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Joyful Movement: Feel the Difference

Happy 2020! How are YOUR fitness goals coming along so far this year?

First, let me just say that it’s taken me approximately 2 months to ponder this topic. It doesn’t seem that hard right? Joyful movement: The topic of exercise is EVERYWHERE these days, and especially in January. So what’s the hold up? Honestly, this is the perfect time to admit that this is an area of my life that some self-compassion is still seriously needed! With the “old identity” of an athlete, most of my adult life has at least, in part, always been about finding what movement works for me now [hint: it’s a lot freakin’ different than when I was 16]. Find your proof in a blog I wrote 2 years ago.

In thinking about what I could offer as far as “words of wisdom” in the area of movement and health, my brain goes to two places:

  1. All of the physiological and mental ways exercise can improve our health and well-being
  2. All of the times I’ve chosen the couch and Netflix over moving my body

Lots of knowledge with just a hint of (self) judgment. It goes like this – Mom teaches yoga for a living (and passion), Dad’s idea of self-care and rejuvenation is to be outside moving, and both younger sisters have the energy of small children [that can lift weights]. As I’m sure so many people have experienced, it’s super easy for the brain to jump to “WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?!” Don’t worry folks, this is where I’m about to prove that I indeed [try to] practice what I preach.

The reason movement is even a part of the Intuitive Eating principals is because as something we know is absolutely great for us, our culture’s nuances have created yet another giant mess of guilt and shame. Never mind the idea of not carrying those perfectly chiseled abs, but how DARE we enjoy sitting time and neglect the gym when we KNOW it’s good for us. Am I right? The expectation of making health a priority in this way doesn’t discriminate. My Mother owns a yoga studio – ask me how often I get to yoga …

Because of this, like any other diet culture related theme, I’d encourage each and every one of you to remember your individuality. Not everyone has a form of movement they love! Better yet, even those who do, are allowed to choose to prioritize other things, and sometimes have to prioritize other things. And in many cases, simply do not have the privilege of accessibility. In my own exploration of these nuances, I’ve been working on sifting through all of the above.

  • If desired, explore what forms of movement you actually enjoy.

Just like anything else, self-efficacy remains one of the most important factors of sustainability. In simpler words, we do things we like to do. The opposite is also true. So if you’re wanting to incorporate movement into your life consistently, stop trying to force yourself into lifting weights if you hate it. Or those groups classes your neighbor insists you try. Or running up that damn hill outside. Find something you truly enjoy.

Over the past several years of some serious adulting I’ve used this to discover a few things about myself and exercise. I love the outdoors, but mostly in very specific conditions. Give me a 60-something degree day with some fleeting overcast and no bugs? I LOVE myself a walk. Maybe a friend to talk to? Even better. I also love to dance. It’s something that fuels me with such freedom and joy, that also includes sweat that I don’t hate. Over the past year specifically, this has brought me to my love of Zumba.

  • Be aware of our fatphobic, privileged culture around you … and try to curb your participation.

By the time I went to a real Zumba training to become an instructor, I was thrilled with the idea of doing something that felt so good for me and sharing it with others. I never considered the fact that other Zumba lovers were not necessarily one in the same. To put it lightly, my day-long Zumba trainer was fatphobic, privileged as hell, and smothering her teaching in it. Here I was, alongside 30 other eager participants, cajoling around the fact that we all loved this idea of being paid to exercise, have fun, AND encourage others to move their bodies in safe spaces, and this funny, sassy, and fairly charismatic trainer decided to “educate” us on the “obesity epidemic.”

Mind you, I almost immediately blocked out her voice as a means of protecting myself from messages I know aren’t true (something I do often – also to avoid serious sass-filled conflict). BUT when she began throwing out examples of “fat people being lazy” and “just needing to lay off the Doritos and do some Zumba every day,” I. WAS. FUMING. She continued throughout the entire day, equating movement to calories burned, and encouraged us as instructors to incentivize people with weight loss and perceived attractiveness. HARD stop.

There were so many wonderful people in that course, between the ages of 18 and 65, all different gender identities, colors, backgrounds, bodies, abilities, talent, [and I’m sure religion, political beliefs, and socioeconomic status etc]. Take home message? ALL bodies deserve joyful movement, without judgment.

  • Set goals … or don’t.

We all know how this works. Some of us are very goal driven and methodical, and know that planning out some time for movement will work and feel best. For others, this can simply back fire [oh, hi, that’s me] – it is okay not to have exercise/fitness/movement goals! Allowing movement, even the kind you like, fluctuate in and out of your life week to week, or month to month, is acceptable. Just my one Zumba class this week? Fine. Got to take a walk in addition this week? Cool. Feeling too sick/tired for anything this week? It’s okay.

Figure out what truly fits your lifestyle from time to time. I just happen to be in a total “wing it” stage and simply get to it when I get to it, BUT it does help me to have at least that one hour a week of committed movement. You do you – it’s the only way you’ll find that beautiful, sustainable, feel-good outcome.

  • Find your safe space.

Once upon a time there lived a beautiful, bubbly, fairy god mother of movement that wished nothing more than for every body to have a safe space to enjoy themselves. So she created a space, a haven, full of wonderful, welcoming peers that also wanted a safe, non-judgmental space to move their bodies freely. Without pressure. Without prerequisites. Without assumptions. And with plenty of modifications to meet all abilities and ages. Thus was born: Young At Heart Yoga Studio. Seriously though, this was the idea! And anyone who has ever been, knows firsthand that the purpose isn’t just movement, it’s comfort. Comfort in exploring one’s body, and comfort in doing so surrounded by a loving, healing community. Find your safe space.

2020 CAN be full of movement – but let’s make it happen because it feels good. Because we sleep better at night, and feel less cranky. When movement becomes about toning up, getting “fit,” or changing clothing sizes, I encourage you to be curious with yourself – “what is this about?” And lastly, to remember, that you actually have no obligation to exercise with the intent of body change, or in a certain way, or in the name of “health.”

Your body is yours, and so are your choices. You’ve got this.

Shout out to my beautiful yogi friend Kristine Berube for letting me borrow her favorite joyful movement pic!

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Welcome! I’m Kelsey, a Registered Dietitian and young woman on a mission to contribute to anti-diet culture. I’m so excited to have you along for this journey!