I work out every other day-sometimes every two days. I write this with such ease, but to get here in my recovery, took SO MUCH work.
If you are like me your eating disorder and exercise compulsion were wound up tightly. At one time during my anorexia I worked out 2,000 days in a row-a row! I worked out if I was sick, hurt, tired or crazy busy. It was my top priority and nothing would deter me.
I remember my mother begging me not to work out on Christmas one year and I ended up running on the treadmill, for let’s just say, a long time. My mind was obsessed with burning calories and I was a ball of nerves until I completed my daily work out. Compulsive exercise ran my life.
Here are some tips of how I went from compulsive exercise to living a balanced life of listening to my body’s needs:
- Lots of fear exposure! If my mind was telling me that I needed to finish 2 hours of cardio, I would finish at 1 hour and 59 minutes. This was no easy feat. I did this over and over again and my exercise time reduced.
- While in the IOP, a goal of mine was to not exercise for one day. I was burning so many calories and I was not gaining weight. I was unable to skip my workout out entirely, but one day I did yoga instead of cardio. I remember my counselor clapping when I told her.
- I sat with uncomfortable feelings when I eventually got to the place where I could skip a workout. At first I felt like I was crawling out of my skin and would burst open. I practiced being mindful of my emotions- I radically accepted them, I surfed the waves of my emotions and understood that the feelings would eventually fade.
- Canceling my gym membership over a year ago was a pivotal step in my recovery. The ritual of going to the gym-feeling that I had to go to the gym took over my life. Leaving the gym entirely led to freedom.
- Listening to my body is crucial. Each day I check in with myself to see what type of exercise I want to do—cardio, weights, yoga, stretching or nothing.
- Finding exercise that you enjoy really helps. Currently I do a variety of video at home and go the occasional yoga class. I look forward to working out instead of dreading it.
- Changing your internal dialogue is important. My old dialogue focused on burning calories and abusing my body. Now my inner dialogue (through constant reframing) is working out because I love my body and want to take care of it and nurture it.
Exercise compulsion was so wrapped up in my anorexia. Through intensely hard work I radically changed how I worked out and my thoughts about working out. At times it felt impossible, but I never gave up. And now I am free.
What is one thing you can do or think differently about with exercise today? You are so worth it. We can recover one day at a time.