Expression Without Apprehension, Satisfaction Without Guilt

“I didn’t feel expressed.” Jen Hamann’s words still haunt me. Perhaps “haunt” isn’t quite the right word – it does have a bit of a negative connotation. But it’s been over a year since I met the 2013 National Boxing Champion and her words still linger in my being.

Jen and I met last year at an event in which we were honored as “Influentials” in our local fitness industry. She spoke about her boxing career and how her training was helping her deal with a life-threatening brain tumor. She was sweet, ferocious, and funny all wrapped up in a big dose of inspiration. But it was her story about how she got into boxing that continues to creep into my consciousness.

Jen was a three-sport athlete at Seattle University. She played soccer, ran track and cross country – and yet she didn’t feel “expressed.” It wasn’t until she landed her first clean left hook that she felt “expression without apprehension” and “satisfaction without guilt.” She succinctly and eloquently described what I believe we are all – consciously or unconsciously – striving to achieve. Expression without apprehension. Satisfaction without guilt.

Of course, we don’t need to become world-class boxers to do this. To be honest, I’m not even a fan of the sport. We can find this self-expression and satisfaction in countless other activities – tennis, swimming, weight lifting, Pilates, basketball, rebounding… to name a few.

But so many of us develop painful and dysfunctional relationships with exercise – or blatant resistance to exercise – because we have forgotten its true purpose. We’ve been brainwashed by a multi-billion dollar weight-loss industry – and by a media and marketing culture – into believing that exercise is a penalty, a punishment, or the “price” we pay to eat.

Our relationships with food also become painful and dysfunctional because we believe we have to “earn the right” to eat. When it comes to food, we don’t believe that we could ever have “satisfaction without guilt.” Of course eating comes with guilt – that’s the smallest price. The larger prices are exercise… or weight-gain. That’s what our culture teaches us.

But if we can shift our perception and our focus, our experiences can also change. Jen wasn’t dissatisfied with her other sports because of any specific type of performance issue – she was dissatisfied because she was not feeling expressed – physically, emotionally, spiritually.

If we can change our focus – if we can shift our focus away from the cultural model of calories in/exercise out, shift our focus away from pleasure vs. penance, shift our focus away from weight-loss – and shift our focus to the experience of food, shift our focus to the experience of exercise, and shift our focus to the experience self-expression, our relationships with food, exercise and our bodies can change.

And when our relationships with food, exercise and our bodies change, we can find what we’ve been seeking – expression without apprehension and satisfaction without guilt.