Body positivity is a term defined by many therapists and eating disorder professionals as a way to accept and love your body just the way it is without judgment or shame. This a very challenging perspective to adopt, especially for those who have been struggling with an eating disorder or who are currently in eating disorder recovery. Many individuals who have a history of an eating disorder constantly struggle with weight, exercise and eating. Learning to love your body and to feel comfortable in your skin will take time, a strong support community, and a reputable and professional eating disorder treatment team. Many individuals ask if it is okay to exercise during eating disorder recovery and for many this can be a slippery slope or a double-edged sword, but body positive workouts do exist! Studies have shown that exercise is beneficial both for the mind and for the physical body and exercise not only prevents heart disease and diabetes but it also known to prevent depression and lessen anxiety. However exercise in eating disorder treatment can be a potential for relapse as many individuals can easily become consumed with their workouts and excessive exercise can be considered a form of restrictive behavior. Your eating disorder therapist will be able to tell you when you are ready to start exercising and learning how to practice body positivity during exercise can allow you to focus on exercising for the right reasons.
Tip #1 Have fun
Exercise can be and should be fun. Learning to move your body in ways that bring you joy is a very important aspect of exercise. If you enjoy running, take time to explore new running paths and invest in a good pair of running shoes. If you enjoy yoga then check out a handful of different yoga studios in you area and find one that you enjoy. Exercise should not be a task or a chore. There are so many different forms of exercise from running, hiking, boxing, cycling to yoga, Pilates, lifting weights and fitness classes; it is important to find a type of exercise that you enjoy and keep in mind that this can take some time. Don’t be disappointed if you tried a type of exercise that you did not like, at least you tried it and no you know.
Tip #2 Be kind to your body
Many of set lofty goals in terms of exercise such as running a certain distance, lifting a certain amount of weight, or exercising on a certain schedule however it is so important o listen to your body. If you are tired, stop and rest for a bit. If you feel sore, take time to stretch or engage in some yoga poses, part of body positive workouts are being kind to yourself and your body! If you feel like walking, do that instead. Focus on treating your body with kindness as opposed to counting calories burned, calculating the miles you ran or logging any other type of numbers. Focusing on numbers can be exhausting and can lead you down a slippery slope of potential relapse. It is okay to rest and take days off.
Tip #3 Express gratitude
Appreciating what your body can do for you is incredibly important. Think about your legs, your core, and your arms and how they carry your body through exercise. Daily exercises such as taking mental notes or journaling about why you appreciate your body can help solidify positive thinking and how your body is so much stronger than you think.
Tip #4 Ditch the “weight talk”
You are not exercising to lose weight, prevent weight gain or make up for calories consumed. You should be exercising because it makes you feel good. Get off the scale and focus on how your body feels. Do you feel strong? Do you feel confident? Do you feel able? Focus on positive thoughts and emotions. If you feel that you are still focused on your weight then you may want to speak with your therapist regarding these thoughts as you may be exercising too early into your recovery.