‘Moving My Body’ After Lockdown Will Be an Act of Joy, Not Weight Loss
If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.
I’ve never liked working out or going to a gym. I conditioned as part of growing up as a competitive dancer, but I much preferred the actual dancing to the wall sits and planks. That was where I could have fun and express myself, though I understand why targeted strength was needed to hit skills.
There have been times in my life though where I felt pressure to work out. I would start for a day or two doing exercises, trying to unrealistically tone my muscles and shape to their pre-pubescent states, but by the end of the week I would give up on the exercise routine. Often, these spontaneous exercise regimens were because I didn’t like the shape of my current body, and I wanted to be in a smaller body again.
I am currently in my biggest body. I understandably don’t have the same body I had in high school, and I don’t even have the same body I had in college. And I’m working on being OK with that. I know bodies naturally come in all shapes and sizes. I know bodies fluctuate and change over time. I know my worth is inherent and not tied to the size of my body. And I know being in a smaller body doesn’t even necessarily mean healthy or being in a bigger body doesn’t necessarily mean unhealthy. But I also know it is normal and valid to struggle with these body size changes.
Personally, I am the heaviest I’ve ever been. Yet, I’m also the healthiest I’ve ever been. This includes a wide number of aspects of health, such as both physical and mental health. I’ve likely gained weight for a variety of reasons, including aging, taking mental health medication, and going on birth control. I can’t stop aging, and I need these medications for both my health and to live by my values. Sure, in college, I was in a smaller body, but I was chronically depressed and extremely stressed out. When I look at pictures, I notice that yes, I look smaller, but I also look miserable.
I’ve been thinking about my body’s weight and shape a lot during coronavirus (COVID-19) quarantine. I barely moved for several months since I could no longer participate in community theater and mostly stayed home. However, this week, I started moving a lot more again as part of working at a summer day camp. And my body hurts. My muscles ache, I have sore tendons, and I have pains I can’t even name. I wasn’t used to moving much, let alone running around for hours with kids.
It’s tempting to see this as an opportunity to get back into shape and to have a smaller body again. After all, I’ll be moving for several hours, five days a week. But I won’t allow myself to go there. I’m nipping this one in the bud. Sure, I will probably get stronger over the course of the summer. I may lose weight, and I may even notice a change in how my clothes fit, but that is not my goal or why I’m moving my body.
When I move my body, it is not as a punishment or to earn food. I will not let myself see exercise as currency for earning food, worth, love, satisfaction, or whatever it is your brain tells you that you have to earn. I move my body for activities that bring me joy. I enjoy being able to leap to catch a ball or run to play tag with the kids. Once theater starts up again, I will move my body because I love dancing, not as an exercise regimen. I move my body because I want to see what my body can do. I want to see how high I can jump or how fast I can run or how flexible I can stretch.
Some people love running or doing squats, and some people do not. I do not enjoy these things, so I won’t do them just to be in a smaller body. Some people love doing ballet and stretching, and some people do not. I do, so I will do them because I enjoy moving my body in these ways.
Movement is an act of joy, or at least it should be. I want it to be for me.
For more, read Morgan’s personal essay on her changing body, “Taking Up Space”
Image via contributor