A few weeks ago I learned not all mother daughter pairs bond in Jazzercise class. Crazy, right?
My mom has been doing dance aerobics since I was born. I went to daycare at her class, and when I was an adolescent started attending classes with her. For those of you who are uninitiated in the practice of aerobics, nee Jazzercise, let me explain. A class full of women, mostly middle aged, in the suburbs, dancing to pop and country music. Generally.
As an awkward, chubby, generally angry and unsure 12 year old, you can only imagine what [trying to] grapevine next to my mother in front of the mothers of my friends was like. Usually I’d get so uncomfortable I’d stop class, just sit outside until she was done, where I would subsequently be yelled at for being uncomfortable.
In high school I discovered running, which acted as an unhealthy behavior for many years (running on 1000 calories a day, anyone?), but also gave me an idea of why people actually liked this exercise business. To this day, running and weight lifting are two of my favorite things. I even teach dance aerobics.
Now those who struggle with their weight, or those with negative body image, so basically all the women I’ve ever known, are constantly told to exercise. It’s a common shaming tactic to tell “overweight” folks that they just aren’t exercising enough. Calories in, calories out, amirite?! (hint: no). Health at Every Size, the movement promoting healthful behaviors regardless of appearance or body composition, encourages movement. Just moving your body is healthy. And it feels good. HAES keeps saying you should exercise because it feels good.
To those of us who grew up with expectations of weight loss, exercise as a positive experience is really hard to grasp. Even now, after seven years of enjoying the movement I do, somewhere in my reptilian brain it’s still only for weight loss. How can you enjoy exercise for the health benefits or the fun of movement when you’ve been raised thinking of exercise as a weight loss tool only?
People with and without eating disorders use exercise as compensation (it’s been termed “exercise bulimia”). Have you ever run an extra mile to “make up for” something you ate that day? Ever skipped a meal because you didn’t work out hard enough?
Monday in Jazzercise class, there were about 30 women dancing along to Britney and Kesha and Pitbull. Most of them were sweating, but also smiling. Then the instructor announced a 20 week weight loss challenge. The class was silent until the end.