Forming a relationship with exercising in a society that idealizes achieving and weight loss

Forming a relationship with exercising in a society that idealizes achieving and weight loss

Guest blog written by Saga Yli-Hannuksela from Népra Crew

How to create a healthy relationship with exercising in a society that admires diets, performance and achievements? Who is even allowed to consider themselves physically fit?

"Sitting kills", "Pandemic of immobility", "Pandemic of obesity", "Earn your food!", "This workout burns fat!". You've all heard some of these statements for sure, unfortunately.

As a child, I remember staring the shopping channel, and there were people who told they had used these different slimming products, and afterwards they became beautiful, and the quality of their lives improved. Nowadays, there are various weight loss courses are perhaps more subtly hidden or marketed as well-being or the word disguised as "wellness". In addition to the diet, exercising is strongly involved as well.

It is true that exercise has several positive effects on health and a large part of the population exercises too little compared to prevailing recommendations. It's also good to note that whereas our society encourages passivity, it does encourage compulsive exercising and achieving the same time. It is no wonder our thoughts about exercise and our relationship with exercising has become very black and white.



The compulsive relationship with exercise is the output of the weight loss culture and the business around it. Compulsiveness in exersizing usually means inflexible and rigid thoughts and behaviour. Your routines may start dictating in every aspects of your life, and in addition to joy, all other health-promoting aspects of exercise disappear.
The fitness boom in the 2010s made gym training look suitable only for lean and particularly muscular people. The explosive growth of social media at the same time made our image of a sporty body to look like a body fitness athlete. But an active person who enjoys exercise can be anything, regardless of body size, fitness abilities or age. This however didn't apply then (and still doesn't fully apply now) when it came to how an active person should look.
The fitness boom also intensified the hatred of fat created by the dieting culture. Fat hate, fat phobia or obesity stigma means the negative things associated with obesity, and the unfair treatment that obesive people
have to face. Such unfairness can be for example that an overweight person is automatically thought to be lazy, bad at sports, has poor hygiene or is less inteligent. Many of the prejudices related to fat phobia are not related to a persons weight whatsoever.

Exercise is so strongly connected to the weight loss business that it has become a way to lose weight, change one's body or maintain a physical appearance that our dieting culture has created as an ideal. So why should you bother to exercise if you're not able to achieve any of these goals? It is no wonder that some might think or that and therefore skip exercising. The culture built around food and sports may even cause an experience of being left out and not belong. Our society's way of communicating about exercise and obesity is quite sad. Overweight people are seen as a problem, and exercise mainly of losing weight. Unfortunately, this has also had a strong impact to what our relationship with exercising has become.


How in the midst of all this, could we actively work on this culture and change our relationship with exercising to a healthier one?
By questioning the norms created by the dieting culture, making the imagery of sports more diverse, and changing our attitudes. Attitude change might be challenging, because dieting culture has taught us to hate obesity. But by editing the image of how has the right to be seen in the sports related imagery can contribute to the change in attitudes. Everyone should also question their own fat-phobic thoughts and understand them purely as prejudices created by the fat phobia. In the process we can actively shape the world of exercising and sports for the better for everyone. Our own relationship with exercising may experience a change from the black and white to a something healthier.

Perhaps the ultimate problem is not the polarization of the exercising habits or the lack of them or even the compulsive need to exercise, but the fat phobia and a performance-oriented society that works behind it. Fortunately, each of us can actively work to make a difference.


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Instagram: @saga.ylihannuksela

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