Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sigh. Zumba.

I really, really like Zumba. For me, it is a sustainable, fun way to get an hour's worth of sweating in during my day. After Zumba I feel calmer, more focused, and like I need a shower. Which is why I was so disappointed with my Friday Zumba class this week.

I need to start by saying this: I do not think the instructor is being intentionally bigoted; she is, actually, a positive instructor who's always shouting, "Looking sexy!" as we're dancing. But she did a couple of things that rubbed me the wrong way. First, she suggested that whether or not our bodies were ready swimsuit season was upon us, bikini or not. (For an in depth critique of the torrent of societal hyper-crap that is swimsuit season, please read.) As I jumped and shimmied I thought, "Swimsuit - check. Body to wear it on - check. All set." Really, truly that rolled off my shoulders until this happened.

During the cool down song our instructor said, and I quote, "You all worked hard tonight. You deserve to eat dessert." Well, thanks, but I wasn't requesting your approval or your permission. And the thought that food is something we deserve as opposed to something we need is a funny kind of way to look at food.

There is a lot of conditioning in our society to view food as reward. Good job going to the gym - you don't have to feel guilty about that bowl of ice cream. Happy Birthday! Here's a cake. You graduated! Let's go out and celebrate. The intertwining of food and celebration to me is okay - we are humans. We eat. It's when we start to think of food as something we have to earn, something we have to work for that it becomes a dangerous relationship.

Relationships with food tend to be difficult anyway. We're born knowing when we're hungry, when we're full, and requesting to eat when necessary. Throughout our lives that natural instinct diminishes as food becomes an enemy, a friend, a comfort, a reward, or the reason your thighs will never look like Angelina Jolie's. So what do you do? This is going to sound really simple, but it isn't. This is among the hardest things you will ever have to do: learn to eat again. Remember what it feels like to be hungry. Remember what it feels like to be full. And don't use food as a security blanket or a flogging pole. YOU carry the social stigma, not it. It doesn't know you've had a bad day and really want some cake. It doesn't know you had a bad break up and the only thing that sounds appealing is a chocolate bar. But if you want one of those things have one. Give up the guilt. Your body will balance itself out if you're listening to it. I promise.

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