Any recovering exercise addicts out there?
Well, I’m not sure if I can even consider myself “recovered” because I went from being an ultra-marathon runner to literally doing nothing in a day’s time.
One day I was running a 40 mile race, and the next I was off to treatment. 100 to 0 real quick.
When I went to treatment I had three disordered aspects to tackle:
- fear of food/eating
- extreme body dysmorphia
- exercise addiction (with a concentration on running)
I was forced to face my food issue head-on from the minute I walked into the Carolina House. And the body image work came alongside the weight restoration and countless group sessions centered around that healing.
I was not allowed to participate in body movement while in treatment due to my level of addiction before entering along with a back injury. So, I never faced my exercise addiction while in the care of the inpatient home.
When I went to PHP and IOP, I decided on my own that I was not ready, in body or mind, to begin a healthy regimen of body movement. So I did nothing.
However, I did try to swim laps at the local indoor pool once. During that swim I proceeded to “race” the older gentleman next to me, watch the clock consistently for my time, and force myself to do “one more lap”. Of course, that turned into “one more lap” over and over again. Then I had a panic attack in the locker room after the swim.
Here I am, two years in recovery, and I realize that I have only faced 2/3 of my eating disorder issues. I believe in moving your body for pleasure and health is great. Yet, I haven’t learned how.
I decided to sit down and talk about this with my doctor yesterday, and she gave me some great suggestions. Hopefully, some of these suggestions can be helpful for you as well.
4 tips for healing from exercise addiction:
1. Join a gym for the classes (and ONLY the classes)
Tell an instructor about your exercise addiction struggle and only take classes led by that instructor. Do NO MORE than what the class is doing.
And once the class is over… LEAVE and nourish your body in a necessary way.
2. NEVER exercise alone
I can tend to get in my head a little (okay, A LOT) when I’m exercising alone. My ED brain takes over and completely ruins any enjoyment of the activity.
Having someone with you can help keep you in your wise mind.
We tend to forget that exercise doesn’t always have to be running or lifting weights. Things like tennis, badminton, basketball and dance classes are great ways to move your body too.
Doing a more playful, recreational form of movement can be easier than the repetitive motion in running, swimming, or biking that may be deeply rooted in your eating disorder.
4. Take your time
Rome was not built in a day.
And recovery from anything is not linear.
Give yourself grace and start slow. Although moving your body is healthy, there isn’t only one clear cut way to do that. What society pushes is not always correct. Do what’s best for you.
I share this with you because I know there are others out there staring at their running shoes. There are others who are at a loss for what the next steps are in their exercise addiction recovery.
And I want you to know that I’m right there with you, Warrior. We can do this together.