Intuitive Movement

Intuitive movement is done with attention, purpose, self-compassion, acceptance, awareness, and joy. It’s focused on the process of becoming more connected, healthier, and stronger.

How to role model a healthy relationship with exercise for your kids

Let’s take a second and think back on what our moms did for exercise. I can remember my Mom taking step aerobics at the local gym when I was about five years old. From my vantage point, she was having fun and also developed amazing friendships through these group fitness classes. Later in life when I was a teenager, I have memories of my Mom going for five mile walks with her friend, three days a week. She would tell me that she loved catching up with her friend on these walks and that she was also trying to lose ten pounds. 

I would consider most of my Mom’s relationship with exercise healthy. She did not exercise in excess (every day of the week), she did not stress out when she couldn’t fit in her walk on a particular day, and she did not really talk about burning calories to earn meals later in the day. However, she did mention weight loss pretty regularly. 

My Mom never intended to do harm or encourage my disordered eating. She was doing what moms are taught to do: worry about their kid’s health.

Brit Guerin

Your little ones are listening and watching

From the influence of my Mom and tons of reinforcement from friends, I remember idealizing a thin body as both pretty and healthy. I can even remember thinking it was weird that my Mom had to worry about her body, but my Dad could have a belly and it was no big deal. These impressions stuck with me as I became a young woman. For about five years, I struggled with a disordered relationship with my body, exercise, and eating.

For those of you reading and perhaps feeling guilty about ways you have spoken to or behaved around your kids, let me help you out. My Mom never intended to do harm or encourage my disordered eating. She was doing what moms are taught to do: worry about their kid’s health.

Let’s clear the air on this one too: you can be healthy at a wide variety of sizes and shapes.

Further, kids are supposed to gain weight as they go through puberty. This is both natural and healthy. 

A major contributor to being unhealthy is feeling shame about your body from parents, teachers, doctors, peers, and other influencers. This is known as weight stigma. Focusing on weight loss is harmful to our health for numerous reasons. (Read more about this here).

Does that mean we shouldn’t exercise? Absolutely not! I’m a huge advocate for being physically active, I just have an entirely different approach to it. Instead of using the word “exercise” I prefer the word “movement.” “Intuitive movement” to be more precise. 

What is intuitive movement?

“Intuitive movement is done with attention, purpose, self-compassion, acceptance, awareness, and joy. It’s focused on the process of becoming more connected, healthier, and stronger”. 

On the contrary, dysfunctional exercise is “characterized by rigidness, inflexibility, punitive attitudes, and guilt.” (These definitions are from the Safe Exercise at Every Stage research).

Take a moment and reflect on your internal self-talk when you are exercising. Is it rigid or flexible? Is it coming from a place of self-compassion or shame? Get curious about your motivation to move. 

It is very challenging to move intuitively while also wishing to lose weight. (Caveat: I’m not trying to make you feel bad if you want to lose weight, because this is very normal given the context in which we live). 

Therefore, ask yourself this question, if this movement did nothing for weight loss, would I still do it? This question is pretty charged and might need some unpacking with a Health at Every Size aligned counselor. (I specialize in counseling around this topic).

In the meantime, here are some tips to get you on your path to intuitive movement:

  1. Balance intense movement with gentle movement
  2. Take rest days when your body is tired and/or sick
  3. Find movement outside of the gym- walks, hikes, sports
  4. Practice mindful movement- yoga, Tidal, tai chi, walking meditation
  5. Celebrate what your body can do
  6. Think about your strength and resilience as you move, rather than slimming, toning, or shrinking a body part
  7. Make it fun – do something that you enjoy!

Common outcomes from intuitive movement are lower stress, increased well-being, more time, enhanced mind-body connection, decreased risk of injury, and improved sleep. I hope you find what works for you and enjoy these positive health outcomes!

Brit will be opening a wellness center, Current Wellness, in 2020. Her wellness center will feature a movement studio focusing on intuitive movement. She will offer her signature class, Tidal Movement, along with strength training, yoga and meditation classes. Head on over to The Current’s website to learn more!

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