I was talking with a friend from Massachusetts (where I used to live) at the start of the new year and he mentioned that he’d been walking every morning before work even in five degree weather. Mentally shivering, I commented on how brave he was. His response: that he found great pleasure in walking and being fit. I agreed.

So many of the disregulated eaters I work with see becoming and staying fit as a chore, a drudge, a bother—a frank pain in the butt. Many feel the same way about trying to eat healthfully. This is such a far cry from what a positive self-care attitude about health and fitness is that I want to let all know that there’s another way. When you eat nourishing food and keep your body active, you get a rush of good feelings. Some come from the sheer pleasure of movement and making caring choices for yourself. Others come from knowing that you’re doing the best you can and will derive benefits now and down the road. You can almost taste those delicious feelings of well-being and self-satisfaction. I’m telling you--nothing is more yummy than self-care and pride!

In order to get to the place of finding pleasure in health and fitness, you must stop telling yourself how awful the process is. Stop repeating, “I hate this. This is no fun. I’m not having a good time. It’s not fair that I have to work so hard, I don’t want to do this.” No one could possibly find pleasure in any activity if they constantly tell themselves they’re miserable. Change how you feel by telling yourself you feel differently--that what you’re doing is worthwhile and enjoyable--and it will become so.

If you’ve been loathing exercise or eating nutritious foods, you will not automatically, immediately feel pleasure in these behaviors. It will take time to let go of the negative feelings and instill the positive ones. When you’ve stopped denouncing these activities and are in a more neutral place, start telling yourself, “Hey, look at me, I’m feeding myself well,” or “It feels so good to move my body.” Consciously seek pleasure and don’t stop until you find something you’re enjoying about eating healthfully or being more active. Then magnify whatever pleasure you’ve found a hundred-fold.

Neither my Massachusetts friend nor I came to a place of being good to ourselves without hard work. It was a long, bumpy road for us both, but so well worth it. Toward the end of our conversation we talked about how our struggles were now pretty much just a distant memory. What we each have in their place is pride in doing the utmost to take care of ourselves. Pride, pleasure, enjoyment, joy—nothing beats it.