Remember the early days of naturism when physical activity was an integral, even enforced, part of naturist philosophy? Remember the days when members and visitors at naturist clubs were required to take part in daily exercise?
Me neither, thankfully. That sounds exhausting.
I wasn’t around back then, and I am fairly certain that none of us were. It seems so authoritarian now, to think of a club putting so much emphasis on exercise and physical form. We have come a long way in society in terms of respecting each other’s dietary and life choices and promoting acceptance for a more diverse array of body shapes and sizes—which is a great thing—but it has not stopped us from policing each other’s bodies regardless. Advertisements and media still idealize skeletally thin women and bulging muscles on men, we are convinced to associate guilt with food, and we internalize those messages whether we realize it or not. For example, is it not second nature for many of us to automatically congratulate each other when we lose weight or to criticize ourselves for eating fattening foods? No one needs to be told what to do with their body, what to eat, or that their body is not acceptable the way that it is, because that is no one’s business but the person to whom the body belongs. The idea of a nudist or naturist club in the twenty-first century pushing its members to exercise as was done in the early twentieth century sounds absolutely terrible, so I am glad that things have changed and we can allow people to enjoy a naturist or nudist lifestyle without dictating the way they take care of their bodies
Naturists and nudists do still like to tote the health benefits of being nude, perhaps as a quaint homage to our heritage of enthusiasm for wellness. When an article or study is released that lauds the advantages of sleeping nude, of exposing the skin to sunlight, or of not wearing a bra, naturists collectively rejoice and shout, “See! We told you so!” I bet there is an article out there somewhere on the Internet that vouches for the health benefits of doing almost anything naked, and these are not even naturist media sources but mainstream news and pop culture sites. While we bask in the media attention around how healthy it is to do all sorts of everyday things nude, we don’t talk much about fitness for the sake of fitness, or healthy eating for the sake of healthy eating. It may be true that the sun is good for our skin, that going to bed nude helps us sleep better, and that going bra-free is better for our circulation. It’s also true that exercise and a healthy diet are good for our bodies. Acknowledging naturism’s historical overemphasis on physical fitness, I do think it is OK to give those healthy behaviors some attention, too, as long as it is not done in a didactic, overzealous, or demoralizing way.
This is the part where I introduce a personal anecdote: First off, I am not a fitness fanatic. I only started exercising regularly about a year ago, not to lose or gain weight but to improve my overall health after moving into a very sedentary desk job. I do not especially like working out: It is tedious and I struggle at it. But do you want to know a really annoying secret? It does feel good. And working out naked has its own benefits, including a deeper appreciation and understanding for the way the muscles contract, how each joint bends or rotates, how the skin stretches and folds. My own personal experience exercising is completely my own and does not represent any kind of “ideal” wellness routine but it really has helped me feel more comfortable in and connected to my body than I did before. I am not saying that you should work out. I also won’t tell you whether or not you should see a counselor, eat healthier, or practice meditation, but those things might help you feel more comfortable in your body as well. Surely there are naturists out there who can attest to the ways that any and all of those practices have helped them feel healthier, more whole, or more fulfilled. What I will say is that nudism and naturism can be a much more holistic experience when we find new ways to appreciate and care for our bodies and minds and I encourage you to explore what that means for you.
There is no one right way to practice naturism, no one correct way to take care of your body, no one right way to show appreciation for the human form. We all do these things in the way that best fits with our own lifestyle and we all have a different relationship with our bodies. And that’s good. I don’t want to live in a world where someone tells me I have to exercise, eat or not eat certain things, wear or not wear certain things, meditate or attend counseling. I am glad that the emphasis on physical form and fitness that was prevalent in the early days of naturism has waned and made way for a more personal relationship with our bodies, but don’t let that keep you from exploring those practices at your own pace if you feel so inclined. I do think that taking care of your body, in conjunction with respecting and loving your body however it is, can be an important, personal part of naturism. You just cannot let magazines and websites convince you that fitness and health can only look like Cristiano Ronaldo or Gisele Bündchen. That’s ridiculous. I mean, good for them, but… ridiculous.
Moral of the story: You do you. Take care of yourself, love your body, respect your body, and show that love and respect however works for you… even if it involves lifting cats over your head. Cheers.