Moving Our Bodies From A Place of Joy, Or Not

Doug 6
Photo by Doug Spearman

I was recently interviewed by Maria Southard Ospina at Elite Daily about my thoughts on being fit and fat. There were a couple of points that I thought were the most important and Ms. Ospina highlighted them perfectly.

The first was the fact that, as I type in an article on a nearly daily basis, nobody is obligated to participate in fitness. Fitness is not a barometer of worthiness or morality. Participating in fitness does not make someone better than a person who does something else with their free time. Running a marathon and watching a Netflix marathon are morally equivalent activities (seriously.) Nobody of any size is obligated to participate in fitness, but everybody of every size should be welcomed.

The main point of the article was about separating fitness from weight loss and approaching movement from a place of joy.  The article quotes me as saying:

I hear from people all the time who gave up on exercise because it didn’t make them thin and who were miserable exercising because the only reason they ever moved their body was out of hatred of it. When they come back to movement from a size-positive perspective they get to have a magical experience in which they get to love and appreciate their body, while they enjoy moving it.

This is a big deal. Diet culture has screwed countless people over when it comes to their chance to approach movement from a place of joy, and that sucks. So what does it look like to approach fitness from a place of joy:

You pick the goal or lack thereof

Maybe it’s strength, stamina or flexibility gains. Maybe you want to be able to pick up your niece. Maybe you just want to dance because you want to dance and you don’t care about anything else. You can choose to do some epic fitness thing because you want to and not for the joy of it. You are in control here, any goal – or no goal – is completely valid.

You pick the venue

You might want to deal with a gym where you could face fatshaming bullshit, or you might want to find a class specifically for fat folks, or work out to videos in your living room. It’s all up to you. Remember that none of this should be necessary, since every fitness environment should be fat friendly, but until fatphobia is solved, we still have choices.

You can try different things with absolutely no commitment

Try olympic weightlifting, obstacle course racing, hot yoga, and pole dancing. Try them all in the same week, whatever (if you’re just getting back into movment or you’re trying things you’ve never done before, you’ll likely want to plan rest days. It’s no fun to be the most enthusiastic person in traction.) The point is that you can try things out at your own pace with no stress because…

You can quit whenever you want

Quit after two years, two weeks, or two minutes into your first class. This isn’t Junior High Softball where you made a commitment to the team – there’s no shame in learning that there’s something that you don’t really want to do anymore (or at all.) Not having fun? Feel free to walk away and never look back.

You don’t have to do this

I think the key to approaching movement with joy is the realization that you don’t have to do movement at all. Even if doing so would make you healthier (by any of the many definitions of health.) Our health isn’t entirely within our control, and there are a ton of things that we can do to try to support our health (including movement,) but we don’t have to do any of them (including movement.)

If you are looking for support around a weight-neutral health practice, you can check out my Wellness For All Bodies Program. It’s $25.00 ($10 for DancesWithFat members)
Click here for all the details and to register!

If you are looking for support around appraching fitness from a weight-neutral perspective, check out the Fit Fatties community on Facebook. We have over 5,000 members and a community with no diet talk, food talk or weight loss talk.

You can read the full article on Elite Daily here!

If you value my work, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time contribution or by becoming a member.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

 Wellness for All Bodies ProgramA simple, step-by-step, super efficient guide to setting and reaching your health goals from a weight-neutral perspective.  This program can be used by individuals, or by groups, including as a workplace wellness program!
Price: $25.00 ($10 for DancesWithFat members)
Click here for all the details and to register!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at or on Instagram.

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

2 thoughts on “Moving Our Bodies From A Place of Joy, Or Not

  1. I need to figure out what goals I most want to follow. I know heart disease runs in my family and I already have diabetes, so some kind of fitness would make me feel better about my overall health, not to mention I know I feel better generally when I do it. So many other balls to juggle right now! I think I am getting them under control finally.

    1. I love being outdoors and love hiking in nature or even just walking around the neighborhood. I also like riding my bike. (I really do not like exercising indoors at all.). However, I really have a hard time getting out and just doing it. On the weekends, it is easy because my husband is home and I can go with him and with my son. During the week, I am alone and I am so afraid to go out and get the exercise I really want and enjoy. I am just so scared of people staring at me or shouting at me, which is something I have experienced many times. I also have a lot of anxiety just thinking about what people will think of me when they see me. It is so bad, I will get ready to go out and then all of a sudden I just panic and cannot even force myself to go. I used to be able to fight it, but for like the past year it has just become worse. My husband tells me not to care about what other people think, and I completely agree, but how do I change my thinking? I know the whole world hates people like me, so it is very hard to fight these feelings.

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