#38: Exercise 2.0

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Here’s the simple truth:

You can weight restore whilst still exercising. There. I said it. If you eat enough food, your body will gain weight regardless of how much you exercise you do because it is an underweight bodies priority to gain. Therefore, many people argue they don’t need to stop exercising in order to recover. Lots of you won’t like this-but I disagree.

We all know that recovery isn’t just about weight restoration. It’s a part of it, but weight restoration doesn’t = full recovery. Full recovery is the ability to eat without conditions and without fear. If we recover with these ‘conditions’ or compensatory behaviours still active (such as exercise)- it simply will not be a stable or full recovery. Last year I would have battled any body who would tell me that this is the case. I could have argued for hours. But now, I know for certain, in order to be able to eat without conditions in the future, I have to stop exercising so much and not reduce my intake.

OCD

Exercise is often an OCD element of Anorexia. Therefore, compulsive exercise should be treated in exactly the same way that other OCD behaviours should be treated: you stop or redirect the behaviour. For anorexia sufferers, this means going cold turkey. Believe me, I know thats a terrifying prospect. But it has to be done, even if only for a few weeks.

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In my opinion, nobody recovering from anorexia should exercise when it isn’t being controlled or monitored. Overexercising a symptom of the illness. We don’t recover by restricting slightly less or purging slightly less- we must stop these behaviours ENTIRELY. This is the same with exercise. Abstaining completely until you have a better relationship with it is the only way possible. We can’t just exercise slightly less when our relationship with it is the same. Things like cleaning, standing unnecessarily for periods of time or walking the dog must be avoided if it is compulsive too.

Exercise and me:

I’ve said this loads of times. Running has always been ‘my thing.’ Sport has always been my thing. I was healthy, happy and competing most weeks in events all over the country. At school, without indending to sound obnoxious, I was in all of the teams and known for how much I loved it. It was part of my identity. Then, I was made to quit the team. My mum wouldn’t even let me race my sister to the car to get the front seat.

Pre-ED, I used exercised for enjoyment. With this, came stress relief and the mental health benefits. I see many sufferers insist that exercise helps them ‘clear their head’ or ‘reduce anxiety.’ I’ve argued this too. At one point I almost convinced all of my that it was true. But, in the very, very back of my brain I knew this wasn’t the case. We all know why it reduces anxiety. Argue all you want. Personally, I don’t believe any of it now.

“I’m not exercising to limit weight gain” I promise!

I’ve taken this extract from Tabitha farer’s blog:

Several studies have shown that exercise has a positive impact on a variety of psychological disorders. Nevertheless, the increased amount of daily activity in the high-level AN exercisers was not sufficient to suppress their levels of depression to values of low-level AN exercisers or controls. In addition to the aspect and function of comorbid depression in association with pattern of high-level exercise as well as an association with binge/purge behaviour additional aspects e.g. level of impulsivity, might help to characterize AN patients to identify more homogenous endophenotypes of AN patients. From an evolutionary point of view, this hyperactivity could be a result of food search behavior]. If in the long-term this is not rewarded by the intake of a substantial amount of food, this phenomenon could explain the increased observed depression in this subgroup.

This refers to the idea that we exercise in order to increase positive mood- that excuse I clung onto for so long. Honestly, Running makes me feel better, I would argue.

I ran, because it burned calories. And that’s the real truth. Pre-Ed, running did make me feel better. But during recovery, I ran because I felt compelled to. I could attempt to kid myself and everyone around me, but it didn’t make it true.

You can assure yourself it has nothing to do with body image or food intake at all. That you’re exercising because you love it, it makes you feel good or improves your mood. I know, definitely for me, there were times when it was not the right time to be doing it. For now, until your relationship with it has changed, give yourself unconditional permission to rest.

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I have already done a blog post (#10) on exercise, so take a look at that if you fancy reading a little bit more. I used the analogy of spending money on a maxed out credit card. You simple don’t have the money to spend (or in our case, energy!) Really, seriously consider FULLY committing to that 3rd recovery committment that I always refer to: Stop all ED compulsions. Do not let you ED kid you into believing it brings mental health benefits. After months and months of insisting that was the case with me, I finally came to the conclusion than wasn’t HAN speaking.

It does get easier to accept the thoughts telling you that you must exercise, but not responding to these thoughts.

Put your feet up. Go cold turkey. Keep you intake up. Rest. This is only until you can develop a good relationship with exercise.

Always Keep Fighting,

Han xx

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