This is a blog post that I wrote for the amazing Julie Harris from The Healthful Peach, an beautiful blog that helps women find a healthy balance in life with food and fitness. Julie believes that showing up daily with intention, and feeling empowered to make healthful choices is truly living a healthy life! I could not agree more! Therefore, I wrote up this piece about the concept of exercise in the extremely skewed environment in which we live! I hope you enjoy!
I truly believe that listening to your body, having a healthy and safe relationship with food, and practicing SAFE exercise in MODERATION is self-care at it’s finest! For individual’s who are within their Eating Disorder Recovery, exercise can be a slippery slope, it can become a compulsion, it can be used as a purging behavior, therefore developing a realistic and unique relationship with movement and exercise is crucial within recovery!
Social Media Exercise vs. Honest Exercise
Exercise classes were my saving grace within my own personal recovery, in that they allowed for a controlled form of physical activity, to avoid “relapse” into unhealthy behaviors and motivations, as well as, create a supportive space for physical exercise. Many people are unaware that exercise can be abused just like a drug, in that it can be used as a means to purge of calories, avoid emotions and/or substitute a natural dispersion of endorphines. Therefore, it is not only individuals within their Eating Disorder, or for individuals within recovery, it is important for all individuals to bring awareness towards their true motivations when it comes to exercise!
Barre and Yoga
My favorite forms of exercise are barre and yoga. These physical practices focus on the power of movement, the power of the body, and the importance of the mind, body connection!
I don’t know if I would necessarily consider myself a yogi, but I truly love and appreciate the practice of yoga. I’ve been practicing yoga for almost six years now, and I love everything behind the art of yoga. Yoga, is truly a practice in that it teaches individuals how to find their inner peace, bring no judgment whatsoever to the mat, and in all truth PRACTICE yoga. There is no PERFECTION, there is only FORGIVENESS, UNDERSTANDING, EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL STRENGTH, and INTENTION, therefore there is no room for self-hate, stress, and shame. This is why I LOVE yoga, it trains the mind and the body to work in a genuine, positive and forgiving fashion, and with a lot of self love, support and hard work, you find yourself, completed with the class, conquering your fears, and emotionally cleansed….and THAT is now my motivation for exercise!
Barre is similar in this fashion, it that it focuses on the small muscles within the body, and with small/tight movements these small muscles are isolated and worked to exhaustion. This movement requires an intense amount of concentration, self-forgiveness and a true mind, body connection! When you crawl and/or rise into these contorted positions your mind is forced to focus on the muscle working, and that muscle only. This intense connection with the body is paramount to mental clarity and appreciation for what the body can do!
Yoga and barre, when practiced with intention and self care, truly works and strengthens the entire body and makes you sweat! Well I sure sweat! That true mind body connection, forgiveness and isolation forces you to contemplate upon your motivations behind the physical practice.
Physical exercise is a major part of my self-care, in that I now find peace, and emotional cleansing within my physical practice! AND, lets just be real….most of us DO NOT LOOK LIKE SUPERMODELS WHILE WE EXERCISE, so lets enjoy physical exercise and self-care for what it truly is…..SELF-CARE! Look, I have said it before, and I will say it again, recovery is a beautiful disaster…. and you know what?… so is exercise! I do not think I have EVER been that girl at the barre, or that girl in the yoga class, or that girl on top of the mountain in a sports bra with six pack abs, glistening with joy….no, I have been that girl making those uncomfortable faces in the mirror, breathing heavily, smiling as my belly rolls fold while ding ab exercises, and dripping with sweat!
Social Media Exercise vs. Honest Exercise!
Exercise looks different, feels different and means something different to everyone! Our motivations behind exercise vary drastically, not only by the person, but by the day! There are some days I want to work out to clear my mind, some days I just need that mind-body connection, sometimes I crave motion, and sometimes I just want that good sweat! It is when we start exercising for others, and when we start exercising because we need to EARN something that it becomes dangerous and unhealthy! Your exercise is just that, YOURS! It is so easy to get sucked into this mentality that we need to look a certain way when exercising, and that we need to exercise for certain reasons….to earn that pizza, to deserve that drink….but let me be the one to tell you, your validation comes from within! You are always deserving of food, and you never, ever, need to EARN your food!
There is the Instagram/Snapchat/Facebook or social media version of physical exercise, and then there is the HONEST VERSION of physical exercise. The social media version is all about proving yourself to others, about how you LOOK, about how hard you worked, as opposed to the honest version. The honest version is about your true motivations behind exercise, mental and emotional empowerment, and self care! Now, let me be clear, I have absolutely fallen into this social media version of physical exercise, in that I have felt somewhat compelled to prove to others that I can be that girl on top of that mountain doing a yoga pose, granted I have never really been able to do that, so I implemented my own version, but in any case I am guilty of practicing physical exercise with unhealthy motivations!
What I am truly trying to convey is that for most individuals physical exercise is best practiced with empowering, healthy and strong motivations such as cleansing the mind, building physical health and strength, and improving your emotional health; especially for those within a state of recovery. Therefore, I challenge you to find your true motivations behind physical exercise, and dig deep to unveil your own healthy motivations and empowerment within your personal practice of exercise.
And please remember…..you do not need to “earn” or “work for” that delicious pastry! You know I cannot, and most likely will not pass up a good croissant!! And goodness knows….I will never need to “earn” that deliciousness!
As Always #SelfCareItOut!
-Jayne Mattingly with Recovery Love and Care!