I had a great time on Sept. 30th leading a workshop at the Graduate Women’s Project at UC Berkeley about Exercise and Self-Love.
A funny thing happened when I started preparing for this workshop. I was getting ready to lead people in examining their own critical voices. And, I noticed that my own critical voice, when I went for my own workouts, seemed to be getting stronger. I would go for morning jogs and notice I was berating myself for not being faster, not going longer, not being as intense about my workouts as I was 5 years ago. Even after all this work in body acceptance and Health At Every Size, I still have this critical voice that follows me around, and resurges mightily from time to time.
Exercise was such a source of shame for me when I was younger. When I became a more athletic person in my mid-twenties, I also became really compulsive about it. There was a part of me that needed to prove myself to my family, my friends, to the people I grew up with that finally, I was fit, I was “healthy” and they could get off my back about it. Pushing myself hard was my way of proving myself to them.
There was also an unhealthy side to my fitness regime. If I didn’t exercise intensely every day, I thought I was a failure. I would walk around planning my workouts or feeling miserable for those I didn’t complete. I would hate how so many people seemed to be faster and stronger than me, without much effort. I spent a lot of mental energy obsessed with this stuff… and just think what I could have been doing with all of those hours instead!
Now, as a personal trainer, I am so grateful to work with clients who are able to express some of the critical voices and negative self-talk that come up for them. We all have it, to one degree or another. We are surrounded by a culture that bombards us with messages about weight loss, diet and a militaristic approach to exercise. It is no wonder that we internalize it to some degree. Yet, when we can have a space or a good friend to talk with about these critical voices, when we can let it out and get some perspective, then, in time, we can begin to change. In my work, I remind people to show up for their best intentions, to show up for self-care, to honor their bodies through exercise, to notice how their bodies feel. In these reminders, I am also really reminding myself as well.
Over the years I’ve loosened up some of my excessive planning around exercise. I decide each morning what I’m excited about doing at the gym that day (and, some days, it’s nothing at all!). I don’t plan weeks in advance. I don’t panic or beat myself up when things don’t go as planned. When I train for a race, I make a plan, but I don’t worry too much if something prevents me from following through 100%. I do what I can, as best as I can, and let the rest go. This approach has taken many years of practice, and it is counter-intuitive as someone who is used to going all-out when I am excited about something. And, some days are better than others.
In the workshop at UC Berkeley, we talked about positive things we can say to ourselves while working out. Genuine mantras that can, in time, begin to replace our own negative thinking as well as the weight-driven, negative body image messaging that we are bombarded with daily.
Why do we exercise in the first place if not to lose weight? What are some of the weight-neutral benefits? Mental clarity, increased energy, better sleep and digestion are just some of the things that I know to be true for me.
My positive mantra of the month has been: “Thank you, body. Thank you for all that you do!”
In the workshop at UC Berkeley, we noticed how when we are in a place of self-love and positive self-talk, our posture shifts, our heads lift up, and we are more able to see and acknowledge those around us.
I am looking forward to more opportunities this fall to explore the themes of exercise, the critical voice, and self-love. I will be talking at two very exciting events this fall! See below for more details. I hope you can come!!
New Tools: Old Oppression: Challenging Weight Stigma with Creativity and Wit
I will be speaking on a panel entitled “Diverse Experiences of Weight Stigma” moderated by Jessica Wilson
October 25, 2014, 10:30 a.m.—4:30 p.m., Oakland, CA
Registration fee: $25* Registration deadline: Monday, Oct. 20
*Sliding scale; no one will be turned away for inability to pay.
A virtual 30-day intensive course designed by acclaimed body image expert, lecturer and author, Virgie Tovar, to change the way you think about and relate to your body.
I will be speaking as a guest lecturer about exercise, self-love, and shifting your critical voice.