When body cravings and body abilities don’t align.
One of the principles of intuitive eating is joyful movement. That is, finding movement that brings you pleasure and rejuvenates you. I’ve spent several years getting away from obligation-based, scheduled movement and, instead, allowing my body’s cravings for movement to dictate how and if I move. This works 70% of the time, but now I find myself with a recovered mindset, but grappling with a body that is limited in some ways. This got me thinking about how letting your body’s cravings for movement be your guide for movement can be complicated when your body’s cravings and your body’s abilities don’t match up.
In a recent post a few of you agreed with the idea that our mission on earth isn’t to be as able-bodied as possible. I’m in a HAES-aligned clinician group on Facebook and I posed the question of how to make sense of a body that craves movement, yet is limited in the movement it can do and the response I got (that I felt like actually understood where I was coming from) said, “it’s a grieving process. Similar to grieving the loss of body size you once thought you could achieve.”
There’s been a couple things I’ve found helpful when struggling with the pain and discomfort that limits my movement, specifically knee pain and some tingling that I imagine is nerve pain. Some of the pain I’m in is a choice, since as long as I don’t move in that way I’m not in pain. I know that isn’t everyone’s situation. I still have a lot of function in my body. There is so much I can do pain free and many things I can do as long as I limit my other movement that week or month. I say that not as an ooh look at me, but since I know some of you are in pain at baseline no matter what you do. Pain or a shifting of abilities that is out of your control and not due to something you have done to yourself. For those of you in that position, I’m not sure how helpful this post will be, but I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section on reconstructing your identity separate from the movement you can no longer do. Here are a couple things that’ve helped me with making sense of the limits my body sets for me.
But before we get to that, if you are living in an eating disorder, your cravings for movement could be too high. The level of movement you do isn’t driven by honoring cravings for joyful movement, but instead exercise is something you have to do to feel safe. Akin to an addiction, it is something you have to do to be okay, rather than something you get to do because you are okay. In these situations, movement is done because a person hates their body, not because they want to care for it. At this point, your exercise routine is not improving your health, but instead it’s pulling you deeper into an exercise compulsion/disordered eating/self-hate. If you are struggling with overexercise, these pasts posts on compulsive exercise may be better suited for you than this one. If exercise was part of your eating disorder, movement may never be a healthy way for you to cope with life stressors and alternative coping strategies need to be explored. You likely are not a person who will be able to use movement as a mood stabilizer or a way to process through your thoughts.
1. Peak pose concept.
Some of my favorite yoga classes are where there is a peak pose we are working to be able to get into and the poses increase in intensity as we make our way to that pose. That idea of gradually preparing the body for a movement you want to do is something I like. I liked this idea so much that I adopted it into my own life, as in, what is the peak movement I want to be able to do and then back tracking to what do I need to do movement-wise and rest-wise to support me in doing that pain-free (sensation is okay, but pain is not). For me, one of my “peak poses” is functional for my family and one is just for me based on what I find pleasure in. Your “peak poses” are self-determined based on your values and what is rejuvenating to you. If you want me to be more specific on what that looks like for me, I’m happy to share in the comment section, however I’ve gotten a request to share less specifics at times and I can see the benefit in that for readers on their own journey, so I’m going to leave the movement specifics out of the body of this post.
2. Remembering this activity is not essential to my life.
When it comes to movement, no specific type of movement is essential to my life. It is annoying to not be able to move in certain ways as much as my body would enjoy, however, it is life annoying, not life threatening. I am still an active participant in my life and in the lives of those I care for regardless of my ability to do certain activities.
When talking to a grad school friend recently who used to be an athlete and who handles letting go of things that aren’t meant for her well, I asked what that transition away from being an athlete was like (I knew her for years before she even mentioned she once played a sport at a very intense level) and she said she just knows, “it’s not good to have her identity tied to transient things. The only thing worth tying your identity to are relational thing.” Yes. Amen. Then she also mentioned that, “Sports can be a path to learn some life lessons. However, movement/exercise/sports/fitness are not the life achievement.” Well said.
3. Maybe high impact movement just doesn’t make sense for my body anymore.
A reader emailed me the below and I’m wondering if some of you will relate?
“Hi! I’m a long time reader of the blog!
I know you’ve addressed exercise compulsions and such on the blog before, but I wondered if you’d do a post about specifically exercise and women. I had a baby 10 months ago and I was really in to MommaStrong for a long time…and then just ended up feeling like it was sapping my energy instead of making me feel better, so I stopped (I have had issues with insomnia off and on for years and it’s been rough since having a baby… He sleeps through and has since he was 10 weeks but its been since around then that my sleep became really shitty…of course). Anyway, I’ve just always had this sneaking suspicion that higher intensity and even moderate (as in, above play swimming with my son/walking/playing in general/stretching) just isn’t as good for us as we’re told? The older I get, the more it seems to make sense to just be doing low intensity things that keep my cortisol low rather than things that increase it and end up making me feel shitty. Maybe it’s just me and my body. But I’m curious if this is probably true for a lot of women, where their bodies just DO NOT like harder exercise, even if the endorphins feel good in the moment. Of course either way I’m listening to my own body and sticking with what makes my own body feel better, but I’m curious!“
What do you guys think? Have you noticed something similar in your own body?
Thanks for reading! I’d also love to hear where are you at with movement these days? Are you working to get to a healthier relationship with movement or have you found a healthier relationship with movement? If you’ve found a healthier relationship with movement, what does that look like for you?