Finding Movement Joyful Again

Whilst I haven’t written about it on my blog, I have spent the last couple of years working on my relationship with my body, with food and with exercise. I’ve been trying to find a happy median – that, sometimes nebulous, grey area known as ‘moderation’. An unbelievably important step in this process was discovering Health at Every Size and Intuitive Eating. I won’t go into huge detail about these topics here, partly because I feel that they have been explained well by various other people (see links below), but also because I really wanted to write about my struggle or journey (I know, I hate that word too!) to find forms of movement and activity that I truly enjoy.

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In a nutshell…

Health at Every Size (HAES) is a holistic approach that supports improved health behaviours and quality of life without using weight as an indicator, where weight loss may or may not be a side effect of dietary and lifestyle changes. It provides a weight-inclusive and compassionate approach to health that respects diversity in size, age, race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, social class and their intersections with health.

Intuitive Eating is a non-diet approach to health and nutrition which helps individuals tune into and interpret their own internal hunger and satiety (fullness) cues. It enables people to tune out the noise in their heads related to the many rules and restrictions that our culture encourages. This approach was developed by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch who set out the ten principles of intuitive eating.

HAES & Intuitive Eating Resources

{What is Intuitive Eating? – Alissa Rumsey}

{The Inside Scoop on Intuitive Eating – Don’t Salt My Game podcast, Laura Thomas, PhD}

{Intuitive Eating Isn’t for Weight Loss – Laura Thomas PhD}

{Intuitive Eating book & workbook – Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch} ß This is not an affiliate link (I don’t get anything out of putting the link here). This is the book which lays out the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating.

{Health at Every Size book – Linda Bacon} ß Likewise, no affiliate link, just a good resource!

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For years I treated exercise as a way to punish my body after eating, as the golden ticket to my ‘goal body’ (bleurgh). I’d follow gruelling workouts, dragging myself out of bed at ungodly hours to go to the gym. I often missed social occasions if they coincided with my pre-planned workouts, panicking that missing a workout would ‘un-do’ all of my ‘good work’. (Note: This is an example of disordered exercise behaviour and should be flagged up to a health professional. At the very least, it would be worth checking in with someone if you notice this sort of behaviour to see whether they are experiencing feelings of anxiety around food and exercise.)

As I started to explore intuitive eating and became kinder to my body, I realised that I hated the workouts that I was doing (I’m not sure if I actually enjoyed HIIT at the time of writing this previous post on fitness!). Yeah, they gave me that ‘adrenalin high’ that is often attributed to HIIT workouts and running etc., but they left me feeling sore from over-exercise and I started dreading going to the gym. I also realised that as I let go of the desperation to lose weight or change the way that I look, it was much harder to motivate myself to do that sort of exercise – I think that was the biggest shift that occurred – “If I’m not working out to lose weight or ‘tone-up’, what am I doing it for?” Now I know that the answers for me are;

  • Because my body feels infinitely better if I move it in some way or another fairly regularly
  • To help me cope with various stressors in my life and clear that brain-fog that sometimes descends
  • To celebrate the different ways that my body can move and stretch and jump and run
  • It brings me joy to take part in a group activity
  • I get a much better night’s sleep if I have participated in some form of movement in the last couple of days

It took me a long while to work this out, including a period where I did absolutely no physical activity apart from walking to the bus stop that’s just outside my flat – I felt like I had to let myself be ok with the inactivity and to give myself a break from the gym to help me realise that I did enjoy some forms of movement. I also now don’t pay a huge amount of attention to the physical activity recommendations set out by governments and public health bodies – I know, controversial! I encourage myself and my clients to consider how movement makes them feel.

*I feel that it’s really important for me to insert here that I appreciate that it is probably more socially acceptable for me to write this whilst living in a thin body. It is very likely that if I were plus-size, I would receive a completely different response which is partly due to the myth that you can judge someone’s health by the way that they look, but also a result of the fat-phobic culture in which we live (but let’s save that for another blog post). I want to emphasise the point that movement is for everyone, no matter what size they are or what they look like. But equally it does not impact on your character or make you a ‘bad’ person if you choose not to move your body or can’t due to illness or disability*

I have also let go of the idea that running is the best exercise – I don’t even know where I got that idea from! I think I imagined myself as a gazelle-like woman, ‘just popping out’ for a X mile run, returning having hardly broken a sweat. I have lost count of the number of times that I have started a running programme aimed to help me build up to a particular distance, only to give up after the second or third run. I consider it a kindness to myself to admit that I enjoy the occasional run when I’m home in Eastbourne and can run along the seafront, but apart from that it is just not my cup of tea – and that’s ok!

Now I’m thoroughly enjoying discovering different ways that I enjoy moving my body. The 9th principle of Intuitive Eating is ‘Exercise – Feel the Difference’. It encourages us to focus on how movement makes us feel, rather than what we think we ‘should’ be doing. It might not seem like it now but using exercise purely as a way to lose weight or manipulate the way your body looks is unlikely to help you find a happy relationship with it and make it something that you will stick with fairly regularly.

I’m happy to share some of my current preferred types of movement here, but please don’t take this as a prescriptive list – we’re all different and will enjoy different things.  Maybe use it as inspiration for things to try. I’d also love to hear about your favourite forms of movement, as I’m always looking out for new things to try.

Yoga and Pilates

I have been going to various yoga classes at my gym for a few months now – not for long enough, however, to be able to distinguish between the different variations of yoga! I appreciate that I’m fortunate to have a gym membership but there are also some pretty good online yoga resources and tutorials. My friend, Sarah, wrote a guest post a while ago about her love of yoga, and pages such as Big Gal Yoga and Bad Yogi (please ignore any weight-loss chat on here) have free yoga routines that you can follow.  If you have any other great resources that you use, please let me know!

I have only been to two Pilates classes thus far but have found them absolutely fab – I’ll keep you posted!

Swimming

I love swimming, pretty much always have, and it has been one of my favourite forms of movement this summer with the heat wave that we’ve been having in the UK! I don’t do anything particularly elaborate – I usually just end up swimming a few lengths of varying strokes. One thing I would suggest is kitting yourself out with the basics – some good goggles that don’t leak, a swimming costume that fits well and doesn’t ride up or anything uncomfortable, and a swimming hat if you prefer your hair to stay out of the way (and keep your head warm if you’re crazy enough to swim outside in the colder months!).

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Try as I might I can’t keep my eyes open for an underwater photo!

Walking

I love walking and exploring new areas or taking in the sights of my favourite route. I enjoy hiking up steep inclines as well as a leisurely stroll along the promenade. Give me a good podcast or a chatty friend and I’m away! Just be sure to have a comfortable pair of shoes – blisters are the worst!!

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Hiking in the Malvern Hills

Cycling on the bike in the gym

Ok, bear with me here – I get that this probably isn’t the most exciting form of activity. But sometimes on a rainy day in the winter months, when I find that I need to move my body a little, sitting on a bike in the gym watching a film or boxset or reading a book is just what I fancy!

I keep meaning to try rock climbing as well. My boyfriend keeps mentioning it – he’s desperate to go again after his stint of rock climbing whilst he was travelling. But for some reason, we haven’t got around to it. I think it is partly the cost (hello living in London as a new graduate!) and I have a feeling that it’s got a lot to do with the fact that I am worried that I won’t be very good at it. I’m working on challenging my perfectionist tendencies so leave it with me and I will let you know when I finally try it out!

 

For more fantastic resources on this topic, check out the following;

{Finding a Workout That You Don’t Hate – Kelsey Miller}

{5 Things Your Body Wants You To Realise – Kirstin Kade, Taste & See blog}

{Mindful Movement & Mental Health – Don’t Salt My Game podcast, Laura Thomas, PhD}

{Big Fit Girl – Louise Green}

{The Pilates Myth – Kelsey Miller}

{Joyful Movement – Kirstin Kade, Taste & See blog}

{Letting Go of Exercise and Embracing Movement – The Real Life RD}

7 Comments

  1. Hi Jess, great post. Love how honest and personal your style of writing is- really resonated with me! Would love to write something like this in the future as I am beginning to learn that little and often with gentle exercise is the best way to manage my back. Harriet x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Harriet, thank you! I think the most important message is that everyone is different and prefers different things! If you’d ever like to write a guest post about your experience I’d be delighted to share it on the blog! x

      Like

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