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Intuitive Eating & Exercise: 8 Ways To Practice Movement Without Feeling it Like it's Punishment

Updated: Jan 8, 2021

Movement is so good for your body, mind and soul, once you’re doing it for the right reasons. Exercise has been co-opted by diet culture and turned into a weight loss and body size manipulation tool. Most people nowadays choose to focus on the calorie burning effect of movement rather than its physical and psychological health benefits. However, using exercise for the sole purpose of changing how your body looks can be tricky, and may fall under disordered eating behaviors when it’s taken to extremes. In order to move away from stringent exercising and strict rules, it’s important to pay attention to your body and what its needs are. Your body will tell you what feels best in that moment, including the right type, length and intensity of your workout. You don’t have to follow a schedule.

Here are 8 ways to practice movement without it feeling like it's punishment:

1- Ask yourself what your body needs: rest or movement? Do a quick body check and notice how you feel - sore, tired, stressed, energized or relaxed.

2- If the answer is movement, then ask yourself what type of movement do I feel like doing? What do I enjoy? Some days, the answer might be a fun high-intensity dance class, but other days it could just be a short walk. 3- Be flexible. Keeping a rigid exercise routine can set you up for failure and feelings of guilt if you can’t keep up with it. With intuitive movement, it’s okay if you miss a workout or don’t go the gym. Be gentle and kind to yourself. If you’re someone who likes to plan ahead, you can set plans for working out that are still flexible. For instance, if you schedule in a few yoga sessions per month, make sure you wake up that day and ask yourself “do I still feel like doing that today?” and if the answer is no, that’s totally fine!

4- If you don’t like it, don’t do it! There’s absolutely no reason for you to exercise if you’re not going to enjoy it because It’ll be more tiring, both physically and mentally. Constantly having heightened stress hormones during your workout will strip away from the positive benefits of movement. So, find something you actually enjoy, and if you don’t know what that is already, then explore. Try new forms of activity like yoga, dancing, hiking, jogging, gardening, cleaning your house, boxing, etc. whether it be in-person classes or online videos. 5- Once you’re engaging in some feel-good movement, check-in with yourself midway through and at the end to see how you feel. Did you enjoy it? Did your workout leave you feeling energized? If you’re totally drained and feel crabby, it’s a sign that you’ve either pushed your body too far, didn’t nourish your body properly beforehand, you need a rest day, or you might want to choose a different type or intensity of movement next time. 6- Acknowledge that resting is OKAY, and it’s needed. Having days when your body can rest and heal is just as important as moving your body. You just have to trust your body when it’s communicating with you. If it’s feeling tired, unmotivated and needing rest, allow it to do so without judgment. 7- Always think about your “why”. Why am I working out? Is it because I truly enjoy it? Am I trying to cope with stress? Or am I falling back into my old ways and working out to lose weight? There is no shame is admitting that to yourself. Acknowledge your feelings without judgment and re-evaluate with yourself. If any “should” or “have-to” pop up, reframe your thoughts and try to find benefits that exercise brings you that have nothing to do with weight loss or calories.

8- Keep lines of communication between you and your body open. If you notice that you start to feel obsessed about working out, then be honest and open with yourself. You may need to step back from working out and re-evaluate your “why”.

Before I let you go, I have to address this one thing for my skeptics out there. I know some people might think “well what’s the point of working out if I don’t lose weight”. Actually, movement is a wonderful form of self-care and yields many positive health benefits that have nothing to do with weight or body size. Here's a few of them:

Improved sleep

Decreased stress and anxiety

Increased energy levels

Improved mood

Higher bone density

Increased muscle mass

Enhanced balance and flexibility

Reduced risk of health conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension

Increased memory and mental clarity Have any questions about this?

Shoot me an email: and I'd be happy to answer them.

Looking for more guidance around intuitive eating and body image?

I help folks ditch their food rules and regain a peaceful relationship with eating and their bodies. Learn more about my Intuitive Eating 6-month group coaching program and 1:1 coaching so you can live freely and fiercely once and for all. Let's hop on a FREE 20-minute discovery call so I can answer any questions you might have about working together!

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