By Catherine Weingarten--When someone struggles with body image issues, the topic of "healthy exercise" can start to become confusing and scary. How much exercising is too much? What is right for me?
I remember in high school, I started using the treadmill because it was the exercise of choice for way-too-attractive celebrities in trashy tabloid magazines. They would talk about how they were getting in shape for their newest movie role as a sexy spider or something by following some whimsical diet involving only primary colors. And they were on the treadmill every day. I imagined myself on the treadmill looking like those celebrities and getting calls from Hollywood producers to act like random, sexy, crowd-pleasing superheroes. When I was actually on the treadmill, all I would think about was the calories and what I would look like if I stuck to my regime. I have always been a girl who lived in my imagination. But while I was obsessing about being on the treadmill, I also was taking hip hop dance classes at a local dance studio in the suburbs of Pennsylvania.
I had been taking random dance classes from a young age, but in high school I discovered hip-hop dance and was hooked! I would take about two classes a week. I was learning how to break dance, how to pop and lock and other cool techniques. My favorite thing about hip-hop was how I got to become another person when I danced. In my normal life I was a funny, awkward, gullible, dorky Jewish chick who was constantly getting rejected by boring guys. But when I did hip-hop, I had attitude! I had an opinion and a body I wasn’t afraid to move! When a rap song came on the studio’s speakers, I struck a pose and I was the coolest girl in the room! Hip-hop did not count as exercise for me; it was this awesome form of self-expression! In retrospect, I realize it was healthy physical activity that was great for my body and my overall self-esteem. Going on the treadmill made me feel upset because I was thinking about losing weight every second I was on it.
It seems like there is this misconception that in order for something to be “exercise” it has to be about suffering; it has to involve crying, crazy intensive stretches and marathon runs. But everyone should find exercise that makes them feel good and makes them happy!
What kind of exercise have you done that made you feel upset? What kind of physical activity makes you happy? What does it mean to be healthy?
About this blogger: Catherine just graduated from Bennington College in Vermont and is now based in NYC. She enjoys feminism/female empowerment and being a helpline volunteer at NEDA. Her favorite dessert is a pink cupcake with lots of sprinkles and icing. She hopes to one day be an edgy professional playwright who talks about body image/eating disorder issues in a hip way.