The preoccupation with turkey, stuffing, and pie this time of year (and then canapÃƒÂ©s and cookies galore shortly thereafter) has an unpleasant side effect: an undercurrent of guilt that many gyms capitalize on to try to bring in customers. The following are real ads showcased in the window of a fitness facility:
There’s something very wrong with what’s happening here. Gym owners are the very people who should be shouting from the rooftops about all of the ways in which fitness enriches our lives (especially since there are so many reasons to work out that have nothing to do with how you look). But instead, they're using messaging that turns exercise into a negative activity, and one that’s fraught with shame.
It’s not just happening on a corporate level, either. We've heard fitness instructors talk about how far you'd have to run to burn off a given number of doughnuts and have seen them post on Instagram about "earning the bird" with a workout Turkey Day morning—or exercising "because Thanksgiving is coming."
We have no doubt that these trainers and wellness coaches are well-intentioned—or that they could tell you about all of the ways in which getting fit has made them happier, more confident, and less stressed. But that's the problem. Speaking negatively about exercise has become so ingrained in us that we don't even necessarily realize when we're doing it—or that it's sending the wrong message about being active. This mentality of viewing fitness as a joyless means to an end of looking the “right” way has become pervasive in American culture—and, admittedly, it's something we've also been guilty of helping to perpetuate in the past. But it's time for a change.
LET'S START A REVOLUTION
Fitness isn’t about punishing yourself for eating indulgent foods (or earning the right to enjoy them in the first place). It’s not about torturing yourself until your abs or biceps look a certain way. It’s about connecting with your body and doing something to nurture it. It’s about challenging yourself and learning that you’re capable of things you never thought possible. So let’s start acting like it.
Join WomensHealthmag.com in changing the conversation around exercise and celebrating it for the empowering force that it is.
Help us spread the word about #GuiltFreeFitness by sharing the images below on your personal Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram accounts (you can put womenshealthmag.com/guiltfreefitness in the caption so your followers can come here and learn more about the campaign). We'll also be posting these mantras and more on our own social-media accounts—so you can just share, retweet, or regram them if you prefer. Or, if you're feeling really ambitious, design your own!
But most importantly, let's all make an effort to talk about exercise in a more positive way so we can truly start to transform the way we think about fitness.