If you grew up with a plus size body, it is very likely that your family or friends “cheered” you or even forced you to play sports or some type of physical activity. This is, of course, an ingrained idea in diet culture that movement automatically equates to weight loss.
As research progresses, and as many of us have personal accounts, exercise doesn’t always result in weight loss, and that’s not the most important reason to move our bodies.
Have you heard of the joyous movement?
Joyful Movement is a way of approaching physical activity that focuses on choice, happiness, celebration, insight, pleasure, and flexibility. First, you need to find an activity that you really enjoy. It can be as simple as walking your pet, dancing or swimming.
We often have these big ideas of what exercise “should” look like, but the truth is that moving the body in any capacity is beneficial to both mind and spirit.
There are so many benefits of movement that have no connection to weight loss. Whether you’re looking to improve your sleep habits, reduce stress, or improve mindfulness, it’s important to find something that works for you. Not everyone enjoys the same type of movement and that’s okay!
If you are lucky enough to have a friend who is interested in the same type of physical activity, do it together! It’s always more fun to bring a friend.
Setting a realistic goal can be important when beginning a joyful movement journey. As we mentioned earlier, the purpose of shifting your focus to celebrating your body includes not focusing on weight loss or calorie burning. A realistic goal might seem to be committing to 15 minutes of movement per day to start with and adjusting that in the future as you find something you enjoy.
Some thoughts from fat activists
It’s not an easy transition to make and it won’t happen overnight. According to Danielle, @confidentfearlessworthy, “I started to recognize that movement made me feel better physically, but I enjoyed moving my body in certain ways more than others. I discovered water aerobics and it was one of the only things I really enjoyed doing. The water combined with the music didn’t even seem like an exercise to me. My suggestion would be to try a variety of things because moving your body with joy doesn’t have to look a certain way. My goal recently was to walk around Disney with my family, so I found an 8-week walking program that focused on the amount of time walked instead of miles walked and that really turned the tide for me.”
Lindsay @fantasticalfatty often features Lives of Joyful Motion on TikTok and has lots of insights on this topic! They declare, “The most important thing is to learn the science behind exercise and weight loss and find out that exercise doesn’t actually lead to weight loss. When we understand that, it changes our whole perspective around movement and exercise. If we can think of movement [exercise, sports, athletics, everything] as something we do for fun, connection with ourselves and others, mental and physical health, and because we love it, we will begin to choose activities that make us feel good. The more we focus on exercise to lose weight, the more we are robbed of the REAL benefits of movement and why exercise is so essential to our human experience.”
Lindsay brings up a very important point regarding the science behind exercise and weight loss. According to an NIH article titled “Healthy Lifestyle Habits and Mortality in Overweight and Obese People,” healthy lifestyle habits are associated with a significant decrease in mortality, regardless of baseline BMI.
The individuals were divided into groups based on their BMI and the number of “healthy behaviors” adopted over 14 years including not smoking, eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, moderating alcohol consumption and exercising 12 days a month.
When these four behaviors were practiced, regardless of a person’s BMI, the overall health risk decreased and there was virtually no difference across all BMI categories. Most important to our point is that the weight of the participants did not change over time, regardless of the “healthy habits” adopted.
Lindsay also recommends starting the joyous movement slowly and gently. “Movement is meant to feel good, even when we push ourselves, and we shouldn’t push ourselves beyond what our body can handle, as that only leads to pain and injury. The only way to do this is to slow down and listen to our bodies. Talk to our bodies. Being gentle and kind to our bodies. Not asking him to do what he can’t do just because we could do it 5 years ago or because someone next to us can”.
How do you enjoy celebrating your body through movement? Tell us in the comments!