Thursday, July 14, 2016

Movement Manifesto

It's been just about 20 years since I was first certified as a personal trainer. I was completing my graduate work at the time, and this certification allowed me to teach fitness classes, helping me pay for school. Fast forward 20 years, and I've kept up the certification and acquired a couple of other fitness certificates along the way.

Now, along with my work in therapy, I teach two group cycling classes each week. My rides are challenging but body-positive. We set intentions, I bring in inspirational quotes, we visualize and engage in mindfulness exercises, and there isn't a word ever about calories or weight. I love this marriage of my two interests - how my work in eating disorders and body image can so seamlessly merge with my background in fitness. Sometimes, when my patients who struggle with eating disorders find out that I teach group cycling classes, they respond with discomfort or disbelief. Isn't spinning just a symptom? It can be. But, movement can also be joyful, healthy, and recovery-based. Unfortunately, the fitness industry has corrupted fitness with messages, images, and goals that reek of disorder. Here's the message that I want to share:

~I believe that movement is naturally rewarding, sometimes challenging, and often disordered.

~Pairing movement with the food we eat or with body dislike robs it of its natural joy and value. Physical activity becomes a tool that we use to attack ourselves.

~Capitalizing on motivations like "calories in, calories out" is woefully reductive. Instead, exercise is a health behavior that has a significant, positive impact on our mental health and overall well-being.

~Engaging in physical activity to burn calories, compensate for meals, or lose weight can be toxic, addictive, and can ultimately, create a pathway to disorder.

~Exercise is not punishment, payback, or compensation.

~Let's disentangle food, weight, and exercise, allowing movement to resume its inherently joyful and rewarding place in our lives.

~Let's run and jump and dance because we want to, not because we have to.

~Let's move our bodies, motivated by self-love, not self-attack.

~And let's band together to challenge the stereotypical, limited, and disordered cultural messages we're exposed to regarding physical fitness. Be part of the movement that demands change in this arena.

You can find Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight on Amazon (as a paperback and Kindle) and at

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

How sad that some of your eating disorder patients identify exercise as a symptom of an eating disorder. But as a recovering binge eater I understand their rationale. Calories in - calories out. Fortunately,I never misused exercise in this way and today it is an important tool in my arsenal against relapse. I cannot imagine being unable to take a long walk or ride my bike! I only associate exercise with its health benefits and not for its potential for abuse.

I only weigh myself once a month, I eat healthy and reasonable amounts of exercise are vital to my recovery (I am too lazy for it to ever become an issue :-). Exercise works in tandem with the other choices I make and it makes me feel good about aging, perhaps because I am at midlife in years and I appreciate my health more than my appearance. Developing a healthy attitude towards exercise may be crucial in successful long term treatment of eating disorders. As we age,exercise becomes critical to healthy living.