Exercise is a beautiful, useful, and necessary thing. We all need to move our bodies to be healthy (I’m using “healthy” in the holistic sense, as in, all of the physiological, biological, psychological, environmental, and spiritual factors that make up a person’s health).
Unfortunately, the diet industry has expertly warped our relationship with exercise. We’ve been brainwashed to view exercise almost exclusively as a weight loss tool, as a tool for dieting. We’re promised firmer butts, tighter abs, toned arms, zero cellulite, and better lives overall–if we just follow (and pay for) the right books, videos, classes, memberships, and more.
But here’s the thing. When we buy into the diet industry’s promise, when we work out with the goal of getting visible, external “results,” our lives, internal beliefs, self-talk, and ultimately our health (including our weight), can get chaotic…especially for those of us in eating disorder recovery/with a history of disordered eating/body image issues.
For example, a few months ago, I got sucked into the world of a really famous trainer. I found some of her free videos online, bought one of her DVDs, and even started reading “success” (ahem, weight loss) stories online. I told myself that I would just do her workouts and continue my practice of intuitive eating. Ha!
Following this trainer made me want to achieve a similar body to hers, i.e. super toned arms, flat stomach, toned legs, etc. And because I started working out with that goal, I ended up shifting into diet mentality around my food, as well. Just a few days after I started doing her videos, I began choosing food options with lighter calories or “healthier” foods–not because I wanted to feel good or because my body actually craved them, but because I wanted to be thinner. And because I began restricting my food in that way, my confidence level and sense of peace and connection to my body weakened. My hunger cues were a little off, my thoughts about my body were extra critical and full of scrutiny, and I would get self conscious about my body in social settings. If I didn’t catch myself in this spiral, I would’ve entered the world of yo-yo dieting…which actually causes weight gain in the long run.
This all happened in a matter of like two weeks, and I had to work hard (and still work) to reconnect to my body and the types of food and exercise that work best for me and make me feel great.
I encourage you to get real with yourself. Are you working out with a goal to lose weight or change your body, even if it’s an indirect goal?
What if you worked out to improve your mood, strengthen your muscles (and if you get visible results, great! but that’s just a side effect), increase flexibility, feel more confident and fit, connect to your intuition, or increase your stamina and energy? These goals will help you experience peace with food and your body–so that you stop obsessing about everything you put in your mouth, you feel more comfortable and confident in your own skin, and your weight actually stabilizes.
Get real with yourself. If you want food and body freedom, take weight loss out of the equation when you’re working out.