Stop exercising!!!

There I said it. I think exercising is ridiculous.

My clients often tell me they, too, do not want to exercise. They often ask me why they do not want to exercise. They know it is “good” for them, but they are unmotivated.

My clients are motivated to exercise when they start a diet. Once they stop losing weight and stop the diet, the exercise stops.

Aren’t we all supposed to want to exercise?

You can look up the many meanings of exercise in the dictionary and I am going to go for the common definition.

Merriam-Webster says physical exercise is:

  1. The regular or repeated use of a faculty or bodily organ.
  2. Bodily exertion for the sake of developing and maintaining physical fitness.

I have always thought exercise is something that I am supposed to want to do. I am supposed to want to be “physically fit,” whatever that might mean. I, and many of my clients, do not resonate with the idea of exercise.

There are some powerful reasons not to want to exercise:

  • Exercise is connected to the dieting cycle of restrict, binge, shame.
  • It can be hard and uncomfortable. Anyone who’s heard the term, “no pain, no gain” could agree.
  • You sweat A LOT, which can lead to embarrassment about your size.
  • Exercise can bring back the feelings from younger years of being shamed in P.E. class.
  • Your body is exposed through tight clothes. Gyms have LOTS of mirrors.
  • The ongoing judgment of yourself not being able to perform a physical task.
  • Exercise is connected to dieting: when I am on a diet, I exercise and when I am off the diet, I stop exercising.

The list of why we do not exercise is long. When we have a history of eating disorders and disordered eating, there is plenty of baggage with exercise.

When my clients ask, why should I exercise? I respond you shouldn’t exercise.

Shocking right?

Even though exercise is loaded with baggage, we are in bodies and need to engage in movement.

In Intuitive Eating we call it joyful movement.

We are meant to move our bodies in the way that works best for each of us. Everyone has a different level of capacity and ability.

Do what movement YOU can do.

We know from studies and experience that movement has many positive benefits:

  • Can help decrease depressive symptoms. Movement can get us to increase the endorphins our bodies need to feel better. Note: movement is not the cure for depression, but it can be a helpful part of your treatment. If you are experiencing depression, please seek out a licensed mental health professional.
  • Movement can help you sleep better. Being physically tired can be helpful.
  • My esthetician says my skin looks better since I have been engaging in more movement.
  • Lastly, we are in bodies that are made to be in motion and you get to define what that motion looks like.

What kind of movement should you engage in?

Here are some questions to help you figure it out:

  • What did you like to do when you were younger?

What did you like to do 10, 20, 30 years ago. What did you like to do as a child? These questions can bring back the passion for movement you had years earlier.

  • What kind of movement brings you joy?

I often ask myself what kind of movement will bring me joy today? This has led me to try many activities that I would not have normally tried. Yoga, Zumba, stand up paddle board, and running. The answer to the questions of movement and joy has changed over the years.

I had been attending a gym for years and I was feeling bored there, and my intuitive voice said I need yoga. Now I have been going to a yoga studio for a few months, my joy has increased exponentially.

  • What is fun to you?

Ask yourself regularly, what would be a fun activity? I have been amazed how much I will step out of my movement comfort zone when I embrace what is fun. I will swing at the park, dance, and try aerial yoga (this was scary, but fun).

Honestly, having a history of food issues has led can lead you to reject exercise for many different reasons.  I encourage you to reject exercise, too.

This does not mean I am encouraging you to sit on the couch all day.

Embrace movement in a way that works for you. For me, some days it is extra sweaty hiking, other days it is calm yin yoga.

Movement is critical to our body’s wellbeing. Disconnecting the movement from dieting is critical to enjoyment and it leads us to want to do it some more.

Try engaging in joyful movement. Look at what you can do that is fun and be active. This is not a race to finish first. It is an opportunity to reconnect with your body in a way that is pleasing to you.

Kim McLaughlin, MA is a Psychotherapist, Speaker, Author, and Coach who specializes in working with people who suffer from binge eating and emotional eating. She is a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. She is the author of the best-selling book Feed Your Soul Nourish Your Life! A Six Step System to Peace with Food and the Amazon #1 Best Selling book Discovery Your Inspiration.

You can find Kim on her podcast Feed Your Soul with Kim and you can find it on all podcast platforms.

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