What fuels your urge to exercise? Is it to increase health and wellness? Or is it based on shame and negative feelings about your weight or appearance? Take a look at the reasons below to see which sound most like you.
- I want to go to the gym.
- I feel good when I go to the gym.
- I exercise because I respect my body.
- I exercise as a way to take care of my body.
- Though there are areas of my body that I don’t love, I try to see it as a whole and not analyze every flaw.
- It’s most important to me that I feel good.
- I have a balanced life that includes physical activity as well as other things that bring me happiness.
- Sometimes I choose to give up a workout in order to do something else that is important to me.
- I am able to listen to my body and stop (or avoid) exercise when I am injured or sick.
- I don’t engage in exercise as a way to make up for overeating.
- I see my body as a living thing to be cared for.
- I have to go to the gym
- I feel bad if I don’t go to the gym.
- I exercise because I dislike or hate my body.
- I exercise to punish myself.
- There are certain parts of my body that I can’t stand to look at, and I can get very obsessed with fixing these parts.
- It’s most important to me that I look good.
- I regularly sacrifice activities that were once important to me, like spending time with friends, so that I can go to the gym.
- If I miss a workout, I feel angry, anxious or guilty and have difficulty letting it go.
- I never miss a workout, even when I’m injured or sick.
- If I’ve overeaten I push myself harder to avoid gaining weight.
- I see my body as a machine in need of fine-tuning and discipline.
If exercise is motivated by shame or negative body image, it tends to be compulsive in nature. Frequently, it is tied to control, and to the idea that we can make our bodies into exactly what we want them to be. Research suggests that, contrary to what many of us believe, having negative thoughts or feelings about our bodies actually makes us less likely to engage in sustained, regular exercise. You may think that feeling fat gets you to the gym, but usually it doesn’t work over the long haul.
What to do? Try shifting your thinking, so that moving your body is about caring for yourself physically and emotionally. Because we often operate on autopilot, it takes conscious practice to identify what our bodies are telling us. For example, do we need a rigorous workout? Or are we so run down that gentle stretching would be a better option? What about getting outdoors to exercise, rather than being trapped in a sweaty gym?
If we can pay attention to, rather than override, our bodies, we’ll end up with improved health on physical and emotional levels. And who doesn’t want that?