Subtle messages to my daughter: What is exercise for?

I notice more of the world. That’s the best way I know to describe how my world has changed since last June when my daughter Aliyah was born. A big part of that are the subtle societal messages that I now see being delivered to her, about how to act, think, what is right and wrong, what is beautiful and what is ugly … about everything.

Raising my own family’s, and Aliyah’s, consciousness of these messages is realistically all I can do about this directly, absent becoming a hermit. But I can’t resist being a little activist and evangelical about what I’m learning, so I’ve decided to start a series every time I come across something with this theme. Hopefully, this contributes in my small way to the system changes that are needed.

What is exercise for?

I love exercising. It makes me feel energized and creative, and it quenches my thirst for competition (often just against myself) in a healthy way. But I’ll also admit that my relationship with exercise is not always perfectly healthy — sometimes it’s about negative body image crap.

Where does that come from? Who knows really. I’ve been deluged by 38 years of messaging saying that I should work out to look better, to get a summer body, to get the girl.

And Aliyah is about to be deluged by the same messages. Some of them are subtle, some really obvious, but they have totally penetrated how we talk about exercise.

What’s a healthy reframing of exercise? I loved this post:

Come on!  Get that body ready for your winter beach vacation!  Think about how you want to look at those holiday parties!  PICTURE HOW YOU’LL LOOK IN THAT DRESS!

I’ll never talk to my daughter about fitting into THAT DRESS.  But I will talk to her about what it sounds like to hear pine needles crunching under my feet and what it feels like to cross a finish line and how special it is to see the world on foot.  I will talk to her about hard work and self sufficiency.  I will teach her the joy of working out by showing her I love it.  And I’ll leave the rest up to her.

Great advice.

(Thanks Sari for sending it along.)

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