Is Your Work Out Body Positive?

So, I workout now. For anyone who knows me this probably seems very strange as I’ve always been very passionate about moving pretty much as little as possible. My decision to start exercising regularly came when I started reflecting critically on why I was so opposed to it. I came to a realization that when someone tells others that they work out or go to the gym, there are often expectations put on their body automatically. If I told people that I worked out then they would be judging my body to decide if I worked out ‘hard enough’, or if I worked out as well as other people. These were expectations I didn’t want to deal with, and so came my opposition to people knowing that I was active, and therefore my refusal to exercise at all.

I decided that it was time I take my own advice and start taking up the space I deserved, and I decided that this space was going to be at the gym. It’s been about 3 weeks and I’ve been going 4 – 6 times a week. And despite my insistence that I deserve to take up space and will be doing so, there have been things I’ve struggled with in re-learning how to exercise in a healthy way. When I was in the depths of my disorder I had a very unhealthy relationship with exercise, often times forcing myself to do one rep of a certain exercise for each calorie I ate in a day. I knew that I would have to make a conscious effort to ensure that this time when I committed to making exercise habits they were healthy habits not just for my body but for my mental and emotional health.

These are things that have been important and intentional on my part as I delve into these new habits. These are by no means rules for how to make your working out habits body positive, but these are what I have found vital for ensuring that my mental health is protected first!

  1. Appreciating Your Current Body

Storytime: I decided to do this one 30 minute workout video I found online, and I was very ready, all stretched and limber and all that jazz. I begin the video and it starts with a 5 minute warm up. By the end of the 5 minute warm up I am wheezing on my bedroom floor, fairly certain that my legs have lost their ability to not feel pain. Of course I started feeling frustrated with myself for not being able to get past the warm up and was feeling pretty bad about myself and my body.

As I lay in bed afterwards I knew that feeling this way was not something that was going to be healthy or make me want to work out again. I had to intentionally change my thinking. Instead I decided to focus on the fact that I SMASHED that 5 minute warm up and gave it my all. I was able to do that cardio for 5 straight minutes and I knew myself well enough to respect my limits and stop when my body was not longer working the way it needed to. Now I work intentionally to focus on the now and what my body is capable of rather than being frustrated about what it cannot do yet or what I wish it did.

2. No Numbers

The only numbers I keep track of are the ones on the dumbbells I pick up because if I go over like 30 pounds I’ll probably break a bone. Other than that, I do not do numbers. I do not count calories, I do not (do not) [DO NOT] {DO NOT} weigh myself. I know that weighing myself is not going to tell me anything useful. It’s not going to tell me how hard I worked, it’s not going to tell me how good I felt after my workout, it’s not going to tell me anything of value, so I simply don’t do it.

3. No Photos

I know that for lots of people who don’t weigh themselves they like to see the changes of their body in progress photos. I think those are great if that’s something that works for you! But I know for myself that taking progress photos or photos in general will send me in a spiral of comparing myself, and forcing myself to work out because I want to see results rather than because I want to, which leads us to….

4. Work Out When You Want To

I only work out when I want to. If I’m not feeling it, then I’m not going to do it. Working out is not torture, it is not a punishment, it is not a form of self-discipline. I will work out when I want to, when my body is up to it, when I can fit it in my schedule, and when it’s going to make me feel positively about myself. I refuse to make exercise something that I do because I feel that I have to, I want it to continue to be something that I genuinely enjoy.

5. EAT THE OREOS

As I said before, I refuse to count calories. I refuse to eat food that I do not want to eat simply because it is healthy. There are changes I have made to my diet in that I know that I need more protein and more iron because those are things that I do not always get enough of. As a result I have been working to incorporate more foods that will help with these into my diet. I eat SO MUCH spinach, flax seeds, and hemp hearts it’s probably embarrassing. But I also eat my oreos, and my nightly bowl of vanilla ice cream with chocolate chips. Food is not a bargaining tool, it is not something that I have to earn by working out. My eating habits do not change based on if I worked out or not on any given day. I love my body and myself too much to resort back to behaviours of restriction and feeling that I had to suffer to earn a basic necessity.

6. Focus on Feeling

Because I do not keep track of the physical changes (no photos or weigh-ins) I choose to focus on the changes that happen in the way I feel. That is to say, I look at the health perks of active living that have nothing to do with how my body looks. Since I’ve started working out regularly I am sleeping better, I get up more easily in the mornings, and my mood has improved. My body is more flexible (bit by bit), I have more stability, more range in my motion, and I feel stronger. These are the aspects of myself that I choose to focus on rather than focusing on weight loss or the aesthetics of muscle gaining.

7. Ask for Help

There are a lot of scary contraptions and things at the gym. And to be honest I swear half of them are made to look more confusing than they actually are. But something I promised myself when I started going to the gym was that if I was unsure of something then I was going to ask for help. There can be so much shame that comes from being at the gym and thinking that your body does not look the way it’s supposed to for you to be ‘allowed’ to be there. Asking trainers or people around you for help can be very hard, but is also so important to ensure that you are safe, and that your movements are effective! If I am unsure of something I either choose to move on until I can research it on my own, or I swallow my shame and ask someone for help or instruction.


As I continue to explore this new territory I know for sure that there are going to be times I slip up. There are going to be times I get very close to stepping on that scale or looking at the caloric content of food I choose to eat. I know that these things are going to happen and that they are unhealthy, but my mind is going to try to convince me that it is a good idea. For myself in my eating disorder recovery I have found that it’s not something that ever completely leaves you, you just become much more resilient and stronger in fighting against it. But I am looking forward to overcoming those voices, I am looking forward to continuing to feel good in my body and feel strong in the space I choose to take up, and I look forward to eating lots of oreos.

 

workout (1)

(^^ Link to my ‘I Go To The Gym Sometimes But Don’t Ask Me About It.’ playlist ^^)

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