Intuitive Movement is an extension of the Intuitive Eating framework originally created by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. Much like Intuitive Eating, Intuitive Movement is a radically different approach to moving our bodies compared to what diet culture may have taught us. Often, exercise is one of the last parts that we work on in eating disorder recovery, however, I would argue that reaching a healthy relationship with movement is just as important as healing our relationship with food. To help you get started on this path, I thought I’d outline some of the key ideas of Intuitive Movement as an introduction. And, as always, remember it takes time to repair your relationship with exercise, especially if you’ve spent years in the grips of compulsive and/or obsessive exercise, so please be patient and kind to yourself.
Key Ideas of Intuitive Movement:
- Movement is about having fun, not punishing yourself.
One of the most important aspects of Intuitive Movement, is that exercise is never intended as a punishment. When we embrace Intuitive Movement, we no longer use exercise as a compensatory behaviour for eating. Fundamentally, movement should be enjoyable! Of course, sometimes you might have to push yourself a little to get up and move, but this should come from a place of self-care not self-punishment. Remember, moving your body shouldn’t be something you constantly dread doing, and if it is, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate your relationship with exercise.
- Choose movement that makes you feel good.
Similar to the above point about having fun, movement should feel good! Try to focus on feeling better after you’ve exercised, not worse. It’s perfectly fine to feel a little sore the next day, but ideally you should feel energised, not depleted after engaging in movement. Similarly, ask yourself if you really enjoy a certain type of movement or if you just think you should be doing it. Remember, nobody knows your body better than you, so try to be guided by your own preferences rather than any external messages.
- Remove the focus on changing your body.
Intuitive Movement is not intended to manipulate your body. When you move intuitively, the motivation to exercise is not to ‘slim down’ or ‘sculpt’ or ‘get abs’. Instead, it’s about supporting your wellbeing, feeling good and having fun!
- Focus on what your body can do.
Rather than fixating on what your body looks like, focus on all the amazing things your body can do. It might be able to walk, swim, dance, bend into a certain posture or lift a certain weight. Have goals around functionality and performance rather than metrics and appearance. Remember, you can still build strength and improve fitness without changing your body the slightest bit!
- Listen to your body.
Just like we learn how to listen to our body’s hunger and fullness cues in recovery, we also need to learn to listen to our body’s cues and responses around movement. This includes resting when ill or injured and checking in with yourself throughout a movement session. In order to help with this, try asking the following questions before moving:
– When do I want to move?
– How do I want to move?
– Where do I want to move?
– How long do I want to move for?
Similar to fullness with eating, try to listen to your body and stop moving when you feel satisfied.
- Give yourself unconditional permission to rest.
Believe it or not, rest is just as important as movement! As the saying goes, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’, meaning it could potentially be dangerous to exercise if you’re so depleted. We need energy to move our bodies, therefore we also need adequate time to rest and recharge in between bouts of movement. You heard it here first – there’s absolutely no need to feel guilty for having a full rest day where you don’t move at all.
- Free yourself from rigid rules around movement.
Intuitive Movement is all about flexibility. This includes ridding yourself of any strict rules about exercise and also getting rid of diet tools like apps, scales, social media accounts and fitness watches that dictate how you should be moving. It’s 100% ok to have a rough routine with movement such as going to certain classes each week, just as long as you don’t feel guilty when you need to deviate from your schedule, say for a special occasion. Ultimately, the goal of Intuitive Movement is to schedule movement around your life rather than scheduling your life around movement.
If you’d like to find out more, I highly recommend checking out @tallyrye, an anti-diet personal trainer on Instagram, or reading her book, Train Happy.
I wish you the best of luck on this journey.
Written by Sophie Smith
Eating disorders advocate and lived experience advisor
@SophieClare1103 on Twitter