Diet culture has told us that exercise is the tool we need to use to earn the food we want to eat, burn off the food we have already eaten, and control our bodies. In reality, exercise and movement can be something that adds dimension and joy to your life, but only if you let go of this perfectionist mentality. Movement has so many other benefits, and controlling the size of your body is just simply not one of them.
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If you want to stop using exercise as a tool of control you have too:
- Accept that exercise is not the way to control the size of your body
- Use movement in a way that adds to your wellbeing rather than restricts you in the name of health
- Focus on how movement makes you feel and listen to what your body is trying to tell you
When Did Movement Get Replaced by Exercise?
There is a good chance that at some point in your life, movement for the sake of enjoying movement was replaced by exercise and the desire to control what your body looks like. I remember the exact moment that happened to me as a young girl who was in a bigger body than the rest of her schoolmates. Despite loving being active, society told me that I should be more concerned with my aesthetics than with my relationship to movement.
Shifting Your Mindset Around Movement
I want you to know that this perfectionism mindset is not the truth, and it is possible to embrace exercise as a sustainable way to add value and joy to your life, rather than just something you hate and use to earn your food. The all or nothing mentality that society has pushed around exercise and our bodies is getting in the way of you doing the kind of movement that feels really great. By getting clear on what your body is telling you, you can weave movement into your life in a way that is nourishing and more aligned for you.
Your Worth Is Not Based on What You Can Do
Getting stuck in the mentality of having your worth based on what you can do is a false promise. So many things can happen outside of our control that can shake this foundation. Instead of placing your value in your exercise routine or the number on the scale, movement can be a stepping stone to realizing that movement is about so much more than just controlling your body and keeping it smaller. By being gentle with yourself in terms of expectations, letting go of the all or nothing mindset that society has bred into us, and finding a type of movement that aligns with what makes your body comfortable.
How has your relationship to movement and exercise changed through the presence of diet culture? What type of movement do you feel aligns with where you are, here and now? Share your thoughts on Intuitive Eating Principle 9 with me in the comments below.
In This Episode
- Learn about my story of feeling shame around my body as a kid (6:50)
- How to embrace sustainable movement rather than an exercise to control the size of your body (9:05)
- Tips for getting out of the all or nothing mentality when it comes to your worth (15:50)
- Discover the benefits of movement and how to listen to what your body is trying to tell you (18:20)
- Why perfectionism can be one of the biggest barriers is when it comes to embracing intuitive eating (25:15)
Resources Mentioned In This Show
“We’re going to talk today about how to shift your mindset and practice from exercise being something you hate, something you do to earn the food you want to eat or burn off the food you did eat, and into something that is a sustainable practice that really adds dimension and joy to your life and brings so many other benefits besides just controlling the size of your body.” (2:30)
“For me, my endurance, movement and exercise became a way for me to hide and run away from my other problems in my life.” (14:33)
“There’s just so many things that can happen that then shake that foundation if you stop your personal development and growth at the stage of just thinking you are only as good as what you can do.” (16:31)
“There are so many reasons why you may be predisposed to all or nothing thinking, you may have learned perfectionist outlooks as a young person, or if you were perfect, then that meant that the important people who kept you feeling safe in your life wouldn’t go away. For me, that’s one of the origins of my perfectionism, and I have had to learn how to unpack that.” (25:54)
“How can you start to weave movement into your life in a way that is really nourishing? Is it a way for you to care for your body in a basic way? And works with your personal preferences and your life setup?” (31:10)
How To Stop Earning and Burning Your Food Through Movement (Intuitive Eating Principle 9) FULL TRANSCRIPT
This is Episode 303 of the Listen To Your Body podcast. On this week’s episode, I am going to be diving into ways that you can start shifting your mindset around movement away from earning and burning your food toward something that feels more joyful and aligned.
The next evolution of Harder To Kill Radio is here. Welcome to the Listen To Your Body podcast. on this show, we’ll explore the intersection of body, mind and soul health, and help you reclaim your abilities to eat and move more intuitively, hear your body’s signals, and trust yourself more deeply.
I’m Steph Gaudreau, a certified intuitive eating counselor, nutritional therapy practitioner, and strength coach. On this podcast, you can expect to hear expert guest interviews and solo chats that will help you deepen your trust with food movement, and your body. Remember to hit the subscribe button and share this podcast with your friends and loved ones. Now, on to the show.
Hello, welcome back to the podcast. Thank you so much for being with me today. I really appreciate that you’re tuning into the show. It’s such a joy. I love being here with you. And I’m so glad that we’re doing this together. On today’s podcast, I’m going to be diving into another of the principles of intuitive eating. This has been a series of podcasts covering the 10 principles. Today, I’m going to be covering Principle number nine, which is called movement feel the difference. Or the other name that I call it is how to stop earning and burning your food through movement. Right. So we’re going to talk today about how to shift your mindset and practice. From exercise being something you hate something that you do to earn the food you want to eat or burn off the food that you did eat, and into something that is a sustainable practice that really adds dimension and joy to your life and brings so many other benefits besides just controlling the size of your body.
And this is a great podcast to follow from last week with quinoa, green, oh my goodness, talk about the embodiment of joy in movement Canovas podcasts was so great. So if you haven’t listened to her as yet, you can skip back one episode and tune in. And then of course, if you haven’t caught the other installments of this series about intuitive eating, you can do that just by going back into the archives, they do spend back a couple of months or so because I’ve been spacing them out. So we are going to cover next week just to give you a little preview, we’ll be covering principle 10, which is honoring your health with gentle nutrition. And this principle is probably one of the most misunderstood and the one that causes some of the most controversies I guess if you want to call it that like some of the most kerfluffle which is my favorite word lately for like causing a fuss right kerfluffle.
It just sounds a little bit more, more fun. But seriously, principle 10 is a really important one. And it’s often very misunderstood. And so I want you to tune into that one next week to round out the series. Before we hop in any further though couple things hit subscribe on your podcast app, go ahead push it right now push that button.
I really appreciate that. It just means that that subscription, which is no cost to you helps the show to gain more visibility and organically attract the kind of listener who needs to hear this content. It’s so very, very important. So thank you. Next, get your tuckus on the Listen To Your Body newsletter. I send this out once a week and it is really my combination love letter to you and a manifesto to why diet culture needs to go away and why diet culture is preventing us from living our fullest grounded lives. It’s kind of a fuck you middle finger to diet culture at the same time. And it flip flops between that so you can go ahead and join at StephGaudreau.com/LTYB. It’s also the place where I announce when things like the tune in membership will be open, so if you want to catch that, and you’re ready to join a community and actually implement these particular principles, then that’s the place to do that. And finally, if you liked this episode, go ahead and share it out on social media, you can tag me at @Steph_Gaudreau.
Okie Dokie, let’s start off with some storytime, shall we. So growing up, I think the term exercise was something I just like little, it just makes you do that like gag face like. Now I did eat from the time I was really young, I was always active, right? Swimming in the summer with my sister. My grandparents lived on the edge of a city park in Western Mass. Shout out to Chicopee, if you know where that is. So they lived on the edge of a city park. And we would always be swimming in the summer and running around the backyard of our house where we grew up in Springfield playing soccer and breaking the basement windows. And so we were always super active. I played soccer. I was in dance classes. Eventually, I gave up dance and stuck with soccer because my mom made a good choice. Because we were doing both my sister and I were doing dance and soccer. And I chose soccer she chose to dance and probably much to my mom’s chagrin. Anyway, I was always super active and moving my body and to this day, like moving my body.
And physically moving is really important and really grounding to me. It’s how I feel connected. It’s one of the ways I feel connected but my relationship with movement wasn’t always like that. And so I remember very vividly, I was probably about nine or 10. And I went to the pediatrician for my yearly checkup. And sitting there in the pediatrician’s office, when he looked at my mom and said something to the effect of you know, she’s on the chubby side or something like that, and just like made a comment about my weight. And how I was too fat, too big.
And there were lots of things in my life that led that were sort of coming to a head at that point with me just being hyper-aware of my body and not being like the other kids and feeling a lot of shame around it. But that was one of them. And I remember my face just incinerating hot was shame because I liked to move. I was active in sports and my mom at the time, she probably didn’t know what to say. And she said something like, well, she’s kind of a bookworm. And I was like, you know, nine year old me at the time said nothing. But in my head. I was like, What the fuck? Like I I do sports. I love to be outside. I’m always, you know, playing around. And yeah, we hadn’t Nintendo and all that other stuff. But I just couldn’t wrap my brain around like, what am I doing wrong? What am I doing wrong? So I played sports all through high school. And then in my senior year of high school, I got, I got a job. I started checking groceries, I was, you know, a bagger. And then I was a cashier and worked in a grocery store. Shout out to big why all the big why shoppers in Western Mass. But I worked at a grocery store, I stopped exercising, I stopped playing sports, I stopped moving my body, and my body changed. And it was another very huge source of shame for me. So from that point forward, for so I was about 19 until I was 31 movement turned into an exercise and exercise turned into a way for me to control my body with the ultimate goal of shrinking it and making it smaller. So I went from a child and a teen who found a lot of joy in movement. Right dance, I wasn’t good. I wasn’t good at any of this stuff. You know, it was like a moderately good soccer player was not a great dancer, but it was really interesting. I liked it and got cut from the freshman basketball team because my hand-eye coordination is shit. But I loved the idea of being active and being on a team or being with other people or challenging myself and it turned into movement turned into exercise and that’s when that like gaggy you know, like, cross-like exercise, everybody hates exercise. And that’s how I then came to associate with movement at turn from a way for me to embody myself more and connect with my body and connect with myself and challenge myself into something to control and it took me several years to break out of that. And to tell you this story and this about my past, because I think it’s really important. And it’s really common that some of us have a relationship with movement of some sort. And then it becomes exercise and a way to shrink our bodies and make ourselves smaller and have to lose weight, or we are put on a forced exercise plan with the goal of controlling our body shape and size. Or to be quite honest, the other way around, which is people who have biggerexia, where they’re trying to grow their bodies and mold their aesthetics in a way that then becomes very psychologically damaging for them. And there’s another kind of disorder, right? So being obsessed with the aesthetics, right, it’s not always just about growing or sorry about shrinking, sometimes it’s about growing the body as well but in a very specific way.
And so, for me, I had to really connect to movement by getting involved in activities. For me, it was CrossFit and weightlifting, which we could talk all day about why CrossFit is a problem. And why weightlifting is for everybody. That’s not going to be the purpose of this show. But it was for me a stepping stone. Because I was really focused on what my body looked like. And I mentioned a couple of episodes ago, how in 2010, everything kind of shook down. It was like, everything shut down to the bottom, it was like this, hitting bottom moment.
I was round, I had ramped up my exercise so much. And here’s the thing about exercise. It’s oftentimes the thing that people praise, right? I started running since about 2006 or so I started running half marathons. And that turned into a marathon. And I swore off marathons after I was like one and done bucket list, which then turned into a bucket list item for me like never running another marathon ever again. But marathons turned into racing bikes and racing, mountain bikes turned into endurance mountain bike races, and literally spending, you know, eight-plus hours a day on the weekend in the bike saddle. And that turned into triathlons. So then it was like doing bricks and running and swimming and biking and all of it while not feeling very well.
And it also became sort of like I mentioned a cover. So my, quote, dedication to exercise and my dedication to all of these competitions that I was doing was a way for me to hide that it was really a cover for my own insecurities and having to prove myself as a human and prove my worth. But be of not liking my body and wanting to just make it smaller, to lose weight to get smaller. And I remember seeing a photo of me and when I was racing mountain bikes, I was on a team for a while a couple of different teams here and there local. You know, I wasn’t like some mountain biking superstar. But I remember seeing the picture of me standing with my team members. And they were all much much thinner than me. And I just like saw that picture and just felt disgusting.
And like, why can’t I be smaller? Why can’t you know, it was like, obviously very unhealthy. But the rest of the world was like, Oh my gosh, yay, stuff so dedicated. So competitive, so healthy, and I was just like crumbling inside, right. So for me, my especially endurance movement. And exercise became a way for me to hide and run away from my other problems in my life. Not vilifying it, not saying everybody has that relationship with endurance sports, so no hate mail. But it’s worth thinking about, you know, does my relationship with yoga, cause that does my relationship with whatever I don’t know, you pick the sport. CrossFit like does that. Is that how I hide all these other things that I’m going through?
So yes, lifting weights became the stepping stone and I just want to mention this, it was the stepping stone to getting away from the idea that movement was solely to control my body and keep it smaller. And yeah, my body got bigger, when I dropped the excessive amount of endurance exercise and started eating. Normally, again, like a normal human, a normal adult should eat, you know, eating enough food, eating sustenance, enjoying food again, right, and my body did get bigger. But I wasn’t focused on my body size, I was focusing on things like what my body can do, and learning new skills, and it’s a great stepping stone. But I want to caution that getting stuck in that spot, for too long of like, I’m only you know like I’m my worth is in what I can do is a bit of a false promise for some people. And at some point, because that can get taken away from you.
Through parenthood, carrying a pregnancy, injury, surgery, life circumstances changing, you become disabled, I mean, I don’t know, there’s just so many things that can happen that then shake that foundation if you stop your personal development and growth, at the stage of just thinking that you’re only as good as what you can do.
And trust me, been through many injuries in order to learn that lesson, the painful way, like mentally, emotionally, and physically. But all this is to say that movement can become a stepping stone if you allow it. So here’s a couple of key points to take away from this episode. Exercise is actually really poor at controlling the size of your body, in so far as if you do look at weight loss studies, with exercise exercises, very poor at controlling body size outcomes. That doesn’t mean that movement has no benefit. And so I like to use the word movement instead of the word exercise because obviously, exercise has a lot of negative connotation.
So teasing apart, exercise from the pursuit of weight loss is really important and it’s a piece of this idea of more grounded well being and using movement in a way that’s really adding to your well being because I can tell you for certain that beating yourself into a pulp with the kind of exercise that you do in the name of health is like there’s eventually going to be a shift in that equation of what it’s giving back to you and what it’s taking from you. And for some of you listening, I know a lot of people in my community are like, I have chronic injuries, I keep getting hurt, your body is trying to tell you something.
You’re not giving yourself the recovery that you need. Or the intensity is not a match for where you’re at right now in your life. And it doesn’t mean you have to stop moving, of course not. But it is telling you, your body is sending up a flag like Hello, something’s not right here. Okay, so, of course not everybody is going to be drawn to every kind of movement, there is my neighbor, whom I love so much, JJ. JJ is like I just want to go to a dance class, you know, and obviously, we’ve had social distancing here and she’s like, I just want to go to like a dance class. Now me personally, right now in my life, a dance class doesn’t sound very good. So that’s just me. It doesn’t mean she’s wrong. And then I’m right because I like to lift weights on my porch. Absolutely not. Okay, so we have to find what we like, is really important. How does it feel in your body? Now? A lot of people say yeah, but my body is sore. So what do I do? Do I exercise or do I not exercise to move or do I not move? Look, only you can know and build up some familiarity with the kind of, for example, soreness, that’s okay for you and then what’s actually painful and your body is sending you that kind of a message of like, too much backoff.
So, focus on how movement really makes you feel. In other words, if you get done with if you’re doing your workout or you’re doing your movement practice, and you’re like, you know what, it’s this is challenging. is challenging my muscles. It’s challenging my balance. It’s challenging my coordination. It’s challenging my cardiovascular system, I’m breathing hard. It’s challenging my mental capacity to concentrate.
And it was hard, great. Like it. That’s, that’s, there’s nothing wrong with that. But how do you feel afterward? How do you feel an hour or two afterward? How do you feel for the rest of your day? Are you completely wiped out? Or are you more energized? Are you sleeping better? When you get more movement, right? What is your general mindset and mental clarity like because again, there are so many benefits of movement, we, you know, as a society are so stuck on movement as a control body, and like we ate Thanksgiving pie, so we have to do burpees, that’s just losing, it’s just a losing way to look at movement. It’s never movements never going to be something that’s sustainable or fun.
Even when my you know, even when I’m doing a hard workout, I’m still having fun to some degree, even if it’s a little bit masochistic. I know it’s not a match when I’m like, I would not do that again, or like, nothing about that was enjoyable. So it can be hard and still enjoyable. It can be hard and still be fun. And looking at some of the other benefits that movement has. Because again, we get stuck on the body stuff, like we just wanted to, oh, don’t even get me started, I will probably go on a tangent about words that are code, right euphemisms for the type of movement that will then shrink your body, but it’s more socially acceptable. So saying, like, I just want to be toned, has a certain application of like this exercise or this movement, it’s going to make my body look a certain way. And therefore it’s beneficial.
And crystal looking at ways that you can take care of your self, like what are the other benefits that you get from movement. And I already mentioned some of these rights, but how it actually improves things like your bone strength and bone density. I mean, Hello, this is a well-documented benefit of weight-bearing movements, especially weight training, increased insulin sensitivity, is another one, right? So getting a metabolic benefit, reducing our risk for certain cardiovascular events being beneficial for our brains, oh my goodness, right? Being sharper, improving things like learning and memory, improving our heart strength, and our lung strength. There’s there’s so many our balance and coordination. I mean, there’s just so many other things, our confidence, oh, my goodness, so many people are like, I’ll just wait until I’m more confident and we’ll go do that thing.
Movement can improve your confidence in so many ways because you’re like, I just went and I did that thing. And it was really fun and enjoyable, and I made it happen for myself. So it’s important to acknowledge in this entire conversation as well, that certain types of movement may not be as accessible to you right now for different reasons. And we want to honor that, that finding a place or a space to move your body in a way that’s comfortable to you, is important. And it may be challenging. You know, I can think of places like the autonomy movement that really advocate for a weight neutral kind of environment, making sure that people have super diverse backgrounds are welcome, right, making their spaces inclusive. This is all incredibly important as well, and it can create barriers to people wanting to participate in certain kinds of movement. And I think the last thing I would say is being more gentle with yourself in terms of expectations. A lot of the people that I work within my membership, for example, and the clients that I seem to attract are a lot like me and my mindset when I first started out, and before I really learned about how to move myself again, how to reconnect to the movement as something that was fun in that I enjoyed like I did when I was a kid, but a lot of folks come in with a very perfectionistic all or nothing mindset.
And I will tell you what perfectionistic slash all or nothing mindsets or either or mindset, where it’s a binary like either this or that is one of the biggest barriers to embracing things like intuitive eating, and movement, that’s really fun. There are so many reasons why you might be predisposed to all or nothing thinking, you may have learned perfectionistic outlooks, as a young person. Or if you were perfect, then that meant that the important people who kept you feeling safe in your life wouldn’t go away. For me, that’s one of the origins of my perfectionism.
And I’ve had to learn how to unpack that right and continue to work on that. And even notice, when I tend to slip into that all or nothing thinking, but here’s a couple of ways that it gets in the way with movement thinking, you know, if it’s not intense, and it doesn’t leave me in a crumpled heap on the floor, then it didn’t count. Oh, my goodness, we need to stop with this bullshit. So is intense exercise wrong? No, of course not. Let’s not be like all or nothing about it. But for some people, it doesn’t work for them. Or it’s not appealing, like if you are under a tremendous amount of stress, which who’s not under a lot of stress these days. But seriously, if you’re under a tremendous amount of stress, then only doing super intense exercise can sometimes feel better at the moment, because you’ve got a little bit of a boost of cortisol. But eventually, it’s going to catch up with you, especially if your recovery is not that great.
So it doesn’t need to be only the most intense exercise that leaves you in a crumbled heap on the floor. And puking from a workout is not cool. It’s just not, right. Like, I don’t know why this is celebrated. And it’s really a super toxic mindset. But having that mindset of like, it only counts if I got my heart into zone five, or only counts if I was doing hit, or only counts if I went 10 miles on my run instead of three. That has to stop and challenging that kind of thinking.
Can have multiple benefits. If you struggle with all or nothing thinking and other areas of your life, say for example, with food. So it’s more like addressing the root of the all or nothing thoughts that then can benefit other areas in your life. Because how we do one thing is how we tend to do everything. The other one that falls into that realm is like I don’t have two hours. So I might as well not do it.
This is also another type of thinking, that is an all or nothing kind of thought like if I don’t have an hour and a half to go to this class, then like might as well not bother, it’s not going to count. It’s another kind of it doesn’t count sort of pitfall. So it’s okay to split your workouts up.
It’s okay to do a few minutes here and a few minutes there. One of my favorite things to do when I’m am working on something really intensely. And I’m taking little breaks here and there is to just stand up and do some, some bodyweight squats or some push-ups or whatever it is. And it takes me you know, 30 seconds or a minute. And I repeat that throughout the day. And I didn’t do an hour straight. But by the time I’ve broken it up, I’ve actually done quite a bit of movement. So I would encourage you to get really clever to see where you can challenge your all or nothing thinking on this or your perfectionistic tendencies.
Because that kind of stuff will get in the way of you doing the kind of movement that feels really great. It feels good in your body. It’s fun, is something that you’ll keep doing. My favorite thing to say is, what’s the thing you’ll keep doing? Now I love strength training. Don’t get me wrong, and I wish that more people would give it a try. Because the benefits are incredible, but it’s not for everybody, as well. So I don’t want anybody to listen to this show and think well unless you like to slam some weights around and you’re doing your movement wrong. No, that’s absolutely not the point. All right. So think about your own story with exercise. Was there a point at which you started using exercise in a punitive way, meaning to punish yourself for what you ate, or to earn? And I’m using air quotes earn the right to eat? Or is there a point at which movement became a way for you to control your body in a certain way being able to control your weight? Or to control your size? Or to control your leanness or your body fat percentage? And journal about that write about it? What was it? Like? What was your relationship with movement? Like before that Did you ever have a fun expansive is filled, even if it was a challenging relationship with movement, his perfectionism, or all or nothing tendencies, getting in the way of you doing what you can to meet yourself, where you’re at? How can you start to weave movement into your life in a way that is really nourishing is a way for you to care for your body in a basic way. It works with your personal preferences in your life setup.
Write about those things to get clearer on those things. The more clear you can get, the easier it’s going to be to do things that are really aligned for you.
I would love to hear what you think about this episode. Share it out on social media, you can tag me on Instagram at Steph_Gaudreau join the Listen To Your Body newsletter, StephGaudreau.com/LTYB. And stay tuned for our next week’s episode 302 it’s gonna be a juicy one about how to honor yourself with gentle nutrition and how this is different than being on a diet. Until then, be well!
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