Happy Fitness Friday! Before I get into the tough subject of today’s post, I’m switching up the format and talking about my workouts for the week first 🙂
Monday: Insanity Max 30- Max Out Cardio, PiYo Sculpt, Hike the Bubbles (60 minutes)
Tuesday: Insanity Max 30- Max Out Power, Swim (30 minutes), Elliptical (45 minutes), Weights (35)
Wednesday: Insanity Max 30- Max Out Sweat, Chisel Power (weights), Focus T-25 Speed, Hike Gorham Mountain (60 minutes)
Thursday: Insanity Max 30- Max Out Strength, PiYo Sweat, Elliptical (35 minutes), Walk (20 minutes), Weights (15 minutes)
Friday: Insanity Max 30- Friday Fight Night Round 2 (Modifier), Swim (45 minutes)
Scenes from Wednesday’s hike:
Today I’m going to talk about something that has personally plagued me for several years- the compulsion to over-exercise. There’s a line between healthy exercising and unhealthy exercising, and I thought I’d share a little about what that looks like for me (this idea was inspired by one of the April Challenge Groups that I’m in!).
Binge exercising, also known as exercise addiction, is when your exercise routine becomes an obsessive part of your daily life and has negative impacts on all areas of your health-physical, mental, emotional. It’s often combined with an eating disorder and body image issues.
If you exercise “a lot,” does that mean you have a problem? Not necessarily. Binge exercising is characterized mainly by the thought/emotional processes that accompany your attitude toward exercise. Some ways to recognize this are:
From Women’s Running-
“Feelings of guilt and shame associated with eating or missing planned workouts”
“Avoiding certain social situations in which you may have to eat/may not be able to get in your planned workout”
“Always eating or exercising in private, rather than incorporating them into your social life when appropriate”
Becoming irritable/anxious, especially if a workout is thwarted (from KidsHealth)
And one of my favorite blogs, RunEatRepeat, discusses Binge Eating (which for me goes hand in hand with binge exercising). I think the two are interchangeable here- similar to binge eating, binge exercising is something you probably don’t have control over, you just have to do it or ELSE.
“Binge eating isn’t necessarily about the amount of food that you eat. It’s more about emotionally where it comes from the fact that you don’t have control over it but you need it like a drug.”- Monica Olivias.
My history with binge exercising accompanied bulimia my second year of college. Even if I had purged a meal/binge session, I still would feel compelled to spend at least an hour in the gym every day, regardless of other obligations. If I knew I’d be going to a party later that always warranted an extra workout.
My friends would sometimes call me out on going to the gym multiple times a day, so I started being secretive about these extra sessions. In hindsight, totally bizarre, but at the time, I felt fiercely defensive and there was NO way these people (who wanted the best for me) would stop me from working out…a lot. (As a reminder, I didn’t actually lose weight at this time, but my body was miserable and constantly run down from the disordered eating cycles and exercise routines). My senior year, I remember getting sick when my roommate and I were supposed to go for a run the morning of our formal dance, Gala, forcing me to skip the run. I almost had a panic attack- how was I expected to not work out and look good later that night??
Years later, around late 2014-early 2016, I became obsessive about my running. This was a sneakier issue because it started out as such a healthy hobby for me, improving my emotional stability and helping me get on the right track with eating. At some point, the scale tipped (so to speak) and I became obsessed with weigh-ins (heaven forbid the scale ever went above my specific number), diet, mileage each week, hitting speed workout goals, and adding in supplemental workouts for an extra push. What was scary was I didn’t notice what was happening to me mentally or physically. I’d get cranky or straight up pissed off if something threw off my planned workout, felt intense guilt after indulging in “unscheduled” treats, and got defensive if someone commented on this obsession with running/working out (not many did).
Tearing my patellar tendon forced me to step back from running last summer/fall, and getting pregnant definitely forced me to take another step back to not running at all. While at the time I was frustrated, and even worried “Oh great, I’m going to get fat again…,” I am grateful that this break has helped me put things back into perspective. I’ll be able to run again, and want to get another BQ (before my time goes up in 8 years when I turn 35), but I’m going to go back to the way things were when I started–enjoying the ride and knowledge that it’s a fun, healthy activity that I love.
That being said, as many people with a history of eating disorders/body image issues (or even things like depression, anxiety, OCD, etc) know, it’s a work in progress. Just because I have a few years distance from bulimia or almost a year from running/exercise addiction, doesn’t mean I’m immune forever.
If I was at all flexible I would kick myself because this Wednesday, I dipped back into the binge exercising mindset in spite of knowing better. One effect of being pregnant lately is my hips/butt/thighs have been expanding in spite of being fairly good about diet and working out regularly. Wednesday morning, my boyfriend was being thoughtful when he went to grab a breakfast sandwich at a local bakery, and grabbed me a fresh piece of German Chocolate cake. That’s why I threw in an extra Focus T-25 workout that day. In my mind, that piece of cake was an “unscheduled” treat, meaning I had to do an extra workout to handle the excess calories. Nothing bad happened, minus feeling a little sore Thursday morning, but I’m still a little upset at myself for “going there.”
So, yeah, I’m still working on this one. Some days are easier than others. Knowing that I’m going to have a baby girl in August is one of the reasons I’m calling myself out on these behaviors- my goal is to work on these areas where I’m still insecure and struggling, so that I can impart healthy attitudes towards food, exercise, and body image on to her. Plus I’m still actively pregnant, so my actions are already impacting her.
Today I ripped through another pair of leggings, my second in three weeks, and I was briefly distraught. After doing my scheduled workout and getting in the pool for a relaxed swim, I was laughing about it. I’m 5+ months pregnant and haven’t purchased ANY maternity clothing…My body isn’t the problem right now, my wardrobe hasn’t been modified to accommodate a changing body 🙂
Finally, and most importantly, if you or someone you know is going through an eating disorder or exercise addiction, my number one piece of advice is get a professional to help you out. I went to counseling both in my early 20s and last winter/spring (a lot of my exercise/eating comes from the illusion of control, and I had a lot of ‘loss of control’ things going on in my life at the time). There are some great resources where I live, but if you are somewhere else in the world, please take the time to find someone to talk to. Friends and family often mean well, but I know from my own experience that I’m stubborn and will take their love and concern as “they’re getting in my way.” Another great resource/listen is this podcast with Lauren Fleshman and Dr. Melody Moore as they discuss the culture of eating disorders in athletes (especially young women).
This post was a bit longer than usual, but it’s something that’s been on my mind a lot recently and I think it’s important to talk about. Since I’m pregnant, working on eliminating unhealthy behaviors is important, but even if I wasn’t pregnant, I still think it’s so important to be kind to yourself and to your body. Love will always win over fear and hate.