Do you find yourself dreading a trip to the gym or going to a workout class? Do you no longer look forward to moving your body, or see it as a chore? If you answered yes to either of those questions, you're not alone. This is a common phenomenon rooted in toxic fitness/diet culture that runs rampant throughout Western society, especially during the first months of the new year when it seems like everyone is on a fitness quest. And it's time we change that. Intuitive movement is the key we've been looking for.

The Problem

Since I can remember, I've been repeatedly told that the only way to "be fit" is to be in the gym 5-6 times a week, doing hours of cardio and pushing myself to misery. I'm sure many people can relate to this. However, this is super problematic for a variety of reasons: most people don't enjoy such a regimen, it is taxing on the body, and it creates a negative relationship with one's body and movement. It can also encourage using exercise as a punishment. The societal idea that we have to push ourselves to exhaustion and nausea in order for a workout to be "worth it" is absolutely absurd and destructive. Western beauty ideals have infiltrated movement, which should solely be an amazing celebration of our bodies, ruining it for so many.

FYI: I also avoid using the word "exercise" in my daily life, as it carries a negative connotation in most settings. It is commonly associated with weight loss attempts and body dissatisfaction.

The Solution

Enter intuitive movement. You may have heard of intuitive eating, a nutrition ideology that eliminates judgement of foods and emphasizes honoring both physical & mental hunger cues. Intuitive movement is intuitive eating's sister, promoting movement that feels good to you— this is different for each person, just like intuitive eating. Rachael Hartley, a registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating coach, sums up intuitive movement very nicely: "Intuitive movement is the practice of connecting with your body and it's internal cues and using that to determine what type of movement, how long, and the intensity you'd like to engage in. It also incorporates mindfulness, by being present in whatever movement you choose to do. Doing this, you'll nurture a healthier relationship with movement and your body, and discover how to make fitness pleasurable for you." 

How To Do It

Intuitive movement is so fluid and varying. It could be going for a run because you genuinely enjoy the activity, but not forcing yourself to on days you aren't feeling it just because you feel like you "have to". Maybe it's taking a leisurely walk listening to your favorite podcast (I love Food Psych) or music. Yoga, CrossFit, cycling, and other group fitness activities can all have a place here, too. Intuitive movement does not have a specific set of activities or a schedule— it could be one activity, or a large variety of different forms; it could be every day of the week, or one day of the week. The beauty of this idea is there are no rules, no right way or wrong way to do things, and it can ebb and flow along with you and your life. Just like nutrition, movement is not a one-size-fits-all.

It can be scary to break away from a strict regimen/compulsive exercise, especially if you have a history of negative body image and/or disordered eating. Once you make the leap, though, you will find a gentler, more positive and peaceful relationship with your body. You will gain compassion and a forgiving nature for yourself. You will develop a healthier mindset while cultivating a healthy movement pattern. There is no failure here and no comparison to others. Only pride, joy, and appreciation. Dive into intuitive movement and discover the fun in fitness again. It's a whole new world.

Disclaimer: I am not a registered dietitian (yet) or fitness professional. Seek nutritional advice only from registered dietitians (not 'nutrition coaches') and be cautious when heeding fitness advice. Only do what is comfortable and joyful.