Posted by: Meredith Aska McBride | January 18, 2010

Sustainability and body justice on the micro level

Every year, I start off the fall semester by committing to tons of things–and by finals I’m stressed and vow to do better for myself spring semester, paring down my commitments and taking better care of myself.  One thing that fell by the wayside this fall was exercising.  It’s obviously healthy, but it’s so time-consuming and, let’s face it, boring (if you’re the kind of person, like me, who doesn’t take to it naturally).

I kept trying to put the gym into my schedule, but it just wasn’t happening.  My bed was always more comfortable in the early morning, and my schedule just too packed the rest of the day.

And there’s another, less obvious issue that plagues women my age: the gym is often not a healthy place for body image.  Between the desire to look good in tiny running shorts and the blinking red numbers on the elliptical telling me that I’m not moving my arms fast enough, working out at Pottruck often turns into a competition over matching an artificial definition of what is healthy and attractive–how high my heart rate “should” get during a workout and how much I “should” weigh for my height.  And don’t get me started on the all-too-common sights of someone who is evidently struggling with an eating disorder working out obsessively at the gym, or obnoxious men checking women out.

Now, I have never had an eating disorder, I am a normal weight and am more or less happy with my body.  In short, I’m doing better than many women my age.  But the environment of the gym causes me to second-guess myself, putting the focus on anything but health (which is, let’s remember, supposed to be the goal here).

So in 2010, I decided to have my cake and eat it too.  Yes, I should exercise more in order to be healthy, but I shouldn’t let that process undermine my mental health and self-esteem.  I signed up for yoga and Pilates classes at a local studio (Studio 34) and so far have been really happy with my choice.  I can get a great, affordable workout without trying to measure up to artificial standards–numbers on a screen set by a computer, or unhealthy bodies around me.

It’s about doing exercise that works for my body and is really about health and strength, not calories burned or inches lost.  It’s a step I’ve been encouraging my friends to take as well (that is, finding an exercise program that’s focused on health and fun, not necessarily yoga!).  We cannot be confident, whole, mentally and spiritually healthy people unless our bodies are healthy too.



  1. Studio 34 is awesome!

    We all definitely need to find types of fitness that we enjoy. Yoga, for me, is one of those things. Rock climbing is another, and I adore step aerobics with crazy choreography. Anything that feels more like “fun” than work – we students have enough work already!

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