Building a Healthy Relationship With Exercise

healthy relationship with exercise

Exercise is a delicate topic in the world of eating disorder recovery. While movement can have its place in just about everyone’s lives, there’s a fine line between engaging in physical activity because it brings you joy and using exercise as a way to compensate for the food you ate. People who struggle with eating disorders are particularly prone to exercise addiction, but even those without diagnoses can still experience challenges around “fitness.” We put “fitness” in quotes because of how nuanced the term is.

Medically speaking, the definition of physical fitness is the ability to perform tasks with optimal performance, endurance and strength.[1] Unfortunately, the media and society as a whole have conflated this meaning with appearance and body image standards, neither of which have anything to do with actual physical fitness.

People looking to build a healthy relationship with exercise often come to it from a place of exasperation. Perhaps you’ve tried every workout in the book, been to every class your gym has to offer, and done every fitness fad under the sun. Or maybe you’ve been afraid of exercise because you don’t want it to stir up old emotions or feel shame when walking into a training center. All of these worries are valid.

That’s why it’s important to remove the associations that come with exercise and get down to the heart of the matter. Moving your body is about so much more than weight loss or weight management. At The Wellful, we have a non-diet approach to everything we do, which includes body inclusivity. We believe in health at every size (HAES®) and we recognize the valuable benefits exercise can bring for true health and well-being. From cardiovascular improvements to increased serotonin levels, there are plenty of reasons to move your body, none of which have to do with changing its size. Once you’re able to fully accept that concept, you’ll be on the path towards establishing a healthy relationship with exercise.

Here are some words of wisdom I’d like to offer if you’re looking to build a better relationship with exercise: 

Find Movement You Enjoy

The key to creating a healthy relationship with exercise is to remove the “punishment” element from it. Since when did exercise have to be a bad thing? Our goal should be to move our bodies in ways that feel good, both after and throughout the process. Sure, it’s nice to feel accomplished once you’re done, but you’re also allowed to have fun while you’re doing it. There are plenty of ways to move your body that you may not have even thought of. Rollerblading, dancing, and rock climbing are super fun. You may not see these listed on any “Top 10 Workouts to Try at Your Gym” lists, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less valuable.

Go Back to the Basics

When it comes to exercise (or anything in life), there’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple. Taking a walk or going for a bike ride could be your form of movement. It doesn’t have to be a fancy gym workout or a trendy new class for it to count. Ask yourself: did you move? Do you feel positive about having done so? Then you’ve done everything you needed to! 

Check Your Use of Fitness Trackers

Some people like FitBits and Apple Watches because they claim to be able to track levels of fitness. The jury’s still out on how well they do that, but one thing we do know is that they may trigger less-than-great feelings for people looking to build a healthy relationship with exercise. Getting too caught up on the number you see on your tracker is kind of like focusing too much on the number on the scale. Remember, numbers don’t tell the whole story. That fitness tracker isn’t in your head and isn’t living in your body. Trust yourself over any number a screen shows you, now and always.

Surround Yourself With Positive Messaging

Classes can be a great way to get into exercise and movement because they offer community and could instill a sense of comradery; we’re all in it together! The only thing to be careful of is the energy of the studio and/or class you take. Avoid going to places that use punitive or admonishing verbiage and instead look for studios that promote positivity, are inclusive of all bodies and abilities – and make you feel good while you’re there. You should feel welcome to come exactly as you are wherever you choose to work out. What’s more, all efforts should be celebrated. If the place where you’re exercising doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, take your business elsewhere. 

Finding Balance: Creating a Healthy Relationship with Exercise 

Getting active and moving your body can be so beneficial when you come to it from a place of compassion, mindfulness, and care.  Here at The Wellful, we want you to have a healthy relationship with exercise centered around self-care and joy rather than obsession or punishment. 

Our non-judgmental support can help you  let go of perfectionism and rediscover the form of exercise that meets your needs, both physically and mentally.

If you resonate with wanting to make exercise about self-love rather than burning calories or criticizing your body, we would love to connect. Get started by scheduling a free 15-minute consultation with Brenna.  Contact us today at 925-725-2761. Invest in yourself – you are worth it.



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