Takeaways from stopping exercising.
If you are stuck in an unhealthy relationship with exercise, I wish I could give you a taste of what it feels like to not have to exercise everyday. I know what it feels like to wake up and have an alarm going off inside your head that can only be quieted if you exercise x amount that day.
And I know what it feels like to wake up and not have that alarm going off inside your head.
I wish I could tell you to stop before you hurt your body beyond repair. I wonder, if I would’ve found a healthier relationship with exercise earlier in life, would I still have so much back and knee pain now?
A few years ago I had made progress in my eating disorder by eating consistently throughout the day and stopping labeling foods as good or bad, but I was still working on not having to exercise. So, as I’ve mentioned before, I did the hardest thing i’ve ever done (definitely harder than childbirth) and I committed to stopping exercising for 3 months. I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it…not even Andrew. I thought other people wouldn’t get it, since exercise is always always always talked about like such a good thing. If someone could’ve had a peek inside my brain they would’ve seen the intense preoccupation with having to exercise and understood what I was going through.
So for 3 months, at the time I would normally be exercising, I would lay on my yoga mat in the backyard and I’d cry because it was so hard to not just get up and go exercise to numb away from how I was feeling – the stress of life, the stress in being in a body I felt uncomfortable with, etc. But at this point I had realized I was asking exercise to give me something it couldn’t and I NEEDED a break from it to reset. Hopefully the below can help you understand what I realized about exercise:
Just to be clear, I’m not against exercise. But I am against exercising when you do it:
- out of a place of fear because you think if you don’t your body will change
- even when you’re sick or injured
- as your only way to cope with stressful situations
If any of the above sounds like reasons you exercise, it may be worth taking some time away from movement.
- I don’t need exercise to manage my weight or make me feel good in my body. And that fact brought and continues to bring me so much peace. It’s so interesting how now that my body is farther away from the thin ideal than it was before, I feel closer to it. Taking a break from exercise allowed me to see that my body can manage my body size just fine without me micromanaging it through a certain amount of exercise. I used to think, “i’m bloated I HAVE to exercise, because that will make me feel better.” But now I realize, “you know what else will help you feel better? Not doing anything to fix the bloated feeling lol. Just going to sleep and waking up the next day will make the bloated feeling go away too because that is how a body works.” It is so nice to have had the experience of taking a break from exercise, because I now know that nothing drastic is going to happen to my body if I don’t feel like exercising for a while. This is something so wonderful to experience and is more powerful for you to experience rather than just to have me telling you about it. That said, I now realize that if you are having to rigidly exercise to stay at a certain size…you aren’t at the body size you’re meant to be at. There’s a size for you where you don’t have to exercise obsessively or restrict your hunger in any way and that is NOT an unhealthy size for you to end up at.
- I was asking exercise to fix all my problems. I now realize I didn’t need to keep trying to become smaller (physically), I needed to start growing (mentally). More and more exercise was never going to fix my feelings of inadequacy, but therapy, values work, and self-reflection did. I was asking exercise to do something it wasn’t capable of doing and that is one of the reasons I think I kept doing more and more of it. Going to more and more extremes. Searching for something that wasn’t there to be found. Exercising more was never going to help me feel more comfortable in my body or make me feel safe & accepted.
If you are stuck in an eating disorder or exercise compulsion…I know how your brain works. I know you read this and think, “But see!! You are exercising now, so you do have to exercise!!” But I’m here to say that how I think about movement is different now. My movement now is done in a peaceful way that allows me to look forward to it and I no longer move in this punishing you-have-to-exercise-or-else type of way. And I believe that taking a multi-month break from exercise is the number ONE thing that allowed me to get to a peaceful relationship with movement.
If this post resonated with you, just know that I don’t gain anything by encouraging you stop exercising. I don’t have some hidden agenda or financial gain to come from this. I wouldn’t recommend this unless I really believed it could help you live a better life. For more of my thoughts on having an unhealthy relationship with exercise, click here for more exercise compulsion posts.