By: Brittany Guerin, MS
Guest Post Writer
As a fitness professional, I see how much diet culture infiltrates the fitness industry. I can’t look at fitness marketing or a gym billboard without exclusively seeing bodies that represent the thin or muscular “ideal.” It’s no wonder fitness can trigger over-exercising, eating disorders, and feelings of body dissatisfaction. Often, when we workout or go to the gym, we think we are doing something good for our bodies, but sometimes, we end up feeling worse than when we started. (This makes me very upset with parts of the fitness industry!)
The good news is, it doesn’t HAVE to be this way. I am a fitness professional and promote movement for wellness, not for weight loss. I’m a firm believer that movement can be extremely healing if we are doing it the right way, for the right reasons.
Not Everything Your Fitness Instructor Says is Good for You
First, we need to take a critical look at the messages we are receiving from the gym, fitness instructor, yoga teacher, #fitspo, or other components of the fitness industry. Often, this even includes comments from friends and family.
If a message involves movement to burn calories, to earn what you will eat or drink later, to punish your body, or if you leave a workout feeling beaten up and inadequate, that is a really good sign to stay away from that environment. For a list of 10 fitness messages to ignore in social media, check out this blog post. There’s also a really great podcast on #fitspo from “Stuff Mom Never Told You” that critically analyzes when fitspo is unhealthy.
Movement for the Right Reasons
As I said, movement is SO amazing for our minds and bodies. Instead of focusing on breaking down and shrinking our bodies, let’s focus on everything movement does to build us up. Here are just some of the benefits of movement:
- Improved sleep
- Increased energy
- Stronger immune system
- Maintained or increased bone density
- Reduced chronic disease
- Improved mood
- Decreased stress
Notice I said nothing about weight loss. How much we weigh tells us nothing about our health. If you’re interested in more information on Health At Every Size®, I wrote a blog post on it or you can go directly to Association for Size Diversity and Health for tons of resources.
Final Tips on Pursuing Movement for Wellness
- Focus on what movement adds to your life: endorphin rush, stress relief, being with friends, sleep aid, etc. (Scroll up for all the amazing benefits of movement!)
- Avoid trigger phrases like exercise as punishment, exercise to burn calories, exercise to burn off food or earn food later.
- Avoid instructors who mention these trigger words and phrases. If you hear these phrases, perhaps let the instructor know how it made you feel or email the manager of the studio. You are not being rude, you’re just passing on valuable information! This is how we slowly change culture...
- Report instagram posts that mention these things so they won’t show up in your feed anymore. (Click the 3 dots on the top right box of the post, click “report”, and click “it’s spam”)
- Add in more gentle and brief movement. This could be walking for 5 minutes or take a stretch break if you have been sitting for awhile.
- Avoid really intense workouts until you feel like movement does not trigger a weight loss mindset, disordered eating or disordered exercise.
- Avoid working out in front of mirrors. Focus more on mind-body awareness and tuning into how movement makes you feel.
- Incorporate more gentle, non-heated yoga where you can really slow down and pay attention to your breath. This does wonders for your stress!
For more information, please head over to my website. You can also send me questions by contacting me here. I look forward to connecting with you and wish you the best on your wellness (sans weight loss mindset) journey!
About Brittany Guerin:
Brittany Guerin is an anti-diet movement and wellness coach. Using principles from the Association for Size Diversity and Health, she promotes body kindness, movement for wellness, mental health awareness, and self-care. In May 2019, she will finish her Master's degree in Clinical Mental Health and open a private practice in Raleigh, NC. Check out her website for more information!
Follow her on Instagram: @britguerin