I used to be a super athletic individual from childhood, through adolescence, and to the end of my teenage years. I took dance lessons (tap, ballet and jazz), learned acrobatics, ice skating, soccer, basketball, soft ball and competitive swimming. The last two really stuck with me for most of my life.
Despite being a super active kid who was fortunate enough to have access to healthy, hearty, properly portioned food - I was always considered “overweight” for my age. The cycle of self hate and guilt was endless when, as an active and healthy teenager, I was ceaselessly concerned about my weight and never “performed to my full potential”. I thought less about how I felt and more about how I looked and fixated on it. I was doing everything right but my body was persistent in its fatness.
Because of this, I have done a lot of thinking about my relationship with fitness/exercise and the anxiety it causes in me. I have gone so far as to deprive my own body of the satisfaction and happiness that can come with it, because I have been so jaded by my history with it and the overwhelming anxiety that is pretty much a constant in my life.
I joined a gym, and initially enjoyed it - but found myself misguided and socially anxious in a room full of sweaty strangers, so I eventually stopped going.
Next I will attempt to ease myself back into some sort of activity that involves moving my body and bettering myself, so I chose yoga. I’m super nervous about it.
If there is anyone out there who can relate or possibly lend some advice, please do. <3
These are the types of stories that never get told. These people would otherwise be active, feel a natural tendency towards activity, and yet the negative experiences and self-hate they associate with intense physical activity, actually create a legitimate psychological aversion to it. To not be able to enjoy activity you once did with so much ethusiasm is a tragic loss. This is what the fat-shaming cheerleaders REFUSE to understand, that making people HATE being active is not doing them a favor. And that is exactly what happens when physical activity is a punishment, a source of shame, and when people have absolutely no EMPATHY but instead just see further cause for bullying and denigration.
yeah, this is why people who call fat people lazy or not self disciplined enough or whatever are fucking bullshit. the op’s childhood experience sounds so close to my own. i was very active on my swim team from age 6 through the end of high school (minus about a year in middle school where i stopped swimming because i was embarassed to be seen in a bathing suit, ugh) and in spite of how i love to talk about how pizza was my first solid food, my family actually ate really healthy/wholesome food when i was growing up. we also went on bike rides as often as weather permitted and even did a week long bike ride across michigan every summer. i also always had an exceptionally clean bill of health at the doctor
if being fat vs. thin was actually tied to being healthy and active the way that the media makes it out to be, i would have been a “naturally thin” kid. i was always fat, though, which made me feel like a freak because everything i saw in the media and the way that people treated me led me to believe that my body did not even look human. this led to intense dieting and disordered eating from about the time i was eight through early adulthood and although that did cause me to lose a lot of weight a few times, i always gained it back and if we’re going to talk about health, it likely had a much more negative than positive impact on my overall health (that’s just talking about physical health, if we factor in mental health this behaviour pretty much screwed me over long-term)
anyway, re: the question posed by the op, i have rarely really avoided physical activity because of shame from exercising in front of people, but because of the massive abuse i put upon myself to lose weight as a kid i have some negative associations with traditional workouts (like going to the gym)—even though i do sometimes enjoy this. as an adult, i have found the most success being active when i can incorporate it into my regular life. i really enjoy riding my bike and i like to rely on my bike as transportation as often as possible. i also really enjoy walking. i lived in a city with good public transportation for years and did not have a car and always felt a better overall sense of well-being because of how much physical activity this naturally built into my days. after a couple years in a city that was not well set up for public transit or biking (or anything other than driving) which always seemed to contribute to my depression, i am back living in a city with great public transit where i don’t have a car and i’ve already noticed an improvement in my overall constitution as a result.
TW: Weight loss
EXACTLY. Sounds like we have a lot in common! I went through the same experience with disordered eating and yo-yo weight loss/gain, which also had a much more negative impact on my health than anything else ever did. It wasn’t until I stopped associating health with weight that I fully came into my own and was able to determine what health means to me, how I define it for myself - because society’s definition of “thin health” does not and will never apply to me.
I also resonate with your approach to fitness and integrating it into regular life. Traditional workouts are actually sometimes triggering for me, which is the oddest thing to try to conquer, and no one ever seems to fully comprehend it.
Instead of making a goal to work out at a set day and time every week, I “move my body” (I’ve decided to stop referencing it as exercise) in ways that are pleasing to me and fit into my lifestyle. I go on canoe trips and bike rides and walks. I do yoga in my room by myself. I dance and move to music. I stopped making fitness into a “goal” and look at it as something to make me happy, stripping away all the bullshit that has been tied to it my ENTIRE LIFE. It is a long and arduous process that I’m actually working on with my therapist and I’m finally, FINALLY starting to realize what I want and what I need in that regard.
That being said, there are still times when I trip up. Last night while watching America’s Next Top Model, I briefly started day-dreaming about weight loss. I hadn’t done that in ages. I was sitting and watching these thin, beautiful women and thought for a moment “maybe I should start working out every day, really dedicate myself and try to lose weight again.” After months of teaching myself not to think that way, it came out of no where.
But the thing is, I’VE DONE THAT SO MANY TIMES BEFORE AND NOTHING GOOD COMES OF IT. That’s why I fucking despite fitspo. Fitness is always made out to be so black and white when it really isn’t. It’s not simply about “dedicating” yourself in order to achieve aesthetic results, especially when those results aren’t happening and you come back to blaming and hating yourself.
I can not afford to think that way, and I know it, but it seeps back into my skull sometimes before I can catch it because that’s how the ENTIRE WORLD thinks. It is the most exhausting thing.