I travel around the country giving talks about body positivity, size acceptance, and Health at Every Size. In many of my talks, either in my introduction or during the talk, the fact that I am and have been involved in the fitness world – as a certified group fitness instructor, as a dancer, as a marathoner, and now training to be an IRONMAN – comes up. Whenever I talk about fitness, people of all sizes tell me about the horrible experiences they’ve had that led them to decide not to be involved in the fitness world. Some even tell me that just the word exercise is triggering or sends them down a shame spiral.
Before we get too far into this, let me be clear: fitness, or involvement in fitness or movement of any kind, is not an obligation or a barometer of worthiness. The choice of whether or not to participate in fitness is personal, participating in fitness is completely optional, and those who choose to participate in fitness are not in any way better or more laudable than those who choose other hobbies.
There are people who aren’t interested in exercising for whatever reason and that’s completely ok. The people I’m talking about are those who tell me that they would like to engage in movement for whatever reason, but they feel stuck or blocked about it because they had a messy break-up with exercise, because exercise was used as a way to mistreat them, to punish them for their body size, because they were forced to do exercise that they didn’t like, or were shamed because they weren’t “good enough” at the exercise (Junior high school gym class, I am looking at you).