September 21, 2012 • In web :: Features
Health at Every Size
Continued from page 3
3. Finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.
It’s no wonder that some people hate to exercise: many of us are taught (explicitly or implicitly) to look at it as a chore to get through in order to deserve the food we eat, or even as punishment for eating food we’ve already eaten.
You might have guessed already that since there is no single factor that makes fat people fat and thin people thin, exercise isn’t a simple equation of burning calories and shedding pounds. Thank goodness - people who are highly active would constantly be in danger of starvation if that were the case! But there are all kinds of benefits to moving one’s body that have nothing to do with body size. Some of the benefits include improved mood, better sleep, better concentration and mental focus, and improved strength and flexibility. Physical activities can also be great ways to meet people and expand your social circle, improve your self-esteem and set and meet personal goals. I’ve had my own positive experiences with fitness and movement since coming to fat acceptance; I recently became a certified spinning (indoor cycling) teacher!
Finding positive ways to relate to your body through movement can be incredibly rewarding. Lisa Papez, founder of Body Positivity Yoga™, shares:
I found my way to loving my body through my personal Yoga Practice. Yoga radically changed my outlook on my body. Through yoga, I began to see myself as graceful and balanced, poised and confident. Yoga taught me how to turn inward and truly connect with my body instead of trying to disassociate from it … when I realized that I was learning to love my body, I was amazed. I’d spent my whole life until that point hating my body, and trying to change it. Through yoga, I realized that transformation is beautiful but so is coming to the mat, exactly as you are.
However, the issue of privilege in the HAES message to “become more physically vital” needs to be examined. Joining a gym is expensive; going for a run outside could be unsafe for a whole host of reasons (threat of harassment or worse, negative environmental impacts, etc.); exercise equipment is expensive; who has access to a pool?; can you find workout clothes in your size? And if you are able to financially access a gym, is it physically accessible? What forms of exercise are accessible to you, and which are not? How do you exercise with chronic illness? With mobility limitations? With depression?
It is crucial to view joyful movement as an option, not a directive, and to view a wide range of activities as positive. In fact, any movement that feels good to you is positive. If you love to go for walks, great. If you like to jump on a spin bike and sprint your guts out like I do, please come and join me! If you like to stretch, lift weights, throw a ball around or dance, fabulous. “Body-positive fitness empowers you and gives you the freedom to let go of all the hype and just do what you love, no matter what your size or shape,” Lisa emphasizes. And if you know that trying to be physically active on any given day is not in your best interest for whatever reason - don’t. Take a bath or take a nap or read a book or do whatever makes you feel best. The best thing about divorcing exercise and activity from being “good” is that choosing to opt out is morally neutral. Only you know what is best for your body and mind.