If y'all haven't heard yet in fifty-leven facebook posts, swimsuit season is almost here.
And with that comes a literal BARRAGE of messages from gyms, trainers, and exercise companies telling you that you need to change how you workout, or start working out, because you need a bikini body.
I call bullsh!t on this message because for so MANY women, this message doesn't encourage exercise for health, for wellness, or for strength. Instead, this message conveys that right now your body isn't good enough for a swimsuit and that you need to workout (and diet) so that it is.
Don't get me wrong. I believe daily movement - yoga, running, dance parties, horseback riding and jumping, weight lifting, cycling, hiking, even just getting in some steps during the workday - is CRITICAL to wellness for women. We know that exercise helps lower stress, stabilize blood sugar, improve your metabolism, and sharpen your brain. We know that exercise stretches your muscles and connective tissue. We know that weight lifting prevents the loss of bone density and improves the stability and health of your joints. We know that exercise is often the best daily treatment for managing mental health and good brain focus.
I mean, we KNOW that no matter how much a workout may suck, the way you feel after your exercise is one of the best feelings ever.
But what bothers me on a fundamental level is when this SUPER healthy habit of daily movement becomes about weight and not about strength, health, and wellness. I've spent a good chunk of my young adult and adult life battling eating disorders, emotional eating, and emotional starving/excessive exercise. And as a passionate member of the yoga community and the equestrian community, I've been largely shielded from the message that I need to "workout to wear a swimsuit," which has allowed me to develop a strong exercise routine totally unhinged from my weight. I lose weight, I workout. I gain weight, I workout. I'm in pain and I adjust my workout.
In the words of one of the greatest ad campaigns in history, no matter what, I just do it. At least 30 minutes a day. Somedays it's cardio cleaning with a Beyonce dance party. Other days it's a yoga class. Other days I ride and jump my horse (or someone else's horse). Other days I lift. Because I know that if I enjoy working out and the workout leaves me feeling great, I will, in fact, just do it.
So why do we need to layer in weight?
I find weight loss to be a negative motivator that leaves me stressed about exercising that takes up way too much real estate in my mind. If I am working out to lose weight, I need an almost constant stream of negative thought about my body to get it done. And sure, that's ONE way to motivate myself, but it's one that comes with a pile of side effects that I do NOT want in my life.
When I look to the people I admire most, exercising has little to nothing to do about weight loss. Sure they are glad if it happens, yay, new clothes. But their reason to workout has little to nothing to do with weight. They do it because they love doing it and love how it makes them feel, and they leave the negative messages at the curb.
How do you unhinge it? Go buy a swimsuit that fits you as you are. Splurge (if you can) on a suit that makes you feel cute and confident. Plan to wear it to the pool with your friends and the beach for vacay. Wear it with pride and confidence.
And when you are done with that, go workout because it makes you feel GOOD about YOU.
Unlink exercise from weight loss to have a better stress response and show yourself more love.
Just do it.