everything discussed in this blog series is derived from Intuitive Eating and the Intuitive Eating Workbook. As you read these posts, I strongly encourage you to purchase and read both as this series will not be as thorough and informative as the books. Each month we will focus on one principle at a time. Allow yourself the space to simply look at that one principle. My desire for you, dear reader, is that these posts will 1) allow you to dig deep into understanding your relationship with food, 2) that kindness and compassion for yourself will grow, and 3) that you will experience real flourishing as you develop trust with your body.
I will get a reprieve from Central Florida humidity and will experience South Carolina fall in all her autumnal glory for my ten year college reunion. The anticipation of being surrounded by richly-hued trees and old friends is killing me. As I’ve thought of my impending trip, memories of being on campus have flooded my mind.
Earlier this week I thought about an exchange I had with an upperclassman during my first week of freshman year. I can’t remember who this exchange was with or even if the person was male or female. A simple conversation we had and how I felt immediately following are the memorable parts.
I disclosed to this mystery person that I intended to go to the campus gym every morning at 5am. My comment was met with a small chuckle and a “we’ll see how long that lasts” type of remark.
As I process that short conversation now 14 years later, I remember feeling a sense of pride in the discipline I knew I had. The comment wasn’t disrupting and didn’t feel a need to prove this person wrong. There was zero doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t follow through. I knew with absolute certainty that I would work out every morning at 5am for the duration of my college experience.
And I did. I rarely missed a workout for the four years I was there.
In that brief moment, I remembered how motivated I was to exercise. And now, years later, I know that motivation wasn’t for the sake of health or feeling good—my only aim was to shrink my body and keep it as small as possible.
As I sit with clients with food and body-image related issues, I remember that exercise feels just as loaded for them as eating does. Whether it is compulsively working out to manipulate their body or conversely feeling utterly repelled by the thought of moving their body– exercise is rarely a neutral issue.
The ninth principle in Intuitive Eating names the challenge that exercise creates for those of us who have experienced trauma in our bodies. As the title of this principle denotes, the emphasis here is on how your body feels when it moves with the goal of reclaiming satisfaction in movement.
So…how do we get there?
Ask yourself if you enjoy the way you move your body. There’s no right, wrong, or perfect answer. Just notice what comes up as you ask yourself that question.
Perhaps you identify with my college story and work out militantly for the sole purpose of burning calories. Or perhaps you find walking from your bed to the bathroom a chore and dread any movement beyond that. Or perhaps you feel invigorated by the way your body feels and enjoy the day to day activities your body carries you through.
Whatever your answer was to this question, how did you get there? Do you have a story around exercise?
Lastly, what does your body need from you today in order to feel alive and cared for?
My hope is that you are empowered to choose how, when, and how frequently to move your body. And that this choice would come out of place of compassion and acceptance for the body you’ve been given.
If this seems unfathomable, that’s ok. Where you are on this journey is significant and all the pieces of this process matter. You don’t have to be anywhere other than where you are right now and you don’t have to be in it alone.