What’s Wrong With Exercise?

Almost two years ago, I wrote this sentence in the post These are the Fat FAQs:

I promised myself years ago never to “exercise” again, because doing so is always an act of hatred against myself.

It continues to be one of the more controversial and hated things I’ve said. I didn’t elaborate on my personal feelings about this at the time. I went on to say:

Other fat people do exercise, for fun, for fitness, or to build certain skills. Fitness and fatness are two separate things. Some fat people work out, some don’t. Some thin people work out, some don’t.

If you are one of the people, fat or thin, who like to exercise, you might be confused by how I could call exercise an act of hatred against myself and you might be confused about why NOT exercising could be a positive (dare I say it: healthy) choice for me.

It's not worth it if it comes from a place of hate! What's Wrong With Exercise? // LoveLiveGrow

{Image modified from has a ball by istolethetv / CC BY 2.0}

Exercise as an Act of Hatred

If you’re a fat person, you understand that a lot of people hate you and wish you didn’t exist. Ragen Chastain estimates that we hear 386,170 negative messages about our bodies each year. That’s over 1000 messages a day!

If you’ve listened to these messages like I have (and it’s kind of hard not to) you may end up with a similar understanding of what we’re supposed to do with these terribly fat bodies of ours: We’re supposed to stop eating and start exercising and not quit until we’re finally acceptably skinny.

The strength of this message has completely ruined food and bodily movement for me.

Leaving food for another day, let’s just talk about exercise.

Hundreds of messages a day telling me to exercise until I’m skinny. Start right now! Keep it up! Don’t stop! That’s not enough! You’re doing it wrong! You’re still fat! More! Faster! Better!

The result of that many messages is that they live in my own mind, too. They leave me completely unable to enjoy coordinated physical movement of any kind. That includes official “exercises”, and it includes things that were previously enjoyable to me, like swimming or dancing.

For the last 20 years, any time I have started exercising, it has been because I was giving into those negative messages and agreeing that I’m so horrible that I have to stop eating and start exercising and never stop until I’m skinny.

In other words, every time I exercised it was because I hated myself.

I never enjoyed the exercise, and I always ended up hating myself even more.

So I made a deal with myself that I wouldn’t exercise ever again.

Finding the Other Side

One side effect of that is that I don’t get to experience movement activities that could be truly enjoyable for me. Let’s be clear: it’s not my decision that removed that option from me, it’s the messengers of the thousands of hateful messages I hear day in and day out.

In an ideal world, I would be able to push back at those messages and do whatever the fuck I wanted to without taking the negative messages into my own mind.

After about five years of fat acceptance, I think I am finally ready.

Here and there I’ve been dancing and stretching with Dylan, and it feels pretty good. Good enough that I’m taking a big step:

I am joining the Y so that I can swim.

You see, I love to swim. I love to be in the water, and I love to move through the water.

Some people think lap swimming is exercise. I can’t love something while I’m hating myself.

But I’ve got 5 years of practice of keeping those negative thoughts out of my own mind, and I’m ready to try.

I’m still not going to exercise. I’m going to swim. Or I’m going to dance, if they have any dance classes I like. Or I’m going to yoga. Or I’m going to pilates. But I’ll do these things because they are enjoyable in their own right, not because they have the hypothetical power to make me smaller.

No proposed benefits of moving around are more important than the sanctity of my own mind. {Tweet this.}

The second any fat hate creeps into my thoughts, I’m out of there. No proposed benefits of moving around are more important than the sanctity of my own mind.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Tell me about your experience with exercise. If you are a fat person, are you able to exercise and enjoy it?

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