Do you remember the very first time you moved your body to change the size of your body?
As in, the first time when, instead of doing an active thing for the fun of it, you “worked out?”
I’ve been trying to remember for the past week — the few feet of snow we got here had me hurling myself into snowdrifts and giggling like a psychotic little toddler the entire time (highly recommend) … so, I’m feeling nostalgic.
And, thinking back, it’s like one day I was getting into snowball fights (or riding my bike around the neighborhood or doing cartwheels … or whatever…) just because, and the next I was doing Tae Bo in my parents’ living room because I “had to.” You know, to “work off” whatever I ate. Or was going to eat. Or was thinking I might eat.
I’m guessing it happens for most of us around puberty (but I also generally like blaming things on my period, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ) — our bodies change around that time, as they’re wired to do, and females in particular tend to gain more fat.
And since we’ve been conditioned to believe since infancy — by our family, by the media, and even by our physicians — that body fat is very, very baaaaad, we suddenly stop moving our bodies for enjoyment and start working out to burn CALORIES. Which we’ve also been taught are very, very bad.
It’s just too easy … unavoidable, really … to get sucked into the narrative that that’s what moving your body is for: Getting skinny.
(I’m obviously speaking from a woman’s perspective here; I know men feel appearance-based societal pressure as well, whether it be to lose weight or to “get jacked,” and that sucks too).
And, once you’re in that mindset, it’s nearly impossible to escape it because, everywhere we go, we’re bombarded with “weight loss” messaging and told that thinner is better. Sometimes the messaging is overt (à la the group classes that sell you on burning up to 1,000 calories in an hour AND HAVE LEADERSHIP BOARDS SO YOU CAN COMPETE WITH YOUR CLASSMATES … wtf). Other times, it’s masked in feel-good language like “challenge” and “motivation.”
Personally, I probably spent close to two decades working out to “control” my weight, and half the time, I didn’t even realize that’s what I was doing. I was convinced I was just challenging myself and, more, that I liked it.
But there was always the underlying fear of what might happen to my body if I were to take too many days off from the gym, get out of the habit, and not be “motivated” to return.
And THAT right there is how you know — when your motivation to continue moving your body in a certain way is out of FEAR of what might happen to it if you don’t … you’re tying movement to weight loss, consciously or not.
And when you’re tying movement to weight loss, you’re not actually “challenging” yourself in the healthy way we all should. You’re PUNISHING YOURSELF.
It’s not sustainable. The same as going on a diet, really, only in this case the restriction lies in you limiting yourself to activities where you’re murdering your body, in the spirit of getting the most bang for your caloric buck, and from activities you might actually enjoy and that are probably better for you anyway.
Any “health benefit” you gain will be far outweighed by the stress and anxiety you’ll feel around eating and exercise 24/7. Not to mention, all the restriction will inevitably cause bingeing on food and going through periods of not exercising at all when your body simply can’t take it anymore … the very two things you were trying so hard to avoid. It will chip away at your body image and have you missing out on life.
This is so normalized, it doesn’t even occur to us that it might be disordered (it is).
And none of this may apply to you right now, but I think it’s important to constantly check yourself. Especially since, in the next month or so, all the “90-Day Summer Body” challenges will be rearing their shitty heads.
But as tempting as those before-and-after “transformation” photos may be, remember that thinner doesn’t always mean healthier or happier, and just keep trusting your body.
Disengage from toxic fitness and diet talk that prioritizes appearance and “sweating it out” over healing your body.
And, if you are feeling resistance around a workout, it’s imperative that you ask yourself “why” … and listen.
You may need a nap more than you need movement (one reason I hate the saying “you’ll never regret a workout” is because I’ve TOTALLY regretted workouts, and it usually had to do with me having needed sleep instead).
Or, it could be that you’re not resisting movement itself but rather how you had planned to move that day. It really is okay to break the “rules” and change your plans; I do all the time, whenever I’m not feeling it.
When in doubt, channel that time when you always moved your body to feel good. When you discovered things you liked … and just did them.
There are a ton of different ways to move out there — weightlifting, pilates, Zumba, mobility training, the list goes on — and chances are, if you do some online searching, you can find a free class for each (speaking of, if you haven’t grabbed my FREE 4-week Mobility for Desk Workers program yet, you can do so HERE!).
Experiment with different things often (and different instructors of said things) until you find that joy again.