Exercise addiction is very common indeed for eating disorder sufferers and it can lead to serious consequences. It is a cycle. Eating, feeling guilty then exercising to burn it off. So, in other words, it is a way of purging but rather a more ‘safer’ way to get rid of the calories. It may be safe for most people, but when you have an eating disorder, it is not safe at all. Some take it to the extreme and almost become addicted to it.
Exercise in the midst of an eating disorder and after or in recovery from an eating disorder are very different things comprehended by very different minds.
When you are suffering from anorexia or bulimia, or both, your mind could tell you to exercise, but not because it is ‘healthy’ and good for you, but because it is a way to lose weight and in a way, you will be purging the calories as a punishment. You will not exercise because you enjoy it, you will exercise because you hate yourself for eating and being ‘fat’.
When you are recovering, you will probably be advised to not exercise at all as it could be unhealthy for you at this moment. However, when you have had an obsession with exercise, it could be very hard to give it up. Slowly, try to cut down how much you exercise and work around how much you should eat, with how much you should exercise. Do ask a health professional if it is safe for you to exercise. Eating should be your first priority, because health comes first.
It is important to keep these things in mind when recovering…
- Are you exercising because you enjoy it, or because you think you must do it?
- Make sure you take a rest day and give yourself that much needed break from exercise
- Are you eating enough?
- Stop if you are hurting
- Drink plenty of water and remember to eat before and after exercise
- Never exercise on an empty stomach
- Nourish your body and mind
- Know that exercise should be a part of a healthy lifestyle and not a punishment
Also, counting calories and how much you burned is not a good idea when you are recovering. Numbers are sure to trigger you, so it is best to not count those things. The last thing you want is to set yourself into a relapse.
I think Yoga and Pilates are the best exercises to do when in recovery, because it gives you time to think and free your mind. It is peaceful and helps you get in touch with your inner self, as cliched as that sounds.
It also of course comes down to your mindset. You have got to be in a good place mind wise and you have to have that logical and rational belief about exercising healthily and about your body image. There is a time in recovery where your mind will start to rationalise things and you will see things in a more positive and healthy light.
Exercise should be enjoyable and a lifestyle, not because you want to lose weight and get ‘skinny’. This goes to people in general. We are bombarded by messages from society that dieting and exercise is the way to lose weight, but honestly, for us eating disorder sufferers, it is the most triggering thing to hear. Exercise should be a part of everyday life, not to lose weight in my opinion. Messages saying exercise helps to lose weight makes people think it is the only thing to do to lose weight, thus the reason why many girls and boys in this day and age have an unhealthy obsession with exercise.