers to draft a response to the allegations for the commission, with whom I am co-operating fully,” she said.
The Tiso Blackstar statement said Munusamy joined the media house in 2017 after leaving Daily Maverick.
“The company was unaware of any investigation involving Munusamy. At the time she was engaged as an independent contractor.”
Daily Maverick also issued a statement saying it noted the allegations but added that she was not in journalism at the time.
“Munusamy was an important part of the Daily Maverick team from April 2012, till July 2017. In those five years as Daily Maverick Associate Editor, she distinguished herself through her peerless understanding of the South African political scene and strong work ethic. We were sad to see her leave for Tiso Media/Sunday Times,” the statement read.
Daily Maverick further stated that it prescribes to the principle of “presumed innocent until proven guilty”.
“Accordingly, we look forward to Munusamy proving her innocence and welcoming her back soon into the journalism fold,” the statement concluded.
– compiled by Vanessa Banton
Birmingham – Essex captain Simon Harmer produced a match-winning cameo with the bat to lead his team to victory over Worcestershire on the final ball of Saturday’s T20 Blast final.
All-rounder Harmer took three for 16 including the key wicket of Moeen Ali as Essex restricted defending champions Worcestershire to 145/9 after winning the toss and bowling at Edgbaston.
Essex’s title ambitions looked in tatters when Moeen dismissed Ryan ten Doeschate and Dan Lawrence in quick succession to leave them 82/5 in the 14th over.
But Ravi Bopara, who made 36 off 22 balls, revived their hopes to leave Essex requiring 12 off the final over.
They managed just six from the first four balls against Wayne Parnell before Harmer smacked his compatriot for successive boundaries to propel Essex to a thrilling win.
County Championship leaders Essex will look to complete a double when they host second-placed Somerset in the final round of first-class matches next week.
Worcestershire, who beat Sussex to lift the title in 2018, returned to the final following a dramatic one-run victory over Nottinghamshire in Saturday’s first semi-final.
Ben Duckett, who made an unbeaten 49, needed just a single from the final ball to level the scores and give Nottinghamshire victory by virtue of losing fewer wickets, but he missed a heave across the line off Parnell.
Essex defeated Derbyshire by 34 runs in the other semi-final.
Almost a month has gone by since late Bosasa boss Gavin Watson’s fatal crash that shocked South Africa, but the nation is no more clued up on the facts of his death than they were that Monday morning in August.
This despite the fact that there appear to be three parallel investigations underway into Watson’s death: The official police investigation, the Watson family’s own probe through private forensic experts and inquiries made by the Zondo commission into state capture.
Watson crashed his Bosasa company car, a Toyota Corolla, into a concrete pillar approaching OR Tambo International Airport on the R21 on August 26.
A source close to the Watson family told News24 there were a number of outstanding factors in the investigation, including data from Watson’s cellphone, CCTV footage of the car before or during the accident, the final pathology report and the findings on the actual vehicle.
The missing cellphone
When the police arrived at the scene of the crash, Watson’s cellphone was allegedly already missing. When traced, it was picked up in Germiston and then Bryanston at about 19:00 the same day of the crash. It has never been found.
The source said the phone’s tracking data was still needed.
“It should have taken 48 hours. Four weeks almost, and we’re still waiting.
“It is a big concern especially as the phone was moving subsequent to Gavin’s death,” the source said.
The data will be important because it will be able to tell investigators what Watson’s movements were in the hours preceding his death and to whom he was talking.
While it will be unable to show the contents of data phone calls or messages sent on WhatsApp or other messaging apps, it will show where he was and which cellphone towers his phone was pinging off.
The question of cameras
The question of the existence of CCTV footage of Watson’s car either before or after the crash is still looming.
The crash happened within walking distance of the airport, however, News24 observed no cameras that could have possibly recorded the crash.
Neither Sanral nor ACSA have given any clarity on why there were no cameras on this particular stretch of road. OR Tambo is a national key point and it would have been expected that the approach to it would have been covered by cameras.
Footage at the crash site and on the few hundred metres before the accident scene would be able to show if Watson was followed or run off the road as some have speculated.
It could also cast a light on whether or not he stopped his vehicle a few hundred metres before he crashed as one eyewitness has claimed.
What the body could tell us
While the family has heard evidence from a preliminary pathology report from experts – a key piece of evidence – the final report will still take a while to finalise.
“[The experts] have effectively ruled out the possibility of the accident being self-inflicted from their investigations,” the source said.
“We are told that in the professional opinion of the pathologist, Gavin was either dead or his heart was not functioning at the time of the impact of the vehicle.
“This was confirmed by the pathologist’s observations that in spite of the laceration of the neck and severed aorta, neither of these wounds showed significant blood loss, and the brush abrasions on the body were dry.
“This would confirm the pathologist’s view, that at the time these injuries were incurred, the heart was already not functioning.”
The source continued: “Obviously, Gavin could not be driving while dead, so this would either mean something occurred to just prior to the accident or some other event that we cannot speculate about just yet happened.”
Crucially, the toxicology report is still outstanding and could take some time to be completed.
The source said the pathologist could only comment on what he had witnessed during the autopsy, while the final report would reveal toxicology results and whether foul play was involved.
This would take some time, the source added.
Handling the vehicle wreck
Watson’s crumpled car had undergone a forensic investigation at a police impound in Benoni. News24 previously published footage of the car as it had undergone investigation during which time it had been stripped.
At the time, national police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo told News24 they were satisfied the evidence they needed was gathered at the scene of the crash.
Once the vehicle was removed from the scene, it was combed for clues.
News24 confirmed the investigation on the car was complete; however, the source said there was no report as yet.
“From the vehicle, we need a complete report that will specify if it had been tampered with in any way. However, a significant concern is how quickly the vehicle was stripped.”
Where was Watson going?
There is still no clarity on what Watson was doing travelling to the airport at dawn on a Monday morning. He was not scheduled to fly to Port Elizabeth as he often did to consult with his lawyers.
Watson’s company still had security contracts at the facility and it is possible he was going to check on something there or meet with someone. The airport may have served as a convenient and anonymous venue for him to hold a clandestine meeting of sorts.
As far as the public is aware, no one has come forward to say they were due to meet with him or having any knowledge of why he was there.
Recovering his phone may clarify this as, according to WhatsApp, he had sent his last message in the hour or so before the accident.
All the police could find on him at the scene was his ID, driver’s licence and R70.
It is believed Watson attended a prayer meeting the day before his death and then worked on preparations for the tax inquiry he was to attend the day after.
Investigations are ongoing
While the police are being extremely tight-lipped regarding their investigation, the source said not much information had come from them, adding the police should be more forthcoming with the family as it was unclear whether they were making progress.
Naidoo said he could not provide any updates on the ongoing investigation “due to the potential of them compromising the investigation”.
The family’s private investigator could also not disclose any information, as requested by their lawyers.
If cheese is your weakness, you might be happy with the latest research from Penn State University. Antioxidants that naturally occur in cheese may help protect your blood vessels from damage from high levels of salt in your diet, a news release reported.
Researchers found in a randomised cross-over study that when adults consume too much sodium through their diet, their blood vessels may become damaged, which may lead to cardiovascular issues.
But when these same adults ate at least four servings of cheese in conjunction with their high sodium diet, they didn’t experience the same level of blood vessel damage expected from such a salty diet.
These findings may help people balance food that taste good with minimising the risks that come from eating too much salt, said Billie Alba from Penn State University, who led the study.
“While there’s a big push to reduce dietary sodium, for a lot of people it’s difficult,” Alba said. “Possibly being able to incorporate more dairy products, like cheese, could be an alternative strategy to reduce cardiovascular risk and improve vessel health without necessarily reducing total sodium.”
Why we need salt – but not too much
Sodium is a vital mineral for the human body to help maintain its fluid levels. But too much dietary sodium can be associated with cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 5g per day; however, it is estimated that South Africans use 8.5g.
And while we tend to think that we should simply reduce the amount of table salt we add to our meals, it’s not that simple – sodium lurks in many foods that may not be obviously “salty” – processed products such as cereal, ready-made soups, even some breads.
But according to Prof Lacy Alexander, another researcher on the study, previous research has shown a connection between dairy products (yes, even cheeses with a higher sodium level) and improved heart health.
What the study entailed
The researchers recruited 11 adults without salt-sensitive blood pressure for the study. They each followed four separate diets for eight days at a time: a low-sodium, no-dairy diet; a low-sodium, high-cheese diet; a high-sodium, no-dairy diet; and a high-sodium, high-cheese diet.
At the end of each week-long diet, the participants returned to the lab for testing. The researchers inserted tiny fibres under the participants’ skin and applied a small amount of the drug acetylcholine, a compound that signals blood vessels to relax.
This could help the researchers determine how each study subject’s blood vessels performed after the diets. The subjects’ blood pressure and urine were also monitored.
After a week, it was seen that the blood vessels on the high sodium no cheese diet were not responding well to the acetylcholine, unlike those on the high sodium high cheese diet.
“While the participants were on the high-sodium diet without any cheese, we saw their blood vessel function dip to what you would typically see in someone with pretty advanced cardiovascular risk factors,” Alexander said. “But when they consumed the same amount of salt, and ate cheese as a source of that salt, those effects were completely avoided.”
While it is not yet sure if the effect is because of a specific nutrient in the cheese, it was suggested that antioxidants in cheese may be a factor. Alba stated that it is important that these effects be tested in larger studies to see how dairy may possibly preserve vascular health.
Image credit: iStock
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