Exercise & Anti-Diet Culture

I don’t like going to the gym. Before the pandemic I used to go a couple times a week because I thought that was the right thing to do to stay healthy, lose a little weight, and be happy. However, I’m learning that health doesn’t equate to the size of your body, and you can be happy and healthy by taking care of yourself in other ways.

Thin privilege & working out

Now that I’m vaccinated I’m going to the gym again after nearly a year and a half of not exercising. I understand the importance of exercising, but I don’t enjoy it, and to be honest, I never thought I needed to do it because I was always skinny. Until recently, I was 100 pounds and 5 feet tall. This was my normal, this was what my body was like during high school and throughout college. Fast forward to a few months after graduating college, and I started packing on the pounds. I gained around 30 pounds in a year and a half. Then I gained another 30 pounds just in 2020. Suffice it to say, I am not thin anymore. I should note that I still have thin privilege even though I’m not in as small of a body as I’m used to. I’m still able to shop in sizes available at most clothing stores, I don’t need to pay for an extra seat on a plane, and people aren’t rude to me because of my size. I’m lucky in that regard, but the pandemic weight I gained was truly the last straw.

I thought one of the reasons I was gaining weight was because I hadn’t been working out. I got a gym membership 3 weeks ago and have tried really hard to go 5-7 days a week for 30-45 minutes each day. The problem is I really don’t like it. I’ve tried listening to music and podcasts to make it more bearable, but after each session I’m just sweaty and tired. Exercising has never been a hobby of mine. It’s simply not as fun for me as painting or drawing, or as entertaining as reading or watching movies.

Intuitive eating & wellness

One thing I’ve learned about recently is intuitive eating. I’m currently reading Anti-Diet: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-Being and Happiness Through Intuitive Eating and although I’m not even halfway through it, I’m already seeing why diet culture can be more harmful than helpful. Studies have shown that dieting can lead to more weight gain. I’ve tried dieting and it’s restrictive and has caused me to binge on cheat days. I’ve decided to try eating what I want but eat everything in moderation. Starting this book has not only made me reconsider my relationship with food, but my relationship with my body. I’ve started to wonder why I’m working out. Why am I striving to be thin? How does my body feel overall? Am I getting the nutrients my body craves? All of these questions has lead me on a wellness journey. I’ve only just begun, but I’m starting to think that exercise shouldn’t feel like work, it should be enjoyable.

Health & happiness

My goal is to be happy and healthy, but what is health anyway? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is defined as “complete physical, mental, and social well-being — and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” As of right now, all I know is I want movement to feel good. I don’t want to hate working out. I want to find something I enjoy, and if I’m being honest, I want to lose some weight, but I don’t know if that should be my goal right now. I want balance and I don’t want to diet because I’m learning that it’s not always effective. You can have a “healthy” body and still be in a larger body. My goal is happiness within myself, but the struggle is how do I get there.

…health is defined as “complete physical, mental, and social well-being — and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

World Health Organization (WHO)

Happiness is defined as “a state of well-being and contentment: joy.” Combining happiness with health should be easy, but I’ve found that it can be challenging. Happiness, at least for me, has always been a struggle. I’ve had depression and anxiety for most of my adult life. Incorporating movement and good food should boost my mood but what if it doesn’t? I know that exercising doesn’t make me happy because it feels like a chore, and eating sometimes makes me feel guilty (something I’m working on with intuitive eating).

So how can I be healthy and happy? I’m still trying to figure this out. I think if I can find exercise that I like and do it a few times a week I might feel healthier. If I eat foods I like in moderation I might also feel healthier and happier about my body. A health and wellness journey will always be hard to start, but I think the key is just starting.

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