Exercise is not Punishment

This meme shared by Women’s Health UK says it best:

"Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do, not punishment for what you ate." - Women's Health UK via @womenshealthm
"Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do, not punishment for what you ate." - Women's Health UK via @womenshealthmag

In my own life, I’ve begun referring to exercise as, “showing my body love through movement,” because the word “exercise” was loaded with too many negative connotations for me.

Exercise means you’re slaving in the gym to look like Heidi Klum. Exercise means you’re pushing your body to extremes to please a coach, or to meet someone else’s standard for your body. Exercise means you’re trying to change your body.

After having two back surgeries by the age of 23, I had to get rid of any thinking that would contribute to a relationship of violence with my own body. By that, I mean the type of thinking that leads you to push yourself too hard, or make you want to basically mutilate your body so that it can meet some crazy standard of perfection.

I had to learn to treat my body with love and respect, and to approach movement as a way to express that love for my body. This was a long, difficult process for me. I am a lifelong athlete, and had learned from a very early age how to work really hard and to get my body to do difficult things. But now, I pay attention to the cues my body is giving me and focus on using movement to heal my body and make it more vibrant.

This also means that I no longer “atone” for an indulgent meal by going for a 90-minute run. When I began changing the way I approached fitness, it also forced me to examine my relationship with food, and how I would often punish myself for my food choices through tough workouts.

Moving your body really should be a celebration. And you deserve to come at movement from a place of joy, rather than as a form of self-mutilation. Whether you demolished an entire pizza by yourself or not, your body truly is a beautiful and perfect thing.

Freeing yourself from destructive thinking about your body and exercise starts with embracing your body as it is. You can then transform your relationship with your body, so that movement can become a way that you show your body love.

Check out the #healthyatanysize community to find support and connect with other women who are working on this, too!

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