How 365 Days of Exercise Has Changed What I Think of My Body

More than just being “fit,” working out daily has helped me achieve good physical, mental, and spiritual health.

How 365 Days of Exercise Has Changed What I Think of My Body
Image from author’s Instagram

More than just being “fit,” working out daily has helped me achieve good physical, mental, and spiritual health.

I gave up Sattriya (An Indian classical dance form from Assam) when I was 8, because the exams required me to write in Assamese, and I wasn’t so familiar with the language in my childhood.

I gave up Taekwondo classes when I was 16 to prepare for my board exams.

In college, I started running, but I gave that up too, when the pandemic hit in 2020.

All my life, my relationship with exercise has been tenuous. 

I start a workout form, enjoy it immensely, but before I can make it a part of my life, something happens, and I have to give it up.

Only over the past year, when I got settled into the solopreneur life and started owning my time, did I have the luxury to devote time and attention to daily workouts.

I started pole dancing, then went to the gym to get better at it, and have since made fitness a part of my life. This post comes as a set of reflections after 365 days of consistent exercise.

I wanted to document my journey and show how exercise has changed my relationship with myself. Let me take you along on this ride in the hopes that within my words, you might find the spark to start your own fitness journey.

The changed relationship with food

Before I incorporated exercise into my diet, I used to feel guilty about eating “bad” food. 

I wasn’t mindful about what I put into my body. Guilt was the only emotion I could associate with my eating. 

Now that I’ve added a lot of healthy food to my meals, I’ve learned to have other emotions around food as well. 

When I eat good food, I thank myself. I let the feeling of gratitude flow through my body and appreciate the difference that I’m eating something that’s made with love.

I started preparing at least one meal a day for myself, and the difference is immense. Cooking has become a spiritual activity, and my body cherishes eating it, recognizing its benefit and the gratitude running through my mind, body, and soul. 

When I only ate junk food, I never felt that gratitude. Instead, I had a sense of discontent that I’m eating something bad once again. I thought the only way to balance it was to not eat anything at all the next day, leading to an endless loop of binge-restrict cycles.

Now that I’ve been having healthy food for so long, I feel my body deserves nothing less. I know this bout of junk food is something I’ve earned.

Now I know that even if I eat junk food every weekend, it’s definitely not too bad for my health. I am allowed to “treat” myself if I take care of my health every other day.

The changed relationship with spirituality

Working out daily made me realize my body deserves only the best things. 

If you work out and maintain a healthy lifestyle by having good sleep, drinking enough water, and taking time out for self-care, your physical, mental, and spiritual health would improve tenfold.

I’m an atheist, but I’m also a spiritual person. I wasn’t like this at the start of 2020, though. 

Working out daily and meditating has made me spiritual. It’s made me realize that you need faith in something. I have faith in the Universe that she will always take care of me. 

I believe in abundance. I believe that we can get exactly what we want.

Working out has encouraged me to make time for meditation, and meditation has opened up the gate of spirituality for me.

The changed relationship with future goals

Working out for 365 days has made me understand that of all the assets I have, my health is the primary one. 

If I’m not in good health, there’s no point having anything else. 

There’s no point in making a name for yourself or having lots of money if you’re not healthy and can’t enjoy the fruits of your labor.

What’s the use of all that fame, money, and goodwill if your mind and body can’t reap the benefits?

An unintended side effect of working out every day is how easily people will mistake you to be a lot younger than you actually are. When I hang out with people in their early 20s, they have a hard time believing I’m actually 32. My friends often praise me saying I’m in the best physical shape of my life.

This has given me another life goal I’d never have imagined having five years ago: Every year, I should be stronger than I was a year ago.

“Being in shape” is overrated, only a vanity metric. I don’t care about aesthetics, but I do care about functionality. I want to have strong bones, glowing skin, and enough strength to lift my own grocery bags.

If I can keep doing that every year of my life, I’ll be the happiest person.

The changed definition of “difficult”

Working out daily might sound difficult, but trust me, it’s only the first 15 days that are hard.

After 15 days, you’ll start enjoying working out so much, your “busy” schedule will automatically adjust to make time for it. 

You’ll start incorporating exercise in your day without feeling bad.

Once you start eating healthy, you’ll realize the difference it makes to your mood, your mental health, your physical health, and you will know that this is actually what your body deserves.

Anything less than that is just not living life to the fullest. 

Fitness becomes a part of your life. You learn to get happier with it. And it just becomes second nature.

The changed relationship with self-esteem

A fun aspect of working out daily is how you keep challenging yourself every day.

Whether it’s progressive overload at the gym or trying out different moves in pole dancing, no two workouts are the same.

I’m either increasing the weights, the number of reps, or challenging my body to bend into different shapes every week on the pole. I’m forced to think of creative ways to challenge my body every week, and when I can do that, the sense of accomplishment knows no bounds.

Science agrees with this too, and when your brain recognises the rewards associated with creative problem solving, you’re tempted to keep coming back to multiple forms of that problem over and over again.

“Subliminal rewards activate the striatal DA system, enhancing the kinds of automatic integrative processes that lead to more creative strategies for problem solving, without increasing the selectivity of attention, which could impede insight.” — Cristofori et. al., The effects of expected reward on creative problem solving (2019)

This dopamine from exceeding my expectations not only helps me stay consistent, but has also immensely helped with my self-esteem. 

I see myself as someone who doesn’t give up, who pushes her body to reach new heights every week. This has translated to better self-confidence in public speaking events and setting more audacious goals for myself.

How 365 days of exercise has changed my relationship with self: Final words

Working out every day for the past 365 days has immensely impacted my social, professional, and personal life.

I’m a stronger, happier, more fulfilled person. 

Not only that, my body caters to the definition of “aesthetic” according to social standards, and this has given me immense validation from friends and strangers alike.

My workout is the anchor that keeps my sanity intact. Even when everything else in my life is in pieces, I have my gym or pole dance class to look forward to. It has kept me rooted and given me wings to fly.

None of this was easy. There’ve been injuries, sicknesses that derailed my progress, and days when even getting out of bed seemed like a daunting task.

But I kept showing up for myself. I kept showing up for a vision of the future I wasn’t sure I’d ever achieve.

And this showing up every day has changed me as a person. It has given me the skills and confidence to pursue happiness not just in the gym, but in all areas of my life.

Starting this fitness journey wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

I know if I had to go back and do it all over again, I’d do it in a blink.

If you enjoyed this article, here are a few others you might enjoy:

5 Habits to Stay Fit When You’re Not Consistently Working Out
The quest for fitness is a lifestyle change.
3 Techniques That Helped Me Exercise Daily (When Nothing Else Worked)
A peek into how I keep myself motivated through a fitness slump.
What Going to the Gym After 32 Days Feels Like
It’s hard, but not as much as you think it’d be!