Exercise is typically regarded as a way to stay healthy and "in shape", but unfortunately it can become an obsession for some.
I was stuck in this trap for a long time. I used to love biking and rollerblading for fun with my friends and such, but when things started to fall apart in terms of my eating and anorexia set in, exercise for fun was a thing of the past.
I took things to the extreme as a way to "make up" for the food I did eat. If I could't not eat, I could at least burn it off right?
I guess is makes sense but there comes a point where exercise goes from being a leisure activity to being an obsessive compulsion, and I crossed that line.
I needed to exercise at least two hours every day or I became irritated, angry, and disgusting. I would make excuses to my Mom that the dogs needed another walk and then another. It never was good enough.
When I think back now I see what was happening, but I couldn't control it. It was just another trick of ED's to keep me under his control. And it lasted throughout my whole recovery as well. I never really "got over it" but rather kept adapting to the changes around me.
Exercise was still my go-to form of release when I needed to "purge" whether it be feelings or food.
For me, everything changed when I began to weight training. I learn about my muscles and how my body worked so hard to build strength, and over doing it could mean less improvement and decreased performance.
I wanted to be strong and so I literally forced myself to take rest days, in which I did nothing at all. I didn't even walk. I sat around and was lazy because that was the only way my muscles could grow and become stronger.
I learned to listen to my body more, giving it fuel for each and every workout and making sure I ate enough. Because my mind was so focused now on getting stronger physically, my mind began getting stronger as well. I no longer obsessed as much about getting a workout in or not, and instead came to enjoy the days of rest I made time for. My body worked hard and it deserved a break!
Sometimes today I see friends struggling with this obsession and even people at the gym who seem to be over-doing it and I wish I could help them. I wish I could tell them, that they are hurting their bodies. And sometimes it's because these people don't even know they're over-exercising that they do it. So I wanted to just outline some of the basic signs of over exercise and exercise bulimia, as some refer to it:
Signs of Compulsive exercise (Exercise Bulimia):
-exercising for the soul purpose of burning calories
-feeling anxious when workout is missed
-exercising even when injured or sick
-putting gym or workout before friends and family
-planning your schedule around when you workout
-turning down food if haven't worked out
-exercising several times/hours per day
-suffering from dehydration, osteoporosis, exhaustion, etc.
-feelings of agitation, irritability when can't workout
Those are just a few symptoms, but if you seem to have a lot of these, you may want to consider being really honest with yourself about what is actually going on under the surface.
Exercise obsession can be just another form of control that ED is feeding you. Don't fall for it. Exercising too much has many negative health impacts which can affect you long-term so it's important to get the help you need.
Have you ever suffered with an exercise obsession? How did you heal, or did you? What are you doing to help?