"Let's Exercise Because We Love Our Bodies, Not Because We Hate Them."
A question a lot of people have in regards to body positivity is can you have fitness and weight loss goals? The answer is yes and no. This is the big controversy with body positivity. People who don't truly understand what body positivity is all bout say things like "you are promoting obesity", "you are promoting unhealthy behaviors", "people shouldn't be content with themselves." I am always shocked when I hear these comments because these people are so stuck in diet culture mentality and are truly just being judgmental. Most of these people also think their self-worth and value is tied to their weight because everyone should be "content" with who they are now. I put content in quotes because people don't know how to love who they are right now in the present moment. You shouldn't start living life when you have "lost the weight" or accomplished your fitness goals. Part of truly living is living in the moment and enjoying the process.
Diet culture as I've talked about in the last two blog posts has confused people on the idea of what it means to be fit and healthy because the primary goal of diet culture is weight loss. Therefore when we think of exercise we think of weight loss. Instead, fitness should be about moving our bodies and feeling energized. I want to discuss a healthier way of thinking about fitness that will cover mental and physical health to hopefully make you feel better about moving your body.
When I was younger I was teased by people who were athletic and from that experience, I always put that hurt and frustration together with fitness and rebelled against working out because I didn't want to be anything like them. Then I started listening to the diet culture propaganda where they said in just "2 weeks" I could get the body I always dreamed of by buying their video or opting into their program. Then when the pounds wouldn't melt off in that 2 weeks I would get discouraged and give up with exercise because that is what I thought exercise was a huge disappointment. I didn't look at exercise as an activity to move my body but a way to punish myself for being fat. Who wants to be reminded of all of those negative things so I would just give up exercising at all. I know many people feel the same way that if they are not doing some kind of militant exercise to burn large amounts of calories it just seems easier to not exercise at all.
Diet culture has stripped our enjoyment of food and also with exercising. When you have to follow strict exercising routines with the only goal being weight loss the motivation easily slips away. Something I like to do at the gym is getting on the elliptical. I remember hearing from a fitness guru that if I can easily talk or have a conversation while I'm on the elliptical I am not working hard enough. Every time I got on the elliptical I would ask myself am I working hard enough and I would actually lose the enjoyment of doing it. I've never liked intense workouts. I don't like running never have never will. I'm the person that if you see running you should be concerned and start running too because I am running because of danger.
Diet culture participants would then call me lazy and say that I am not willing to work hard. The problem I have with diet culture once again as I said in regards to food is that it doesn't take into account different lifestyles of people. I personally don't want to be in a gym 7, 6, or 5 times a week. I don't' have the goal of wanting 6 pack abs I like my body soft and I just don't care to have an athletic body. I don't have the goal of ever entering a marathon either. I have different goals when it comes to working out and moving my body. I love to walk, stretch and do yoga. I also lift free weights and that is something I want to do more often.
This is where I would say you can be body positive if your focus is on fitness goals that don't deal with weight loss as the primary goal. Physical exercise is rarely tied to feeling good and just moving your body. That is what you need to make it about if you want to have a better relationship with exercising. Diet culture will make you feel guilty for not doing enough reps, burning enough calories or spending enough hours on exercising. You shouldn't have to feel so much pressure to partake in militant type exercise. This is why I never exercised so much because I always thought of exercise as being uncomfortable and just not enjoyable. Then in my mind, as I said above since it was more about weight loss so when I didn't lose weight I wouldn't bother after being disappointed about starving and working out with little results. That's what we think mostly about exercise is having results to our appearance, not necessarily results that pertain to our health.
Now if your goal, however, is to lose weight I would say you need to make sure you are doing it for yourself. Truly ask yourself if you are losing weight for you and not outside sources. If you want to lose weight because maybe you've gained and you just felt better physically at a lower weight and you know you are doing it because you want it then I would say to go about it in a healthy way that doesn't involve starving or obsessing working out. If your goal is to lose weight to feel better about yourself mentally this is not being body positive and you can lose the weight but your issues about loving and accepting yourself will still be there. If you are wanting to lose weight because you are having intimacy issues in your relationship this is also a bad reason and is not healthy mentally. Losing weight will not help you with emotional and mental issues. You must make sure you are not tying your self-worth and value with your weight and appearance because that is not being body positive. This is why body positivity focuses on loving yourself as a soul, not just your body which some people mistake for promoting obesity somehow.
Moving your body is important and a part of self-care. It shouldn't be about losing weight or making you feel bad about your body. Choose to move your body because you love it not because you hate it. Exercise in a way you enjoy not how diet culture tells you to exercise. Somedays some good music comes on and I just dance. Somedays I go out for walks long and short. I stretch every day because I love how I feel afterward and spinal health is important to me. I choose to move my body because I want to feel energized. I am moving my body in a way that I feel is sustainable and not making me guilty of not doing enough.
Yes, you can have fitness goals and be body positive now you can be aware if you are doing it for you or because of diet culture. Please move your body how you want and stop feeling guilty about not doing enough when you are doing it. Any physical activity is great and you should be proud of it.
Do you believe that working out is not fun but more of an obligation?