Oops – I thought that I made this title up but it turns out that it was actually coined by the brilliant Golda Poretsky. I got a linkback from her blog and realized my error. If you don’t know of Golda and her work then I would definitely recommend a visit to her site – she is amazing!
Several studies have indicated that physical fitness is a much better indicator for health and longevity than weight. I am a fan of exercise and I do it a lot (it’s a big part of being a competitive dancer).
However, the word “exercise” bugs me, and I hear the same thing from a lot of people of size.
I think it’s because we hear it so many times from people in the context of losing weight. (If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been told that I need to “eat less and exercise more”, I would never have to work again.)
Or maybe it’s that we’ve been sold the “Biggest Loser” exercise concept where you have to be grunting, sweating, screaming, and puking while being emotionally abused by an egomaniacal trainer for exercise to have an effect.
I can absolutely see how people in the Body Positive Movement who’ve been pummeled with the concept of exercise as a weight loss tool, or a punishment for their weight, might reject it along with their decision to reject the diet industry and the concept of intentional weight loss. I can see how I could have easily ended up there.
For me, though, exercise is important because I’m a dancer. It’s also important because I am committed to my health. I don’t have to be thin to be healthy, but in my experience I need to participate in healthy behaviors to be healthy. For me exercise is one of those. Except I almost never call it exercise anymore – I prefer “movement”, or “working out”, or “going to the gym”. I hate euphemisms for fat (I am not “pleasantly plump”) but I prefer euphemisms for exercise, a little weird perhaps but there it is.
To be clear, I don’t think that exercise is a moral imperative – people have the right to be sedentary just like they have the right to drink like fish, be bad drivers, or never look both ways before crossing the street. I’m not trying to tell anybody how to live.
I’m talking to people who may desire to move their bodies more, but are not doing so as a retaliation or rebellion against everything that society is throwing at us about exercise and out weight. We can certainly choose that, but in the end we are the ones who are likely to suffer.
If you find yourself stuck in a bad relationship with exercise, I would suggest finding an activity you like and doing some of that. If “traditional” exercise (step aerobics, anyone?) isn’t your thing, find something that is. Gardening. Dancing around in your living room. Tai Chi. Cleaning your house. Whatever floats your boat.
I would also suggest choosing the activity each day (“I think I’d like to do some gardening today”) instead of making grand future plans (“I’m going to work out 2 hours a day, 6 days a week”).You can block out time in your schedule for movement ahead of time, but consider picking what you most feel like doing to fill that time as it comes around instead of way in advance. That way it will never feel like you are slogging through something that you don’t like.
One of my favorite things about making healthy behaviors my goal rather than a specific weight or size is that I get to succeed early and often. If my goal is to move three times a week and I do some gardening today, then I hit part one of my goal. Time for a butt-shaking happy dance of success and victory! If I dance around the living room on Friday and take a pilates class on Sunday because that sounds good to me, then I’ve kept my commitment to my health, had three awesome successes, and enjoyed myself in the process. Now I’m in a healthy place mentally and physically which supports me in keeping my commitments to health tomorrow and the next day. Woot!
You can make whatever choices about your health that you want. I just suggest that you be certain that they are truly your choices and that you’re not making them because of, or to spite, anyone else.