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Source: article by Sarah Ogden Trotta, contributor to Everyday Feminism

I don’t have a simple five-step program. But I do have some tools to share with you about my particular journey from exercising out of shame to exercising out of self-love.

1. I accepted my body as it is 

I had always accepted my body for its potential: I might not have perfectly toned arms now, but I could some day, and that’s pretty good. I shifted my focus from the movement of my body in the moment to waiting to see the results.

But when I accept my body as it is – when I accept that my stomach is soft and that my thighs touch and that my cheeks are chubby – it means giving up exercise as a tool for weight loss or body change, and focusing instead on what exercise can do for the body and mind that are perfectly mine. 

The result now means that I am proud of the movement I engaged in, that I completed something that was hard.

2. I bought exercise clothes that fit really, really well 

I don’t know about you, but when I work out, I work out hard. And I struggled to feel good about it while I wore ill-fitting clothes.

But actually, there’s a whole community of athletic clothes makers who understand the needs of bigger bodies in movement and who make clothes that will keep us comfortable and supported.

For me, feeling comfortable while exercising meant feeling comfortable in my clothes, as well as my skin.

3. I became involved in a community that celebrates fitness at any size

When I work out, I like to see a wide variety of shapes and sizes represented. Fitness must be for everyone who wants it – no exceptions.

It feels good to be out paced by someone twice my size, and it feels good to high five a person who’s half my age. It feels good to be a part of something that’s welcoming and supportive and that focuses on celebrating what our bodies can do.

4. I became atuned to my body and began to live inside of it

Before I began exercising out of self-love, I did a lot to numb and dull the sensations of my body–hunger, emptiness, and other feelings. Exercise is what saved me from all of that.

I began to notice when I was hungry. I began to notice when I was tired. I began to notice when I needed to move, to stay in place, to stretch, to blink.

I have learned to honor my body’s limits and possibilities when it comes to my exercise routine. I’m less prone to injury with this new frame of mind, and I’m able to encourage myself with kindness rather than shame.

I am not finished this process yet, but embarking on this journey has been a huge part of my ability to exercise to nourish and nurture my body, rather than punish it or change it.

Self-care is deeply and critically necessary. It’s at the core of our ability to survive.