Sunday Size-Up: Exercising for Pleasure, Not Punishment

After lots of contemplation about time and money I finally did it. I joined a gym. And since that time I’ve been having an internal debate about whether or not I should post about it.

For one thing I have a tendency to think I’m doing something for myself and the intrinsic value but as soon as I put it out publicly it becomes something else. I worry too much about pleasing people, letting them down, proving them my inner critic right about my shortcomings. This needs to be for myself, not other people.

There is also the issue of how it feels when others praise me for exercise. It makes me really uncomfortable. I am a people pleaser BUT I get awkward and, at times, even oddly defensive when people actually express pleasure in my actions/choices. This is partly because it feels vain to accept praise and partly because I often feel condescended to from certain types of praise (especially the “Good for YOU!!” or “I’m SO proud of you!!” variety where people indicate that they’re glad you are FINALLY doing something about this godawful fat body of yours).

But more than anything, these Sunday Size-Up posts are a place for me to explore the ups and downs of my journey to be healthy without the trappings of weight loss and it feels necessary to explore the things I’m discovering during through this process. So, I decided to put the other issues aside and dive in.

This is by no means the first time I’ve joined a gym (or purchased equipment to use at home, or tried to start an exercise routine) but it is the first time I’ve done it without the ultimate goal of weight loss. I didn’t weigh myself to “track my progress”. I didn’t take any pictures of my body now to compare with my body later. I didn’t drag out a tape measure. There is a still small voice in the back of my mind that whispers, “Maybe you’ll lose some weight though.” But I CAN’T let that voice get too loud. For some people (most??) it wouldn’t be a big deal to have this thought, this secret hope. But for me it is. I don’t know if my eating disorders are the reason these little thoughts tend to take over or if I have eating disordersย  because they do but the result is the same. It will derail all of my efforts if I make working out about weight.

So, after the decision not to weigh, measure or photograph myself the next thing I had to do was figure out what type of movement makes me feel good. In the past I’ve based decisions about when, where and what type of exercise to do based on a lot of “shoulds”. I SHOULD exercise X amount of time Y times per week. I SHOULD save money by doing this type of workout in that place. I SHOULD do this type of exercise because it’s most efficient at burning calories. But not this time. I let go of the shoulds and just asked myself when do I feel strong and energized? What continues to bring benefits to my mood and physical self after the workout is complete? What types of exercise do I look forward to? What conditions make me want to avoid exercise? How can I plan for/prevent those conditions?

I took my time figuring out the answers to those questions and it feels really good to be focusing on exercise as a pleasurable endeavor in and of itselfย  instead of a chore that must be endured for future happiness. One of the recurring themes we hear in weight loss propaganda is that we are wasting time being fat. But I wasted time worrying about being fat.ย  Enjoying the way my body can move and the perceived limitations it can shed isn’t some distant dream that will come through work outs that punish my body but something I can have right now through movement that celebrates it. What a freeing concept!

 

 

 

 

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8 responses to “Sunday Size-Up: Exercising for Pleasure, Not Punishment

  1. GOOD FOR YOU!!! (LOL… joking!)

    I had a realization the other day…I realized that if I never lost another single pound running…I would STILL RUN. It makes me feel alive, strong, open, loving, and a number of other things that have absolutely nothing to do with weight loss. That is why I do it! It’s frustrating when people seem condescending about it, but somewhere around when it started empowering me, I stopped really caring whether people were condescending or in awe of my awesomeness! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Well, the trouble is I seem to be equally uncomfortable with condescension and awe. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      And I love how much you love running- it’s part of what inspires me to look for that thing that’s right for me.

  2. I am SOOO proud of you! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Seriously, though, statements like that totally bug me too…WTF are *you* proud of?? YOU didn’t do anything, I did! Argh!!!

    Anyway, I get what you’re saying. Not exactly the same, but along the same lines. I feel better when I dance and although it usually results in a leaner, more fit version of me, it’s really not about that. I just need to move and I love it. Unfortunately, I am still stuck in the “finding excuses” part of getting back to that. I’m glad you’re further along in the process!

    And…I’m excited for you, because I know being healthy (mentally and physically) is important to you and I care about what’s important to you.

    • Well, exactly- pride implies you somehow deserve the glory for my hard work. Sheesh.

      I know you understand doing something for the love of it. I’m not sure a houseful of kids is an “excuse”. ๐Ÿ˜‰ You’ll have time again at some point, I promise! (Although K still tries to make me feel guilty for going to The Centre without her *roll eyes* ).

  3. This is such a wonderful post. I too had the same problem where I needed to take pictures and constantly jump on the scale. It defeated my passion to get in shape quicker than it started. I now adopted the concept of just working out the way I feel comfortable and not stressing over pounds. It has made a world of difference and allowed me to get back in shape more happily. Great work and best of luck with everything.

  4. I can totally relate to what you are saying. I spend 2 yrs trying to lose about 40lbs. i weighed, measured, and took pictures. I finally just let go of everything and just did what I loved doing. I tried so many fitness programs (had a TON of workout DVDS..lol). I finally discovered I loved strength training. Within a few months of doing strength training, I dropped down 2 sizes. I didn’t weigh myself or do pictures…nothing! Only discovered that I dropped when I was just trying stuff on at Kohl’s….shocked the heck out of me! I just did each workout with the thought of how it made me feel. I hate “cardio”. I’ve been into fitness for 5 yrs now and I STILL hate cardio. However, I love running. I don’t run to “burn the calories” or get my “cardio” in. I run for my emotions. I refuse to run with anyone because its time just for me. No husband, no kids….just me, the ground, and my music. I don’t run more than 3 miles because I don’t like too much running. I do just enough to make me feel good mentally and physically. I did do a 1/2 marathon but hated how much it drained me. One thing I also discovered about myself is that every workout has to be different. I can’t repeat the same workout twice…..something has to be different about it. That’s why my DVDs only got used once or twice.

    Anyways, sorry for rambling about me. Just wanted to share my experience. ๐Ÿ™‚ Definitely find something you enjoy and that fits your personality. Being real and honest with yourself will help you find what will work for you. (-:

    Looking forward to reading more of your blogs. (I’m a newbie to your blog…lol)

    PS. If you have any fitness questions, don’t be afraid to ask me (I LOVE talking fitness…haha!). I’ve done about everything possible and was a personal trainer. (-:

    • Welcome, welcome! ๐Ÿ™‚

      You never have to apologize for rambling around here- if you did I’d be apologizing ALL the time! LOL

      I love hearing about other people who’ve found ways to make fitness fun. I’m not personally a runner but my BFF is, I prefer the elliptical just because there’s no impact on my tired joints. ๐Ÿ™‚

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