intuitive exercise

Tom Brady Doesn't Know What You Need

Photo by  Adrian Curiel  on  Unsplash

Photo by Adrian Curiel on Unsplash

I was half-listening to the news a few months ago while drinking my coffee, when someone started interviewing Tom Brady about his new book. Apparently, based on the interview, his book is about how much water he drinks and what types of foods he eats in order to achieve “longevity.” His book is a self-help book, so I assume that it is geared toward the general population.

And I sighed, again. I’m disappointed, irritated, and frustrated, again.

It seems like everywhere we turn, there is something or someone telling us what to eat, how much to eat, how to exercise, how much water to drink, what times to eat, what foods to avoid, what foods count as “superfoods,” blah blah blah, etc.

I mostly turn on the news  for background noise because it’s something my parents used to do in the mornings and it’s comforting for me to have it on. But over the past 10 years, as I have become more aware of how much anxiety and shame we have about food and our bodies, I can’t help but notice how often the NEWS brings up yet another boring diet conversation or promotes even more body shame.

It’s not just the news or TV, of course. I scroll through Instagram and find ads promoting diets and exercise, even though I have carefully curated my feed to be really body positive and fat affirming. I go to my own gym to enjoy a short run or weight lifting session, and hear both men and women discussing their diets, how much weight they’ve gained or lost, and how they plan on changing their bodies next. Somehow people still try to sell me Advocare or Shakeology products telling me that I will “feel so much better” and that I can “lose a little weight.” I try as best as possible to not rip my hair out as I gently remind people that I don’t believe in diet products that continue to focus on weight loss.

My point is that it seems like we can’t go anywhere in this world without being bombarded with celebrities, products, government programs, or our own friends pitching diets, “lifestyle changes,” and rules promising not only a change in our bodies but also happiness, “longevity,” and ultimate health.

So there are two things that I must remind you of:

  1. Your body does not need to change. You can accept it how it is, right here, right now. Period.

  2. Your body ALREADY KNOWS what it needs. You don’t need Tom Brady or Whole30 or Fitness Expert Susie to tell you what to do.

Many of my clients tell me that every single one of these conversations about diet and weight loss is incredibly triggering. They want to do the “right” thing to be healthy and to live a long life. And yet as we talk, they notice that these conversations contain contradictory information. Underneath that, when we really get down to it, they admit that there is such an allure to these diet and fitness programs because the promise is that they will finally have a body they feel comfortable in.

Unfortunately, there is no plan that works for someone else that will help you feel good in your own skin. There may be a temporary “high” from following a diet or program, but eventually it always fades.

Tom Brady is a specific person who has specific needs. He can promise “longevity” all he wants, but the reality is that he is a 40 year old football player with super athletic genes. You too are an individual, with your own personality, background, relationship with food, relationship to exercise, and oppression/trauma history. No diet, “lifestyle change,” or person can tell you how to care for your own body.

The good news is, your body can! The beautiful and wonderful thing about our bodies is that they have the wisdom to tell us when we are hungry, and when we are full. They have the wisdom to tell us that a little bit of stretching may feel nice, or curling up on the couch would really feel better. They have the wisdom to give us sensations such as butterflies or tears when we feel strong emotions so that we can take steps to care for ourselves.

You may not feel like your body has this wisdom, or right now you may not feel connected to it. That’s okay! It may take some time, risk-taking, compassion, and messing up in order to come to a place where you really trust your body. It’s a wonderful and difficult journey, and I encourage all of you to hop on it.

In the meantime, however, I encourage you to be wary of yet another self-help book or celebrity endorsed plan promising health, longevity, or a great body. Look at it critically. Explore your own experiences and wisdom about diets and exercise plans, and be honest with yourself. You are not Tom Brady, and neither am I. And let’s be doubly honest, we don’t need any more Tom Brady’s in this world, ok?

From "No Pain, No Gain" to Joyful Movement: Thoughts on Exercise

What do you immediately think about when you consider the word “exercise?”

Chances are, you may have thought: pain, exhaustion, boring, gross, “good” for me, terrible, difficult.

What types of activities immediately come to mind when you consider the word “exercise?”

Chances are, you may have thought: running, going to the gym, spending a long time on a machine like an elliptical, doing intense exercise classes.

It’s interesting that in our society exercise has become so laudable and praise-worthy, and yet many people find it unbearable. In fact, we believe that in order for exercise to “count” it has to be difficult and painful.

As the New Year began, many people rushed out to get gym memberships, vowed to get “in shape,” and pursued exercise in a way that brings to mind the words above. However, it’s about around this time where people stop going to the gym and stop their exercise routines.

Slogans like “no pain, no gain” are supposed to motivate us to work harder. And yet, in my experience, these slogans and associations we have around exercise, defining it as difficult, painful, and hard, generally motivate no one to continue to do it.

Here’s a small nugget of truth: movement is helpful for our bodies. It is true that activity is correlated with better health outcomes. When I say health, I truly mean HEALTH and not weight loss or physical appearance. I also want to be careful about this because no one has to be healthy, and health doesn’t have to be anyone’s goal. You don’t have to be healthy, and you certainly don’t have to meet unrealistic appearance standards.

So, let’s be clear, movement is simply helpful, not the end-all-be-all to someone’s health status. This deserves another blog post, but health is impacted and defined by a million things, many of which are out of our individual control.

If movement is helpful, doesn’t that mean that everyone should be exercising? My simple answer is NO! The way in which we have culturally shaped exercise means that it is inaccessible, boring, un-enjoyable, and PAINFUL, so why the heck would anyone do it?

I invite everyone to consider your movement history, starting when you are a kiddo. Did you enjoy moving your body? I don’t mean organized sports or gym class, although you may have enjoyed those. I mean playing tag with friends, jumping for joy, shaking your booty to your favorite song, moving without self-consciousness and with abandon. When did that start to change for you? When did you begin to see movement differently?

Each of us has unique movement needs, just like we have unique nutrition needs. Many of us are struggling with injury, illness, or physical limitations which further impact our unique movement needs. When exercise becomes defined by “no pain, no gain,” boy can we get caught in a shame spiral about how we are moving or how much we are moving. Basically we are beating ourselves up for not meeting an unrealistic standard.

Shame is NEVER a good motivator, by the way.

I invite you to look at your current movement with curiosity and compassion. I invite you to check-in with your physical sensations, your current context, and your current limitations. I invite you to reframe exercise in a radical way. In fact, I don’t want you to do that, even. I want you to throw away the term “exercise” and all it’s ridiculous associations, and instead consider what movement you may want in your life. On the other end, I invite you to consider what movement/exercise is no longer serving you.

Happy moving, or not!