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If you grew up in a plus size body, it’s very likely that you were “encouraged” or even coerced into sports or some sort of physical activity by family or friends. This is, of course, an idea rooted in diet culture that movement automatically equals weight loss.

As research has progressed, and as many of us have personal accounts of, exercise doesn’t always result in weight loss and that’s not the most important reason to be moving our bodies.

Have You Heard of Joyful Movement?

Joyful movement is a way of approaching physical activity that focuses on choice, happiness, celebration, intuition, pleasure, and flexibility. First, you should look for an activity you genuinely enjoy. It can be as simple as taking you pet for a walk outside or dancing or taking a swim.

We often have these grand ideas of what exercise “should” look like but the truth is that moving your body in any capacity is beneficial to both your mind and spirit.

There are so many benefits to movement that have no connection to weight loss. Whether you’re looking to improve your sleeping habits, reduce stress, or improve mindfulness, it’s important to find something that works for you. Not everyone enjoys the same type of movement and that’s ok!

If you’re lucky enough to have a friend who is interested in the same type of physical activity, do it together! It’s always more fun to bring a buddy.

Setting a realistic goal can be important when you’re starting a joyful movement journey. Like we mentioned earlier, the purpose of shifting the focus to celebrating your body includes not focusing on weight loss or burning calories. A realistic goal may look like committing to 15 minutes of movement per day to start and adjust that going forward as you find something you enjoy.

Some Thoughts from Fat Activists 

It’s not an easy transition to make and it won’t just happen overnight. According to Danielle, @confidentfearlessworthy, “I started to recognize that movement did make me feel better physically, but I enjoyed moving my body in certain ways far more than others. I discovered aqua aerobics and it was one of the only things I truly enjoyed doing. The water combined with music didn’t even feel like exercise to me. My suggestion would be to try a variety of things because moving your body joyfully doesn’t have to look a certain way. Recently my goal was to walk around Disney with my family, so I found an 8 week walking program that focused on the amount of time walked rather than miles walked and that really flipped a switch for me.”

Lindsay, @fantasticalfatty, often hosts joyful movement lives on TikTok and has lots of thoughts on this topic! They state, “the biggest thing is learning the science behind exercise and weight loss and discovering that exercising doesn’t actually lead to weight loss. When we understand that, it shifts our entire perspective around movement and exercise. If we can think of movement [exercise, sports, athletics, everything] as something we do for fun, connection to ourselves and others, mental and physical health, and because we freaking love it, we will start to choose activities that feel good. The more we focus on exercise for weight loss the more we are robbed of the ACTUAL benefits of movement and why exercise is so essential to our human experience.”

Lindsay does bring up a very important point regarding the science behind exercise and weight loss. According to an NIH Article entitled “Healthy lifestyle habits and mortality in overweight and obese individuals,” healthy lifestyle habits are associated with a significant decrease in mortality regardless of baseline BMI.

Individuals were divided into groups based on their BMI and the amount of “healthy behaviors” they adopted over 14 years including not smoking, eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, moderate alcohol consumption, and exercising 12 days per month.

When all four of these behaviors were put into action, regardless of the person’s BMI, their overall health risk decreased and there was virtually no difference across all the BMI categories. Most importantly to our point, the weight of the participants did not change over time regardless of the adopted “healthy habits.” 

Lindsay also recommends starting joyful movement slowly and gently. “Movement is meant to feel good, even when we’re pushing ourselves, and we shouldn’t be pushing past where our body is able, as that only leads to pain and injury. The only way to do this is to slow down and listen to our bodies. Talk to our bodies. Be gentle and kind with our bodies. Not ask it to do what it can’t just because we could 5 years ago or because someone next to us can.”

How do you enjoy celebrating your body through movement? Tell us in the comments!

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