Exercise and Body Positivity


It surprises a lot of people but I was actually really active as a kid and I’m still pretty active nowadays. When I was in middle and high school, I did all sorts of sports throughout the year and many of these activities would overlap. I did cross country and soccer during the falls, track and field during the spring in middle school, skied regularly during the winter, and even spent a couple years horseback riding.

Nowadays, I’m not quite as active but I still walk almost everyday and hike semi regularly. But I still feel this immense amount of shame around exercising and being active. I often get comments that are meant to be encouraging but often come across condensing and shameful. Honestly, I can’t really explain why but these comments often make me wish a black hole would just sallow me whole.

And there’s still a part of me that feels like exercise is a punishment. Because I’m fat (and have always been varying sizes of fat), exercise after a certain point was only a way to lose weight. It was only ever something I need to be doing to punish my body and there’s a part of me that still feels like that. So while exercising has all these immense other benefits, there’s still all this other shame and hatred that’s tied up in it for me.

I’m trying to rediscover my love for sports and exercise again because being active can be a wonderful way to spend time. But exercising while also being body positive can be hard with classes filled with comments like getting your body ready for summer or solely focusing on losing weight rather than being more comfortable in the body you have.

Plus, being fat and depressed means that in addition to the near constant shame I feel about my body, it’s also exceptionally difficult to actually get up and exercise. My depression thrives when I’m home alone and sleeping and getting out of bed to even shower is a challenge most days. Getting the motivation while clinically depressed is so hard, despite knowing that exercise releases endorphins that make you happy (although, shout out to Elle Woods for her iconic line: ‘Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t’).

So as a way to start my journey back into exercising and further into body positivity, here are some things I’ve learned or have been reminded off over the past couple weeks:

  1. Find the type of exercise that you love to do and that makes you feel better about yourself. Everyone is going to exercise differently so while some people might like yoga and SoulCycle, others are going to love weight lifting or running marathons. Here are some fun ways to exercise:
    1. Rock climbing
    2. Kayaking
    3. Running
    4. Biking (mountain or road)
    5. Yoga
    6. Hiking
    7. Walking
    8. Dancing (i.e. join a dance class and learn a new way to dance! Like ballroom, swing, or hip hop)
  2. Similarly, there are so many ways you can exercise that it might take you some time to find something that you love and feel good doing. The things I love to do might be boring to another person.
    1. For example, I just adore the app Zombies, Run! It’s an interactive game with a variety of settings that you can play at your own speed while walking or running.
    2. I’ve also found that listening to some podcasts is a great addition to my walk. The Walk is one such podcast and comes from the same team behind Zombies, Run!
  3. You also don’t have to exercise because it’s utterly okay not to. People have different abilities and relationships with their own bodies.
  4. Similarly, everyone is going to be at their own point and go on their own journey. It can be easy to try and compare yourself to another person but everyone’s body is going to function differently and everyone is going to be at a different point. While you might want to be able to run a marathon like your idol or be able to rock climb the hardest places, it’ll take time to build up strength and get to your goals.
  5. Regardless of your body type or size, see if there are any body positive exercise classes in your area that you can try. Everyone has their own relationship with their body but I’m sure that I’m not the only one who could benefit from body positive exercise classes.
    1. i.e. Jazzercise classes in Bellingham, WA
  6. Instead of focusing on goals like losing weight, find other goals to focus on. Some examples:
    1. Improving your running time
    2. Becoming a better dancer
    3. Having fun
    4. Running/walking a certain amount in a time period (i.e. 75 miles in a month)
    5. Going geocaching (walking or hiking to a fixed point to find a little treasure!)

There’s so much more that goes into exercising and body positivity that I haven’t even begun to discuss, including the fact that there are many economic obstacles. But in the mean time, I’m going to try and work through the immense shame I feel about my own body and focus on having a better relationship with my body and exercise.

If you want to learn more about body positivity and exercise, here are some podcast episodes and articles that I can’t recommend enough: