If you grew into a plus-sized body, chances are you were “encouraged” or even coerced into playing sports or some kind of physical activity by your family or friends. It is, of course, an idea rooted in diet culture that movement automatically equates to weight loss.
As research progresses and many of us have personal testimonies, exercise doesn’t always lead to weight loss, and it’s not the most important reason to move our bodies.
Have you heard of the joyful movement?
Joyful movement is a way of approaching physical activity that focuses on choice, happiness, celebration, intuition, pleasure and flexibility. First, you need to find an activity that you really enjoy. It can be as simple as taking your pet for a walk, a dance or a swim.
We often have these big ideas of what exercise “should” look like, but the truth is that moving your body in any capacity benefits both your mind and your spirit.
There are so many benefits to movement that are unrelated 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 buddy.
Setting a realistic goal can be important when starting a joyful movement journey. As we mentioned earlier, the point of focusing on celebrating your body is not to focus on losing weight or burning calories. A realistic goal might look like committing to 15 minutes of movement a day to start with and adjusting that 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 liked moving my body a lot more in certain ways than others. I discovered water aerobics and it’s one of the only things I really enjoyed doing. The water combined with the music didn’t even feel like exercise. My suggestion would be to try a variety of things because moving happily your body doesn’t need to look a certain way Recently my goal was to walk around Disney with my family so I found an 8 week walking program that focused on walking time rather than miles walked and that has really flipped a switch for me.
Lindsay, @fantasticalfatty, often hosts happy animations on TikTok and has a lot of thoughts on the subject! 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 this, it changes our whole perspective on movement and exercise. If we can think of movement [exercise, sports, athletics, everything] as something we do for fun, connection to ourselves and others, mental and physical health, and because we love it, we will start choosing activities that feel good to us. The more we focus on exercise for weight loss, the more we are deprived 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 Lifestyles and Mortality in Overweight and Obese People,” healthy lifestyles are associated with a significant decrease in mortality, regardless of baseline BMI.
Individuals were divided into groups based on their BMI and the amount of “healthy behaviors” they adopted over 14 years, including not smoking, eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, moderate alcohol consumption, and exercising 12 days a month.
When these four behaviors were put into action, regardless of the person’s BMI, their overall health risk decreased and there was virtually no difference between any BMI categories. More importantly, participants’ weight did not change over time, regardless of the “healthy habits” they adopted.
Lindsay also recommends starting the happy movement slowly and gently. “Movement is supposed to do us good, even when we push ourselves, and we shouldn’t overextend where our body is capable of because that only causes pain and injury. The only way to do this is to slow down and listen to our body. Talk to our bodies. Be gentle and kind to our body. Don’t ask him to do what he can’t just because we could 5 years ago or because someone next to us can.
Do you like to celebrate your body through movement? Tell us in the comments!