Years later, I am still resting and learning to live in my body.
There’s nothing about compulsive exercise that is healthy. I used to use my body, but it was all to live outside my body and for a certain body. Now, I am practicing to live inside and with my body.
Compulsive Exercise can look like…
- Maintaining a rigid exercise regimen despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury
- Extreme discomfort with rest or “inactivity” (in quotations because my idea of what is inactivity back then vs. now has radically changed lol)
- Feelings of exercise not being good enough, fast enough, hard enough leading to overtraining
- Exercise that interferes with life like saying no to friends, missing family time, prioritizing movement over basically most other things
- Intense anxiety, irritability, and shame if unable to exercise
This year, I attended virtual iaedp as part of my training to become a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (I am just a few months away from getting it!!). I learned in one of the presentations that the compulsive quality rather than excessive quantity of exercise matters more when characterizing movement as disordered or not.
What exercise looks like now…
It looks like movement. I prioritize movement – not a specific heart rate, mileage, time, PR, number of reps, number of sets, or steps in a day. Call it semantics, but because of my disordered relationship with exercise, a lot of the fitness world just feels awkward and sad to me still. It’s like a breakup. Here you have an intense, whirlwind of a love / hate relationship with someone that is toxic as all get out, then you breakup causing the relationship to go from 100mph to zero in a split second, then nothingness as you go through all the feelings, then years pass and you’re back out in the world and see them. It’s an awkward, sobering, silent, and lonely. It’s also content, exciting, freeing, and peaceful. All at the same time.
All that being said, it my body is still resting. Rest isn’t the lack of movement. Rest is movement in all forms – fast, slow, hard, easy, a lot, and a little. Rest is not keeping a scoreboard for my movement.
I am still trying to navigate what movement goals could look like for me. I spent years with most of my goals wrapped up in my body, food, and exercise. So right now, it feels really, really nice to not have any exercise goals. I think it’s going to stay that way for a while. That’s okay.
How I got from A to B
Cliche, sure, but everyone has their own journey to get from compulsive exercise to a more healthful, restful place with movement. My story involves my sweet husband. When we met over four years ago, we were smitten y’all. I was head over heels and craved time with him more than anything. Of course this was all sweet and romantic, but I also remember really struggling with intense urges and anxiety about feeling torn between this new relationship and working out. I struggled. And with a closer look at my values and our relationship growing, Jared won. And by Jared won, I mean I won. At that time, it felt easier to chose him over me because my me was so enmeshed with my disordered exercise and eating. The quote “you can’t love others until you fully love yourself” or whatever it is never sat right with me for this reason. It was really helpful (dare I say life changing) for me to see myself through his eyes, ultimately making it easier for me to care for myself. My true, healthy self, not ED self.