Before we jump into today’s post, I wanted to link to my two past exercise posts + my movement module from my eCourse. All excellent resources on this topic. If you haven’t read the posts or gone through the module, and compulsive exercise is something you struggle with, I’d recommend those in addition to today’s post :)
- Exercise and me (aka some thoughts on helping you get out of an exercise compulsion)
- When exercise isn’t good (aka disconnecting from your body)
- Truly Healthy Movement eCourse Module
I feel like I haven’t talked about movement in a while because I don’t struggle with an unhealthy relationship with it anymore. This week, as I was sitting on the couch listening to an audiobook, I thought, “I never thought I’d feel better on days I don’t exercise, than days I do exercise. I never thought there wouldn’t be this running thought in my head of ‘did I or didn’t I exercise today.'” But, go figure, here I am.
When I was running daily, even though I would take rest days, there were no rest days because rest days were spent mentally obsessing over how I wasn’t moving enough that day. So while I was physically allowing myself to take a break from exercise, mentally there were never any breaks. And because I HAD to run everyday there was never any room (or energy) leftover for joyful movement or trying out a new & different exercise class. There was always this fear that if I stopped moving in this rigid way something drastic would happen to my body. Now I realize I don’t have to micromanage my body’s size through eating or moving in a particular way. My weight is my body’s job. I don’t have to worry about it.
Having zero exercise plan is still what works for me. The only structure I have with movement is a structure of spontaneity. For me currently, yoga is out due to knee pain galore. Yoga was hard for me to give up because mentally it’s been so helpful in allowing me to tolerate discomfort and boredom, life skills I wanted to develop. Lately I have enjoyed swimming (or sculling) in a pool, gentle bike rides around our neighborhood and ropes at the gym. All those things are fun for me and they really do feel joyful. There’s no, “you have to do x on this day.” I just do those movements I enjoy when I feel the urge to move.
I realize now to go back to exercising how I used to, I would have to give up taking care of myself. And similarly, to be in a body size different than the one I am in right in this very moment I would have to give up taking care of myself. I would have to disconnect from what my body is telling me and zero percent of me will ever be willing to do that. Now that I’ve gotten to experience being present and feeling life, I won’t ever go back to how things were before.
So many people associate more exercise and being in a smaller body with comments of, “oh, you are really taking care of yourself!” When for me, and I imagine many of you, my body changing size would be a cry for help that society would greet with praise and encouragement to keep ‘taking care of myself’ even if it’s ruining my life.
With me and movement, it’s been nice to experience what non-judgmental awareness teaches you. I’ve learned on days I move more vs. days I don’t move as much I eat pretty much the same amount of food. To know if it is the exact same amount of food I would have to be obsessed with food, so I can’t say that, but my eating doesn’t change much on movement vs. non-movement days.
When I was in my ED and people would post, “this is my post workout snack” or “pre-workout snack” my ED brain would say, “oh you should only eat that if you are moving more.” Now I realize my body asks for pretty much the same amount of food on non-movement vs. movement days (even before pregnancy). I don’t even bat an eye lash at having a Clif bar for a snack on a day I’m not moving in a structured way. It’s just a bar that makes a great snack no matter what you’re doing. I also feel my hunger and fullness cues better on non-movement days. When I was compulsively exercising I didn’t have any awareness of hunger or fullness cues because I was so disconnected from giving my body what it needed.
Another thing worth mentioning –> One of my very good friends is very athletic. At the beginning of our friendship I was still exercising compulsively, but about a year into knowing each other I started making moves to become less rigid with my movement and it was hard for me to be the less athletic person in the relationship. I’m sure a lot of you can relate to finding your identity in being the “fit” one. The identity of the “fit & toned runner” is something I had to let go of…slowly and then all at once when I took an extended two month vacation from gyms and running and only allowed myself to go on walks outdoors. Being the ‘fit & toned runner’ never allowed me to live a better life. Giving up being the ‘fit & toned runner’ has 100% allowed me to live a better life. I’m more soft and fleshy and present and curious and aware and I intend to stay that way.
I’ve talked about it before, but it really did feel like I was going through a grieving process when I moved away from running. It was the hardest thing I’ve done. If it’s seemingly impossible for you to stop compulsively exercising, just know that I get it. And I hope this post will encourage you to take a step towards a more relaxed and pleasant relationship with exercise.<3
What is a step you can take to move towards a more healthful relationship with movement? Or what are steps you’ve taken to move towards joyful movement?
Next week on the blog we’re going to dive into some my initial experiences and thoughts about pregnancy. Have a great weekend guys :)