Updated: Aug 27
When we see exercise programs or gym memberships, they can fill us with excitement, shame, or dread. The message that they give are generally to exercise to look “better.” Although it’s common knowledge that simply moving your body is good for it, we are just bombarded with images and messaging relating exercise to particular body shapes.
It’s also common for people to link diet and exercise together, and often adopt a pass/fail attitude toward both. A certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and holistic nutritionist wants to come alongside you and challenge the beliefs/attitudes you may have about exercise.
Intuitive Eating Principle #9: Movement – Feel the Difference
Shifting our view of exercise can be a gamechanger. Intuitive Eating encourages viewing exercise as “movement.” Often, diet culture distorts the goal of movement by advertising it solely as a vehicle to make us think we should change body shape or weight.
There are many reasons that exercise – or movement – can be difficult to start and maintain consistently. When you exercise or move with a goal of changing your weight or body shape, you don’t see the changes right away. Without gratification, it is difficult to stay motivated.
However, movement can be engaged mindfully. Paying attention to how we feel when we stretch, or breathe into a yoga position, or how our muscles expand and contract while we walk or run or lift can bring its own satisfaction. The focus isn’t some arbitrary end result. The focus is the process and noticing what our body does for us and how much it deserves to be respected and loved by us.
Intuitive Eating creators Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch (2020) share some observations about why consistent movement can be difficult (Tribole, E. and Resch, E., 2020, p.218):
“Crash Exercising (Tribole, E. and Resch, E., 2020, p. 218).” This is when you do too much in too short of a time and become injured, sore, or burnt out.
Weight stigma in exercise spaces
Bad experiences in formative years
Rebelling against unsolicited opinions about exercising
Movement is not about burning the calories you take in. Movement is about focusing on how you feel.
Again, if calories burned is the goal, it’s easy to lose the enjoyment and motivation of movement. Tribole and Resch (2020) make several suggestions for breaking through barriers to exercise.
Check in on the instant effects that movement might provide for you. Assess your stress level before and after exercise. Pay attention to your energy levels, sense of well-being, and sleep. Do you feel empowered? Are you more energetic? Noticing even minor improvements puts the focus back on how you feel and what you’re getting out of it in this present moment.
View Movement as Self-Care
Tribole and Resch (2020) list several benefits of movement including, but not limited to: Increased bone strength, increased stress tolerance, increased metabolism, decreased risk for chronic disease and high blood pressure, and improved mood (Tribole, E. and Resch, E., 2020, p.220).
Get Out of All-or-Nothing Thinking
You may have developed beliefs about movement that keep you from doing any movement because you can’t do all the movement you think you should be doing. For example, you may believe that movement sessions need to be 30 min. at minimum, so if you only have 10 minutes, you won’t exercise at all.
If you believe that exercise fits into a box, then you will discount anything that seems to deviate from that set of beliefs.
Enjoy Your Movement
There are several ways to make movement pleasant. Here are some ideas:
Go on a mindful walk. Using your 5 senses, pay attention to your surroundings. Note your delight at the changing of the leaves, or the smell of fresh cut grass, or the strength you feel as you take each step.
Get a friend involved. Even if you can’t get together physically, you can talk on the phone while you both stroll around your neighborhood.
Listen to a book or podcast while you move.
Get involved in something you enjoy that may not feel like work, like a volleyball, softball, or swim team.
If at the gym or using stationary equipment, watch an episode of your favorite tv show.
Wear Comfortable Clothes
Nothing will disintegrate your desire for movement more than wearing clothes that are too heavy or are pinching your skin. Dress comfortably for the body you have. Your body deserves to wear clothes that fit.
You need to take days off so your body can repair.
Some of these tips may challenge your current systems and constructs. I can appreciate the difficulty of developing new ways of thinking.
As a Michigan Intuitive Eating Counselor and holistic nutritionist, I see people overcome and move past old ways of thinking and engaging in diet culture every day. I fully believe that this can be true for you too. And if you need help, please reach out! I’d love to come alongside you as you reclaim the role of movement in your health.
Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2020). Intuitive eating: A revolutionary anti-diet approach. St. Martin's Essentials.
Katie Valley is a Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor whose goal is to dispel the myths of diet culture and reinforce a holistic, health-focused approach to wellness. After her own experience with disordered eating and poor body image, Katie found true healing by practicing Intuitive Eating and Body Acceptance.
Now she has her own practice, Katie Valley Wellness, where she helps women who feel out of control around food learn to eat intuitively, pursue TRUE health, & feel confident in their own body.