Sports

It’s Christmas — don’t guilt-trip women into exercising

But as women who have struggled with the unrealistic body image expectations imposed on us at every turn and a pervasive food culture that teaches that you have to “earn” every morsel or drop of indulgence, we collectively groan. Others then held two fingers up to the harmful message to be sure.

British high jumper Morgan Lake was one, and the 23-year-old responded with her own message: “Exercise should not be used to ‘burn Christmas calories’.” It should be fun and enjoyable, not something to ease guilt…”

Paralympic canoeist Charlotte Henshaw agreed: “So many times have I seen this post in the past few days. A dangerous narrative in my opinion.” Her former para-swimming teammate-turned-triathlete Claire Cashmore MBE added, “Delete ‘burn Christmas calories’, switch to ‘breathe fresh air, get active, have fun and set a few Feel-good endorphins released’.”

Alice Liveing, a personal trainer and influencer with over 650,000 Instagram followers, also gave the thumbs down, saying she was “very disappointed with it”.

What followed was a lively debate. Some women shared tongue-in-cheek photos of their chip and chocolate snack choices for the day instead of their workout choices. Others questioned what was wrong with a fitness magazine encouraging its followers to exercise in the first place.

The problem lies in the suggestion that excessive Christmas food and exercise should fall in the same sentence in the first place. As these athletes rightly say, sport and exercise is about the benefits it can bring to both your health and well-being. Leading women into believing that it’s about making up for their perceived deficiencies leads to the kind of dysfunctional relationships with food and exercise that remain prevalent, trapping women in a seemingly never-ending cycle of self-loathing.

A post like that of women fitness does not exist in a vacuum. It’s one of dozens popping up this time of year — reputable media sources as well as fitness pros with huge followings are all guilty — at a time when women feel the temporary bloat of a few days enjoying their Christmas dinner and exercising maybe less than usual.

It has clearly appealed to athletes as well, as there is evidence that nutrition and body image issues are permeating professional women’s sports. Last year alone telegraph sports‘s coverage revealed “fat clubs” at women’s super league teams, allegations of weight defamation and bullying in British athletics and gymnastics.

The magazine’s post is one of many triggers that those struggling with low self-esteem around fitness and body image will slap away or try to avoid heading into the new year. It’s tiring and annoying.

But female athletes making collective noise against the message will hopefully serve as a reminder to only get on your bike or lace up your sneakers if it makes you feel good. Unpacking another celebration or eating your fifth roast in as many days has nothing to do with it.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/2020/12/28/christmas-dont-guilt-trip-women-exercising/ It’s Christmas — don’t guilt-trip women into exercising

Linh

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