It’s Time to Ditch This Negative Fitness Approach

Dena Landon

By Dena Landon | Aug 27th, 2018

Most weeks, I’m at yoga Monday, Wednesday, Friday and I run the days in between. Fitness is important to me, but so is my mental health. If I’m not on my yoga mat, I notice that I’m crankier, angrier, and less patient with my son. I work out issues; whether it’s writing or a complicated accounting problem, while my feet hit the pavement running. Exercise is less physical and more mental for me. Which is why I think so much of the language around fitness, with its focus on body-shaming, should be tossed out the window.

Many lifestyle and fitness coaches let body-shaming phrases and words creep into their pep talks. You’re ‘bad’ or ‘cheating’ if you eat a cookie. Phrases that imply that discipline and focus are needed to exercise can also, sometimes, imply that you’re an undisciplined, lazy slob if you’re not a size two.

“Want to lose ten pounds! Ask me how!” is the Instagram caption on a friend’s post selling body wraps. If you ask for fitness advice – watch out! Ten people wanting to sell you a program or pill, or help you lose weight or tone, will pop into your DM’s.

But not all of us want to improve our physical health in order to to fit someone else’s image of an ideal body. A friend of mine had been struggling with her asthma recently. She’s in daily pain and wanted to feel better, so she posted on Facebook asking for advice. In her post, she explicitly stated that she’s not looking for a ‘weight loss’ regime. She doesn’t want to be fat-shamed, she just wants to improve her health. But it’s so hard to find a program out there that doesn’t shame.

Of all the things I’m fighting against, I don’t need my body to be one of them.

And do we really need to be fighting a battle with our bodies in the midst of a divorce? “Battle of the bulge!” “Tame your appetite!” Saying like this only encourage an adversarial, and unhealthy in my opinion, relationship to our bodies. Like they’re our enemy.

Of all the things I’m fighting against, I don’t need my body to be one of them. Post-divorce, I’ve grown more serious about my fitness. With an on/off custody schedule, I have more time, and maintaining my health through multiple legal battles has been important to me. Yes, I’ve lost weight, but it was a side effect, not the intent.

There are plenty of good reasons to want to lose weight or start a fitness program for health reasons that aren’t rooted in hating your body. Reasons like helping you manage a health condition such as asthma, needing more energy to keep up with a toddler, or wanting to be stronger. Or practical reasons like you stress-ate too much during your divorce, your professional clothes don’t fit anymore, and you can’t afford a new wardrobe. Yes, that would be me.

Before you start a new health improvement plan, like this one that Worthy just started offering, ask yourself why? And be honest when you answer. Do you want to rebuild your self-esteem after an ex claimed that no other man would be attracted to your postpartum body? That’s okay, but acknowledge that he was full of it and you’re beautiful “as is.” Is it part of an overall plan to revamp your life and like yourself more? Also okay, but if you make losing ten pounds the be-all and end-all of your existence, what are you going to do once the weight is gone?

Weight loss and fitness are complicated topics for women in our society. But they don’t have to be negative topics unless you give them unhealthy energy. I’d recommend looking for what makes you feel happy, not beat-up and discouraged when you’re done with a workout session. Yoga feeds the former-dancer side of me that misses stretching out and calms my busy, anxious mind. I never resent going to class. Running feeds the Type A side that wants an accomplishment – three miles in thirty minutes! – to check off.

You can view your new regime as punishing yourself or you can view it as an opportunity to increase your self-knowledge. To explore your likes and dislikes and discover what really motivates you and makes you happy. While you’re in the process of reinvention post-divorce, why not shift to a happier mindset? The only thing you have to lose isn’t ten pounds. It’s shame, guilt, and a whole lot of unnecessary baggage.

Fresh Start Fitness

Worthy is committed to providing women like you with the solutions you’re looking for. Our 5-step program “Fresh Start Fitness” was designed to help you heal and thrive after divorce. Shame and guilt have no place in this routine, so embrace your fresh start with mediation, yoga, nutrition and cardio delivered to your inbox daily!

Dena Landon

Dena Landon

Dena Landon's bylines have appeared in The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Salon and more. The proud mom of a boy, she specializes in parenting and divorce.


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