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What to Stop Saying About Exercise

What to Stop Saying About Exercise

June 10, 2014, Vol. 12, Issue 10

Have you ever read something, and said to yourself, “Wow, I wish I had written that.”? That’s exactly what I thought when I read the post I’m sharing with you today, by our speaker, Michelle May, MD, CSP.  She lays it on the line about media and fitness product advertising that lures women with promises and desires — ultimately leading them into endless circles of disappointment and dissatisfaction with our perfectly good bodies.

Sharing her article today also lets me off the hook a bit. As you know if you read my last issue, I’ve just been through the grueling task of moving. MovingTruckColorWhile cleaning the old place, unpacking and settling into the cottage where we’ll be for the summer, I’ve had little time to think or write about anything besides loading and unloading stuff. Does it go in storage or to the cottage? Then too much stuff at the cottage, re-pack to go in storage. I must say working is a welcome diversion.

As I was complaining about the disruption of moving (hell, were my words), my husband reflectively said, “It’s not hell, it’s an interruption. It’s an ending and a beginning, and . . . it’s a lot of exercise.”

No kidding. On moving day, my Fitbit registered 18,340 steps. And on one of the three succeeding clean-up-leftovers and cleaning days, I topped 15,000 steps.

But enough about my ordeal. I’ll put some pictures in the next issue. Here is the post that Michelle wrote.  As I come from an advertising copywriting background, I found it especially insightful:


10 Things Fitness Instructors (and the Media) Should Stop Saying

by Michelle May, MD

I just returned home from an early morning hike feeling invigorated! It had all the elements of an ideal workout for me: A gorgeous cool morning,MichelleMayDawnHike a beautiful sunrise, a challenging climb, and good conversation with a friend. Pure joy!

I poured a cup of coffee and headed into my office ready to work. I opened my email to find this subject line: Shorts… Tanktops… Swimsuits…

Ugh! An email from a yoga studio advertising a new class. Where is the joy in that? No wonder so many people hate to exercise!

Personally, I do yoga for strength, flexibility, balance, and focus. I do not do yoga for a “summer body.” In fact, I prefer a strong, healthy body year-round, thank you very much.

I wondered why exercise studios and fitness instructors think this kind of thing is michellemay9 motivating, so I searched for “exercise motivation” online. I didn’t find a single reference to “Get a beach body!” in any of the articles. However, I found lots of that kind of thing on the covers of women’s magazines. My conclusion: It may motivate people to buy a magazine but it doesn’t motivate sustainable change.

Please Stop Saying…

So here’s my list of other things fitness instructors (and women’s magazines) should stop saying—and why.

What to stop saying: Swimsuit season is coming (or worse yet, bikini-season)!

Why? Exercise is for fun, fitness, and health, and those benefits are year-round and lifelong. Many of us will never wear a bikini again (if we ever did) but we all deserve the benefits of exercise, including stamina, strength, flexibility, physical and mental health, and enjoyment.

What to stop saying: Work up a sweat so you can have dessert tonight!

Why? Exercise should not be used to earn the right to eat, especially not something that you apparently think is “bad.” I already have the right to eat what I want.

What to stop saying: Walk off those holiday pounds!

Why? Exercise is not punishment for weight gain. Nobody is motivated by punishment for long.

What to stop saying: Faster! You want to take off hat weight don’t you?

Why? Exercise is beneficial whether a person loses weight or not. If you continue to reinforce the belief that exercise is for weight loss, people will yo-yo exercise when they yo-yo diet.

What to stop saying: Burn off those chocolate bunnies you ate!

Why? Please don’t steal my pleasure from my exercise by trying to make me feel guilty about something I ate (or that you assume I ate) two days ago. I did, but it’s none of your business and I don’t feel guilty.

What to stop saying: Push through the pain!

Why? Exercise doesn’t have to hurt to be beneficial. Learning to listen to and trust my body is important for my long term health.

What to stop saying: I know you hate this next exercise… (or sarcastically saying, “I know you love this next one!’)

Why? Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean I hate it, so don’t plant the suggestion. Tell me why it is difficult and why doing it anyway will make it less difficult.

What to stop saying: Look great in those skinny jeans!

Why? Exercise is beneficial no matter what you weigh. You are scaring off people who know they will never have a beach body and/or don’t care about that.

What to stop saying: C’mon! Get those flat abs!

Why? Because I already have flat, strong abdominal muscles. You just can’t see them under my layer of belly fat. But it’s fun to see the surprised look on your face when I hold a plank for well over a minute!

What to stop saying: Do this move and you’ll look hot!

Why? I’ll get hot but I probably won’t look hot. Besides, you took me right back to grade school: “We must! We must! We must increase our bust! The bigger the better, the tighter the sweater, the boys will like us!” That didn’t work either.


Michelle May, MD, CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) inspires audiences to eat mindfully and make lasting changes that support a michelle_mayvibrant, healthy life. She shares her powerful message with healthcare professionals, corporations, associations, organizations, and communities.

Whether she’s delivering an experiential workshop on mindful eating for 65 guests or an inspirational keynote for 6500, her positive message and authentic “been there” approach connects with audiences and can transform the way they view eating and physical activity.

To book Michelle or learn more, give me a call at 503-699-5031, email me at or text me at 971-207-0581.


And if You Want a Laugh about

Swimsuit Season . . .

Check out this video by Gina Barreca  — GinaBarreccaVidClip “Bathing Suit Season at TJ Maxx.” It’s 2 + minutes of laughs. It cracks me up every time I watch it, and I’ve watched it several times.  She is a hilarious and insightful speaker  . . .
all about women — our faults, fallacies, and fantasies.  If that sounds like something that fits your event goals, give me a call at 503-699-5031 or email,

Reflections from Moving

We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for the move, and while we cleaned out a lot of books, files, paper, and clothing, and made a trip to the dump with yard debris as well, we still have too much stuff.  Boxes&BellaThe movers piled stuff up to the ceiling of a 10 x 20 storage unit, and when that was full, we added on a 10 x 10 unit. Ugh. You may have experienced the feeling?

Now, living in this small space in a one bedroom cottage, I’m loving it, and I intend to continue the simplicity. I’m thinking of all of the things I’m going to unload when we quit that storage unit in August and move into our next house.

Going through stuff is a trip down memory lane, and one effect of that trip is that now I feel more prepared to let go of more of some of the things I’ve been holding on to. For example, I had (operative word), a postcard collection (and some people reading this will remember that they contributed). It wasn’t that big spatially, but it was something I was just storing on shelves in plastic boxes.

I’ve loved postcards since I was a kid. Friends and relatives sent me postcards from all over the world for my collection — including odd-sized ones, even cutouts, that were really fun. I love the idea that this or that postcard was physically sent from Rome, Bali, Lake of the Ozarks, Las Vegas, Costa Rica, Washington, D.C., Ireland, Hangzhou, The Great Wall, Disneyland, Club Med . . . or Barron, Wisconsin, (just to name a few) to me at my address. I can’t begin to remember all the places they came from now, but I took my trip down memory lane a couple of weeks ago reading them all, and treasuring the memories they stimulated. Now I’ll just keep those memories instead of the paper they came written on.

Then I turned the lot over to my friend, Wendy Mitchell, whose daughter created the Portland Child Art Studio. While I was letting go of some other art supplies, I mentioned the postcards, and she said, “Yes, we could definitely use the postcards.”

She’s already related back to me that they’ve taken on a life of their own and they’re already bringing great joy to the world, so I’m pleased and happy about that. I don’t think I could have just dumped them in the recycling bin. But re-purposing to provide inspiration for someone else? That works for me.

Wendy was also pleased to find a bunch of blank cards in the bunch because she sends a couple of postcards a week to her granddaughters (and they both live in Portland!). The tradition lives on. How cool is that?


Until next time, think about what you could do to simplify and lighten up your load, and take care of yourself for your well being and those you love.

Yours truly,


P.S.  For anyone who was worried that the move had anything to do with a split with my husband, NO, that is not the case. We are happily, cozily making a nest in our very spacious and small cottage. [Ed’s note: that’s absolutely true. I can say that because I’m her husband.]
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