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Exercise Out of Self-Love, Not Self-Loathing

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

I used to be an exercise junkie. I’m talking about excessively and with addictive tendencies, including dietary restrictions to orthorexia nervosa extremes. If I ate something “bad”, I would destroy myself in the gym for a week or would run a half marathon distance to “earn” it. It was so bad that I wasted away to 105 lbs and depleted my hormonal functions in the process.

Today, I enjoy exercise and typically only do 30-45 minutes a day, 5 days a week. I take time to rest, allow my body to recover, and make my movement count in a reduced timeframe. I’ve also gained the weight I need to feel healthy, energetic and alive. I enjoy eating a balanced diet where I eat whole, natural, nutrient dense foods most days and never feel guilty about an indulgence that I may submit to—rather I enjoy and savour it and skip punishing myself in the gym the next day because of it.

I exercise because it makes me feel good and I choose what my body feels like doing that day. If I want to do a spin class, do weights or a HIIT workout or simply want to go for a walk around my neighbourhood, I do that. Regardless of what I choose, my routine is typically in the morning before my day gets started.

Why the morning?

There are a few reasons really. As someone who struggled with depression in the past, exercising in the morning helps my ‘feel good’ hormones to get flowing. It wakes me up and helps me feel energized and ready to tackle the day ahead.

Exercise also gives me the feeling of being powerful and strong and has helped to repair my traumatized and eating disordered relationship with my body. Today I recognize that my body is capable of so much—as am I. I am grateful for the body I have and what it can do. I am healthy, I am strong and I take care of my body. Exercise is a tool I use to maintain my health and wellness, not for self-loathing and negative cycles.

If you find yourself using exercise in a negative way, here are some tips to create a more loving frame of mind toward your body and exercise.

1. Be kind to your body

Your body is magical. Yes, I said magical and I mean it. When you really look at and appreciate what it can do, even the things you don’t readily notice—running a marathon, moving where you want to go, metabolizing your food to give you energy and strength to tackle the day, to protecting you from germs and illness—it should be something you are proud of.

When you start to recognize that you’re picking on an aspect of your body that you dislike or aren’t comfortable with, notice what happens when you stop yourself and reframe the hurtful language you’re using and replace it with kind and loving words. If you struggle to do that, ask yourself what you would say to a friend and say that to yourself.

2. Proudly celebrate the body you do have

Your body is perfect, flaws and all. I struggled with this myself particularly in my midsection. I had two beautiful kids but the excess skin it has left on my midsection used to make me feel embarrassed to be and self conscious in a bikini. That is until I started to be kind to my body like I mentioned above. I would say to myself that, “I’m gross, or that it looks disgusting.” Then I began to reframe my thoughts to, “My body is healthy and strong. It nourished, created and delivered two lives into this world. My body is really miraculous.” Do you see the difference when you declare to yourself the capability you have? There is immense power in speaking the truth that your body is powerful and good enough.

3. Decide what health and fitness mean to YOU

Health and fitness is something that everyone talks about but not everyone truly understands what it means to them. The term “health and fitness” is used so often that I think people take it for granted. If I were to ask 40 different people what “health and fitness” meant to them, I’m sure I would get almost 40 answers that dramatically differ.

Health and fitness are important and it’s made up of many elements. It’s not just a number on the scale. You could be quite thin but if you get winded going up a flight of stairs then I would argue that your health isn’t as good as someone heavier that runs up the stairs like it’s nobody’s business.

Take a minute and think about exactly what health and fitness mean to you. Imagine you had zero health concerns or issues, nothing hurt, and you felt amazing, what would your life be like? What types of things would you do, or enjoy more?

There is no right or wrong answer here. It isn’t what you read about or what you see on TV or social media. It should be very personal and specific. So when you are thinking about embracing health and fitness, think about the true reason you want to change. Then go do what you feel comfortable with.

4. Exercise out of self-love, not just to lose or maintain your weight

We live in a culture where health means thinness and there seems to be this fear of fat bodies, especially the fear of fat women’s bodies. With that comes a massive misconception out there that exercise is all about weight loss and management. It can be a byproduct of that yes. However, health and being healthy is so much more than that because that is not the experience of everyone who exercises. Like I mentioned above, I exercise because it makes me feel good. It’s a self-care practice I choose to do because when my cup is full or overflowing, I excel at every area of my life.

You don’t have to strive to be a size two in order to love your body. It’s time we help society skip these misguided notions by talking about why you exercise and the benefits you get from it. For example, when you tell your friend that you’ve started a bootcamp class and she replies by sharing that her cousin lost fifty pounds that way, tell her that you like bootcamp because it’s fun and makes you feel healthy and strong, not because it can help people to lose weight.

5. Find a community of like minded women who also love their bodies

There are so many people in the world who feel that they need to be secretive about their love for their bodies. Let’s be honest: it’s rare to find a woman who doesn’t hate her thighs or complain about her cellulite. Newsflash! We all have it, even supermodels.

There are so many women on a self-love journey who have learned to embrace themselves just as they are. They do exist, I promise. I’m one of them! I’ll be launching a new online community in the New Year, Say Goodbye to Your Inner Mean Girl. If you’re interested in joining, you can join the group here.

The most important thing to remember in your self-love journey is that we all deserve the kindness we offer so easily to others. If you wouldn’t put down a loved one for their perceived flaws, why would you do it to yourself?

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