Body Acceptance, Exercise, Recovery

Part I: The Exercise Equation

I thought it would be difficult to write a post this week, but I was mistaken.
I thought my blog always needed to be upbeat and positive, but it doesn’t.  Life isn’t always upbeat and positive.  This post will be in two parts, one today and another tomorrow.  Truth is a big part of my body acceptance, and the truth is I haven’t been able to accept my body at this size lately.   I’ve also been struggling with not being allowed to run or participate in 5Ks, as it is summer and prime 5K season.


In eating disorder recovery land, exercise is severely limited and closely monitored in an attempt to put an end to the exercise equation.  The exercise equation is this: (low calories + exercise = weight loss…quickly)   Now, I am not a math person (never have been), but this equation makes sense to me.  In eating disorder recovery land exercise becomes “movement” and is used for self-care and clearing the mind, not weight loss or burning calories.   The exercise equation still exists in the part of my mind that is controlled by the eating disorder.  This equation is why I sat in my dietician’s office this week, in tears, as I desperately tried to explain why I should be permitted to join the local YMCA.  “I am the biggest I have ever been and the least active I have ever been at the same time, and the combination is crushing me.”   I mean, it is not that I am too thin and can’t afford to lose weight, I am technically OBESE. (This was the main point of my argument while trying to get her to acquiesce.)

For someone like me, who ran cross country, was in the military, and has always been active; eating disorder recovery land movement doesn’t amount to much.  I never viewed yoga as an acceptable form of exercise movement because it couldn’t possibly burn enough calories to do any good.  The same mindset can be applied to walking.  Hatha yoga (not hot or fast yoga) and walking, coincidentally, are the most acceptable forms of movement in recovery land.  So, as you can imagine, I need to re-work my thoughts on exercise…movement.  I need to work on removing the equation from my mind that exercise is only worth something if it allows me to burn a significant amount of calories that will aid in weight-loss.   Learning to accept that movement has a new intended purpose is anything but a fast process.  Each time I am allowed to start adding more movement into my life, my eating disordered brain takes off and I find myself right back in the middle of the exercise equation.  Once I am back in the exercise equation I have to step back and stop movement so I can focus again on recovery.  The cycle is beyond frustrating.

Learning to accept my size and that the exercise equation can’t be part of my life is difficult.  While movement can be healthy and help with overall physical health, it is a fine line for me.  I can quickly slip from mindful movement to the exercise equation and not even see it.  My eating disorder begins to step in, “Just __ more minutes.  Burn __ more calories before you stop.”  The abuse quietly comes in and I see it as my competitive nature, not a problem.  Before I know what is happening, I am restricting my calories and manipulating what I eat in order to burn more calories and lose weight faster.  I have to stop competing with myself and allow the movement to do its intended purpose: clear my mind and help me de-stress.  This is probably one of the hardest lessons I am learning in eating disorder recovery land, as our country applauds competition and pushing the limits.

So, just in case you were wondering, I am allowed to join the Y but I have some heavy restrictions and what I do will be closely monitored to make sure my mind doesn’t end up back in the exercise equation.  I will have to really try to focus on movement being for self-care and mindfulness. I will have to try to focus on appreciating my body for the movement I am able to do.  I may not necessarily like my body right now but it is the vehicle for my movement that will help clear my mind.   Thankfully I have a treatment team to help me figure out if I start to cross that line back to the exercise equation.  However, I am willing to try to re-work my focus in order to be allowed time for mindful movement.  

I leave you today with this question:
Are you stuck in the exercise equation or are you engaging in mindful movement?

With Body Love,

2 thoughts on “Part I: The Exercise Equation”

    1. I wish it were that easy. Unfortunately I spent so many years over-exersicing and being extremely competitive with myself and others that little tricks like that don’t work. In my brain there is always that eating disordered voice pushing me to go that little bit extra. If the numbers are covered I am competing with the people around me and how far/long/fast they are going. If I am swimming I can easily tell myself to go just a little bit longer because I haven’t been working that hard. Exercise is an extremely slippery slope for me, which is why my treatment team is slowly approving various exercises for very strict amounts of time. For me it is all about breaking that competitiveness that drives me toward my illness. I look forward to the day when I can exercise purely for enjoyment and the thoughts about weight/calories/time/distance don’t enter my mind.


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