Body size does not determine health status. Everyone can enjoy the benefits of exercise, regardless of body size. Indeed, there are countless benefits from exercise, such as improved mood and energy, improved metabolic and cardio-respiratory health, increased bone strength and lean muscle tissue. Research shows us that healthy behaviours, like regular exercise, can have a much greater influence on your health than your weight. But if your only motivation to exercise is to lose weight, you will most likely give up quickly and miss out on all the fabulous mental and physical health benefits of physical activity.
So why is this? Why do we often give up exercise routines so quickly? It is often because exercise is intertwined with diet culture. Think about it for a second; If you want to lose weight, you go on a diet and start exercising. The desire to lose weight quickly means that the exercise is intense, and the exercise routines are based on how many calories you can burn in a certain workout. Exercising like this, just for weight loss is just like dieting. Exercising intensely may give you some weight-loss results, but it will be temporary, and it will most likely be hard to sustain the gruelling exercise routine in the long-term.
Indeed, if your exercise habits have been matching your dieting habits, you probably have developed a negative association with exercise. Maybe you have been told to exercise by others, like your doctor, or spouse telling you, “you should start going to the gym and lose some weight”. This may have left you feeling resentful, rather than motivated. Or maybe you have had a bad experience with a personal trainer that has left you feeling embarrassed or inadequate because the exercises were too hard. Or perhaps you have been exercising and restricting your calories, so that you just don’t have the energy and it feels hard and unpleasant to work out.
When it comes to exercise, the research shows that the more internally driven the motivation is, the more likely you will enjoy it and stick with it in the long term. And this internal motivation must start with doing something you love and enjoy and not doing something you hate, purely to lose weight.
So, forget moving to lose weight. Move for movement’s sake, for the sheer joy of movement. Start to focus on moving your body because you like it and to improve your overall quality of life. Consider exercise a form of self-care. If you only exercise out of guilt after eating a bad food, or from fear of weight gain or as a form of self-punishment after a food binge, it will make it feel like a chore to be endured. But if you exercise because if makes you feel good you will most likely enjoy it and feel better during and after it. And by the way, exercise doesn’t have to be going to the gym. It could be going for a walk, playing a sport, or even dancing in your own living room. So, start today and begin by asking yourself, what kind of movement would nourish my body and mind? Start to exercise for the love of movement and feel the difference.
Tribole, E. & Resch, E. (2012) Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press
**Disclaimer: Please note that the information in this or any other blog posts on this site may not be suitable or apply to you, depending on where you’re at in your mental health and/or eating disorder/diet recovery journey. This information is for educational purposes only and not meant to be a substitute for medical or psychiatric advice. Please consult your healthcare practitioner before making any changes.