People exercise for a lot of different reasons:
-Because they want to lose weight
-Because they want their bodies to look a certain way
-Because they’re trying to get healthier, stronger, or faster
-Because they want to regain physical function (lost due to illness or injury)
-Because it makes them happy
-Because they should
Then, there is that other reason, that not-so-secret reason often exploited by fitness professionals to beef up business.
It’s not enough to call it vanity, which is tame by comparison. It’s straight up body shame and self-hatred. And it can be found in the subtext of so much of what the fitness industry puts out there these days. Self-loathing has become so commonplace, the industry can’t help itself.
A lot of people work out primarily, if not exclusively, because they hate their bodies (and not just women, either!). Men and women are hating the way things jiggle. They’re hating the way clothes look on their bodies. They’re hating the lumps, the rolls, the flab. Too skinny, too fat, you name it. Their bodies aren’t ‘perfect,’ and they’re hitting the gym to try to fix them.
But self-hate, in the pursuit of perfection, works terribly as a launching pad for a fitness regimen. Because, goals should be attainable, and physical perfection is not an attainable goal. No kind of perfection is. At best, it’s something you can get infinitely closer to, but never actually reach.
And even if you do get really, really close, you’ve done so at a cost. You’ve had to objectify yourself in the process. You’ve spent 3, 5, 10 years treating your body as some ‘thing’ separate from your self, a ‘thing’ to be judged, and hated–it’s self-deprecating dualism, and it’s awful.
Once you’ve spent all those years hating your body, it’s hard to break the habit when it’s finally time to stop and enjoy all your hard work. But since there is no real place to stop when perfection is the end game (you can, after all, always be more perfect), you never do get to stop and enjoy anything, do you?
Frankly, I see no reason to put off enjoying your body until some undetermined time in the future when it finally meets the standards you’ve set for it. Your body is already quite good. Enjoy it now, or you may never get the chance.
Your body can do things…amazing things (even when it’s overweight, weak, or unhealthy). Your body isn’t just an object to be looked at and judged. It’s a blood pumping, disease fighting, cell producing, food processing, experience interpreting, get-you-where-you-wanna-go machine! And even when it’s not working at it’s full potential, it’s certainly not worthy of hate, or shame.
And that’s why I think a better launching pad for a fitness regimen would be something else entirely. I won’t call it self-love, because, let’s face it, that’s cheesy. So, I’ll call it self-respect.
Start there. Be impressed with all your body already is–instead of what it isn’t. And go from there. Use exercise to see what else your body is capable of–how far you can be pushed without breaking. Work out as a kindness to yourself, not a punishment.
There are a lot of great reasons to exercise, to run, and to play hard, but being ashamed of your body isn’t one of them.
Your body is already quite good, and quite good to you. It deserves a good workout.
By Brian & Emily Miller