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3 Ways Joyful Movement Can Easily Get You Fit for Life... and Help You Recover from an Eating Disorder

Do you exercise with the primary goal of losing weight and burning calories?

Do you feel guilty, lazy and like a failure if you miss a workout?

Or do you dread exercise because you don’t like it or feel forced to do it?

Do you feel like you have to exercise more if you eat “too much”?

I may sound like a revolutionary or a trouble maker when I say what I’m about to say. 

Some people are just not going to like it. 

Some fitness trainers, weight loss “experts”, doctors, and coaches may get furious hearing my advice... and some (I know) will cheer for me. 

I hope this advice will free you from diet, exercise and weight loss prison forever.  Well, here it is...

Never exercise with weight loss or calorie burning as a goal and I mean never with a capital N. If you haven’t already, make the switch from seeing exercise as a “necessary evil” to a desire to put joyful movement into your life every day.

What is joyful movement? Our bodies are meant to move. We’re not meant to sit all day and be still.  We’re meant to move, but we’re not meant to hurt when we move. We’re supposed to have fun when moving our bodies and enjoy them.

But the media and our culture (including, unfortunately, the medical and fitness communities) has brainwashed us to dread exercise and see it as a chore. This actually results in us exercising less!

Here are some powerful tips for beginning and maintaining a practice of joyful movement that will NEVER involve your body hurting, making anything “burn” or forcing yourself to move in a way you detest or dread.

1 Exercise for the fun of it

A lot of times people come into my office and say: “I hate exercise, I just don’t want to do it!” Then they try to hoist themselves up on a treadmill or put themselves in a spinning class. I’m not saying spinning is bad, some people love spinning, but a lot of people don’t like it. 

Most people force themselves do an extreme workout program they see on TV or a “boot camp” of some sort which promises the result of having a perfect body.

Before some of you write me and tell me “I love fitness boot camp!” I do acknowledge that some people do truly enjoy these types of exercise. 

However, many people hate them and cannot sustain that type of exercise program over the long term. If you change your outlook to joyful movement you will actually want to exercise and move your body.

Change your exercise outlook. If you stop exercising for weight loss or for burning calories, or to “get ripped”, you’ll start to think about it for fun and feeling good in your body. Then you’re going to exercise more, and be fit for life, I promise.

Exercise should never hurt—so go discover exercise that “doesn’t feel like exercise”. 

What does this mean?

Be creative and come up with fun ways to move your body. For example, do you know that The American Heart Association actually has bathing a dog on their approved list of exercises?


2 Be a kid again

Here are some tips to figure out what types of joyful movement will work for you. First, think about how you liked to move when you were a little kid. Many of these activities can be recreated as adults, or modified for an adult.

For example, if you liked to climb trees when you were a kid, there’s lots of stuff you can do up in the trees, you can go zip lining, you can still climb trees, or you can go rock climbing. 

If you liked to dig in the dirt when you were a kid, you can garden - gardening is actually also on the approved exercise list from the American Heart Association.

What about joining a community garden so you can also make friends while you’re exercising?

If you liked to bike ride when you were a kid, you can do road biking.

If you liked to roller skate—I’m giving myself away about when I was growing up in the eighties—the big exercise was going roller skating. To tell the truth, we never considered that we were exercising; we went there to get asked by boys to skate during the slow songs!

We were having fun and being kids, but we were also exercising. If you liked roller skating as a kid you can longboard or rollerblade as an adult.

Another tip is to make a list of physical activities that you would at least like to try and give them a shot. College is a great place to do this. When I went to college I took a class called Aerobic Martial arts. I’ll never forget it. It was just what it sounds like.  We danced around and did karate chops and I just remember laughing the whole time and having a lot of fun.

That’s the kind of feeling you want to get. Don’t take exercise so seriously! Have fun. Find exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise.

Also, don’t be afraid to change it up and put different types of activity into your life. Varying your movement is actually healthier for you and keeps you from getting bored.

If you feel you need to jump on a treadmill every day, you’re not going to stick with it. But if you’re bowling one day, and then you’re going on a hike the next day or you’re playing lacrosse another day, you’re going to keep up with exercise more.

You also don’t need to master every new form of exercise. Remember the goal is to have fun, not to be the champion. If mastering your activity eventually becomes part of having fun that’s fine, but don’t fall prey to the need to be perfect with every new activity you sample.

I’ll remind you that people who are prone to eating disorders tend to be perfectionists.

If they expect to be perfect with every new exercise activity, they end up giving up if they don’t do well the first few times.

So try to look at exercise for fun, not to be perfect, and also remember the more non-traditional ways that you might be moving.

You may already be exercising a lot by walking or biking to class or work. If you’re on a campus facility and you’re walking to class, you’re already doing a lot of the exercise you need!


Step 3: Move to feel good not to look good

When you practice joyful movement, try to concentrate on how your body feels, not how it looks. Again I know I talk about this a lot, but I’m trying to deprogram you from all the advertising that we’re bombarded with day in and day out, from the moment we’re little until the day we die. 

Advertisers have conditioned us to focus on exercising for the sole purpose to create a perfect looking body, rather than a body that feels happy and energized. 

It’s a model built on low self-esteem and shame, telling you that if you don’t look perfect then you’re a failure. And, luckily, THEY have the answer with their compulsive exercise system or their program.

Let’s get out of that shaming model and turn towards a pleasure filled, joyful model.

A perfect body is either unattainable or requires ongoing compulsive exercise and food restriction to achieve and maintain. 

Think for a moment about all of those compulsive exercising programs that you see on TV.  I don’t want to say the names, but you know which ones I’m talking about (i.e. maybe it takes you ninety days to get that body – wink, wink).

If you actually follow the “program” and achieve that body, then what are you going to do?  Continue it for your whole life until you’re eighty or ninety years old? It’s unsustainable in a healthy way over a lifetime …but they don’t talk about that part.

Keep up activities that you will want to participate in for your entire life. Getting on the exercise perfection treadmill only leads to low self-esteem, and potentially physical harm and eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, compulsive bingeing and orthorexia.

Too much exercise can hurt you, so don’t try to be perfect and have a perfect body.

Move to feel good!

Just as you need to listen to your body about the food it needs to intuitively eat, you also need to learn to listen to your body’s signals about exercise.

Many people push themselves to exercise when they are in pain. When they’re aching from the last workout, they push themselves through it and that’s unhealthy. You can get injured.

It’s sad for me to see athletes who push themselves to keep playing or performing when their bodies were telling them to stop (because they were tired or in pain).

These athletes end up having worse injuries and taking a leave of absence from their sport, or not even being able to play ever again. 

Your body will tell you what it needs and sometimes it needs to rest, not to move.

I hope this revolutionary advice will make you cheer!  If you need more help getting out of Diet Land and Exercise Prison, we can always help you find the key, just ask.

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