The term “mindful movement” has been floating around for a while now and is something I try and follow, so I decided that it’d be a good topic to unpack today on my blog! Mindful movement boils down to the idea of regularly checking in with your mind and body during exercise. The goal is to move your body in ways you truly enjoy versus activities you feel like you “should” be doing. The concept seems simple, but in reality it can be difficult to learn how to truly listen to our bodies and move in ways that make us feel good, instead of the reasons diet culture and/or ED tell us to. Before I share my experience with mindful movement and how to move more mindfully, here are a few misconceptions and questions I’ve encountered about mindful movement:
How can someone tell if they’re moving their body for the wrong reasons?
Wanting to exercise and move your body is not a bad thing! All mindful movement is doing is shifting the perspective so we don’t blame and look at our bodies or foods as “good” or “bad” and makes movement a mindful activity instead of something that is used as an incinerator for caloric intake. If you are exercising to change your body, because you feel like you “should,” or are feeling guilty over something you’ve eaten, or are experiencing ED thoughts, you probably aren’t moving mindfully.
Especially for people in eating disorder recovery, it’s important to know that sometimes not exercising at all is what needs to happen in order for you to fully recover. Your body has been through a lot and needs to rest and replenish along with your mind, which needs to heal equally as much if not more. I had to break the cycle and take a break from working out altogether.
Is mindful movement still exercise?
Yes, it is! It’s just doing so in a way that is more enjoyable, safe, and mindful for you as an individual.
Who is mindful of movement for?
Everyone! I feel like mindful movement is often framed as something only for female identifying individuals or for people with eating disorders, but that needs to change because so many people can find value in it.
Okay, now back to my experience and tips for mindful movement!
Orthorexia is a diet gone wrong in every way that it can go wrong- and was something I struggled with for two years. I was constantly checking nutrition labels, referring to my Fitbit, going to the gym, researching “healthy” recipes, and finding ways to restrict foods that weren’t “healthy” enough to my eating disorder. It was a very slippery slope I found myself sliding down. Many of the things that I now recognize as behaviors are things society praises as “healthy” and “productive.”
We’re sold the lie that every area of our life needs to be blood, sweat, and tears. If you only worked out long and hard enough, you’d be thin. If you ate “healthier,” you’d be happier. If you were more positive, you wouldn’t have mental health problems.
Our bodies don’t deserve that- and our minds don’t, either. It took me a long time to embrace mindful movement and to be able to separate the concept of exercise from the teachings of diet culture and reject the idea that I need to exercise every day to feel “productive”. Some days I still struggle- these things don’t go away overnight. Whether you have an eating disorder or not, we’re all exposed to the same ideas online, in pop culture, and socially. Still, unlearning diet culture and the toxic mentality of exercising to change yourself is worth it. Here’s what I learned (and my tips for you):
In order to embrace mindful movement I learned I had to break my routine, learn to listen to my body, reflect on how I actually wanted to move my body, and be okay with stillness.
Before recovery and before learning to move more mindfully, exercise was an obsession and obligation. I felt like I had to do it and that I had to do specific forms of exercise every day. When I first began treatment I resented having to stop exercising because it felt like I was going against everything I had worked for and strived to be, but I learned that any routine that makes your identity revolve around something that hurts you isn’t a good routine to have. This not only made me be able to better accept stillness and untangle myself from a poor relationship with exercise, but also gave me the space to think about what movement I actually like to do. Hiking, yoga, walking, and pilates are among my new favorites!
Mindful movement is also a great way to check in, be present, and reconnect with your body. While it can be difficult to unlearn a negative or uncomfortable relationship with food, exercise, and your body, remember that you deserve to feel free in the body you’ve been given.
Move it how and when you want to and remember to be kind to yourself!
Featured Photo from Pexels.
All content on RecovRoad is based on personal experiences, research, and ideas. Please do not repost/share without credit and be aware that nothing on this blog takes the place of professional help. This is also a formal trigger warning: content about and relating to eating disorders may be triggering to survivors. Please see the “RESOURCES” tab, call the National Eating Disorders Association hotline at 800-931-2237, and remember to take care of yourself.