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Believing This Can Ruin Exercise for You

One the most insidious promises we hear a lot about exercise is that if we do it enough or in a certain way, we will look a certain way. Yet that’s just not the truth for a lot of us.

Unfortunately, though, if we exercise just to achieve an appearance ideal, we’ll end up disappointed if that doesn’t happen and then we’ll quit. We’re sold the idea that fitness has a look, but it doesn’t actually. That idea is rooted in toxic fitness messaging. 

Health and fitness are not things you can see.  We need to be discerning about the toxic fitness messages we get about exercise so that our motivations and expectations of exercise are healthy.

So what is toxic fitness?

Toxic fitness is when exercise and the pursuit of fitness is wrapped up in diet culture. So instead of being about health, it’s actually about weight loss, thinness and shaping our bodies—just like dieting and disordered eating, which, not surprisingly, often accompany toxic fitness.

Exercise shouldn’t be about punishing or even manipulating your body. It should be about taking care of it. It might be tough to develop a healthy relationship with exercise if it’s been toxic for you up until now, but you can change it—just like you can change your relationship with food. So if you do exercise (currently or are thinking about starting), I hope it’s based in a desire to take care of your body, not change how it looks. Exercise can be really good for our physical and mental health, but it should make us feel good, not be a burden or something that creates anxiety or guilt!

And as a side note… 

It can be really helpful to re-think what exercise might look like for you!

Exercise does not have to be running X miles or doing X minutes on the elliptical. Often, we think it only “counts” if it’s a certain type, intensity, or amount of time. Not true! We can benefit from a variety of movements, and they don’t have to be intense or high-impact. It can be gentle stretching, yoga, or free weights. Here are some other fun ideas–get creative!

  • Walks with your pet or family
  • Hiking
  • Roller skating or ice skating
  • A dance party at home or try a dance class
  • Riding a bike
  • Martial arts
  • Wrestling or playing tag with your kids
  • Play a rec league sport
  • Play laser tag
  • Hula-hoop
  • Jump rope
  • Swimming or water aerobics
  • Think about what you enjoyed as a kid and do that!

Whatever movement you choose, I hope it brings you JOY 🙂

Much love,
Cherie Signature

P.S. Here are some cool fitness peeps to follow on IG: @meg.boggs@tallyrye@tiffanyima@300poundsandrunning@michaelulloapt@themirvanator. I’d love to know if you have others you already follow!

I’m Cherie Miller, MS, LPC-S, founder of Nourished Soul Center for Healing and @foodfreedomtherapist on Instagram. We offer therapy and nutrition counseling for chronic dieting as well eating disorders like Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, Orthorexia, ARFID, and other food issues. As anti-diet professionals, we are passionate about intuitive eating and Health at Every Size philosophies. Contact us here to schedule a therapy or nutrition appointment.


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