Physical Wellness Independent of Body Image
Hey guys, it’s Katharine here! Today I’ll be talking about physical wellness and its relationship to our body image. This is something I’m really passionate about, so today’s blog post is a little long.
In today’s body-centered society, our view of exercise has been twisted to be an activity that we use to control or change what we look like. When you think about it, viewing exercise this way is really sad. Exercise is an activity that we deserve to enjoy, something that we should do because we love our bodies, not because we want to control or change them.
Exercising to change or control wha
t you look like builds a negative relationship between you and exercise, making it something you dread when it should be something look forward to as a fun, relaxing, and fulfilling activity. Exercising to change your body also implicitly makes you feel like there’s something inherently wrong with how you look, something inherently wrong with what you are, when there is truly no wrong way for your body to exist. This leaves you constantly fighting against your body, when it’s just doing its best to protect you and keep you living.
Not only is fighting against your body in this way unfair to the way you view yourself, it’s also futile. Using exercise to control your weight specifically has been scientifically proven to be ineffective. According to over 60 studies, exercise alone is not an effective way to lose weight (https://www.vox.com/2016/4/28/11518804/weight-loss-exercise-myth-burn-calories). Beyond that, your weight alone is not solely indicative of your health, so the single act of losing weight doesn't necessarily make you healthier or more “well.” Some studies on the subject are summarized in this article by Self Magazine (https://www.self.com/story/the-science-on-weight-and-health).
If you’re exercising to look bigger or more muscular, it’s important to remember that you cannot wholly control what your body looks like. You may not be predispositioned to put on a lot of muscle, and if you don’t enjoy exercises like weightlifting, fighting against your body by spending hours lifting dumbbells would not only be tedious and unenjoyable, it would be pointless. Even if it’s easy for you to put on muscle, it’s impossible to completely choose what you look like. People’s body proportions and genetics affect what they look like so much that you cannot expect to sculpt your own body the way you choose.
You deserve to be able to exercise in a way that makes you feel good. Maybe you exercise because it makes you feel calmer, more grounded, and more peaceful. Maybe you exercise because it makes you feel energized and refueled. Maybe you exercise because it helps you sleep, or makes you live longer, or lessens the symptoms of a chronic illness. There are so many rewarding reasons to exercise beyond what your body looks like.
If you’re looking to exercise independent of your body image, but you don’t know where to start, I’d suggest finding a way of movement that you truly enjoy. The best way I’ve found to do this is to try everything you can. Some great examples of exercise you can try on or near campus are:
Fike group fitness classes
Hiking through Clemson Experimental Forests
Going for a run in the fall colors
Joining an intramural sport
Biking around campus
Yoga (on your own or in a Group Fitness class)
Kayaking or paddle boarding (with free CORE rentals!)
Walking (that’s right, you don’t have to run)
Or anything you can think of!
The possibilities are truly endless when you think of exercise as something that fuels and fulfills you, rather than a means to a futile end.