It may be obvious to you that exercise is a way that many people deal with stress. What may not be obvious is when exercise switches from being a life-enhancing coping strategy to being a harmful one. Exercise is often a key component of the cycle of eating disorders and using food to cope. We feel so inherently flawed and unacceptable when we struggle with disordered eating in any way that our body becomes our worst enemy and therefore, we believe, it is deserving of as much mistreatment verbally and physically as we can dish out. Thus we may choose to simply abandon our body altogether and not exercise for years and years. Or we may choose to exercise for hours a day regardless of the signals our body is sending us in the form of fatigue or pain. Either way, we’re creating more stress physically and psychologically and we’re no where near dealing with the real issue that triggered this nasty approach to finally believing that you are good enough. When we’re exercising from a life-enhancing perspective our primary purpose is health and wellness. We engage in forms of exercise that we truly enjoy and we listen to our body for cues about how long, how hard, and when to exercise. We don’t feel guilty or shameful or restrict ourselves when we can’t exercise on any given day or when we do a little less than we imagined we would. We exercise moderately and regularly within the context of a balanced life that also has space for work, friends, family, self-care, hobbies and volunteer/community events. From a life-enhancing perspective we know how much exercise is enough (ie. what is moderate) because we’re able to maintain a balance of all the above and still feel energized and healthy and present with whatever we’re doing. When we’re exercising from a disordered perspective, health is hardly a consideration and certainly not the driving force. The motivation in this case is to modify or maintain our external appearance at all costs. From a disordered perspective, exercise is all about achieving that elusive, perfect bod so that you’ll finally be able to relax and feel worthy of existing. The story goes that you’ll get the sense of safety and security and approval you seek when you look a certain way and that looking that certain way is the only possible thing that you will ever make you “good enough.” To that end it doesn’t matter how injured you are, how tired you are, whether you have a cold and need rest, whether you’ve actually eaten enough that your body has the nutritional support to do what you’re asking it to do, you are going to make yourself exercise no matter what! Now, consider this: If your body is the vessel that is required for your mind to exist and function well and your body requires a certain balance of food, rest, air and water to function optimally, what sense does it make to withhold any of those key requirements as some sort of dangling carrot meant to motivate your body into pushing itself beyond its limits just so you can look a certain way so that you can finally be acceptable to someone else? Who pays the price for your fatigue? Who pays the price for your malnourishment? Who pays the price for your injury; for your mood swings; for your insecurity; for your preoccupation; and for your lack of overall balance? The truth is that you pay the biggest price. And the people you live with, work with, hang out with pay too because you’re tired and stressed out and unbalanced because of how you’re going about trying to be happy, peaceful and in balance. It’s all backwards and it’s time to turn things around. Your body doesn’t care for external rewards like approval. The recipe for a happy, healthy, beautiful body that is an easily sustainable natural weight for you is this:
- Feed it regularly and feed it mostly natural, unprocessed foods.
- Give it ample rest.
- Breathe deeply (a few times a day practice some breath work for a few minutes).
- Drink lots of water.
- And exercise moderately and respond immediately and with compassion to the signals your body is sending about hunger, fatigue, pain etc.