Alright, beautiful Warriors. Time for a little bit of Wednesday night #RealTalk.
And I’m gonna be straight up – Just like I like my tequila. 🙂
What comes to mind when you hear that word?
Do you feel anxious, maybe because you wish you could be doing it right now? Do you feel guilty, maybe because you know you’re pushing your body beyond the extreme as a way to purge calories? Do you have a pit in your stomach because you use exercise as a form of self-punishment? Do you feel obligated in order to earn the right to consume food?
Any of that striking a chord?
#RealTalk: Your gut reaction to that word says a lot about your relationship with it.
First things first (let me just get this disclaimer out of the way) :exercising when you’re at a dangerously low weight is recipe for disaster, and I definitely do NOT condone that. At all. Get your doctor’s “go ahead” before doing anything physical in recovery.
Ok back to the #RealTalk
There will come a point in your recovery where you’ll be given the “all clear” by your doctor to begin physical activity or exercise.
But the real question, is should you?
ED is a stealthy bastard. And one of the things he’s best at is morphing your eating disorder. OK, so you started out with one eating disorder, but maybe now you can see aspects of another sneaking into your life.
#RealTalk: ED CAN “GET’CHA” WITH EXERCISE
I’m going to be honest with you guys – as clearly, I always am – but exercise addiction was something that I definitely struggled with through
the early stages much of my recovery. Boom. I said it. It’s out there. But for — literally years — after “recovering,” I was enslaved to exercise. For me, it was a way that made me feel as though I “deserved” to eat. That I “earned” the right to consume calories. And if I’m being really 100% honest with myself, it was actually a physical way to withhold gentleness and self-love from myself, because that’s what I thought I deserved.
Obsessive exercise was a way that ED maintained a foothold in my life, even after I had given up the anorexia itself.
And I have a feeling that this may be ringing true for some of you beautiful loves, as well.
And it was only a few years ago that I literally became free from that demon in my life. Free. That’s the only way to describe it. No more obsession. No more exhaustion. No more anxiety. No more pressure about going farther, running longer – One more class. Five more minutes. Two more laps. — Freedom.
So how did I do it? How did I break the chains that kept me in bondage to grueling workouts and marathon-esq runs day after day after day?
I GAVE IT UP COLD TURKEY
*Gasp* Whaaaat? Howwww the heck does one just give it up? That may seem preposterous.
So I’m gonna give you the short version: As you already know, I have Ulcerative Colitis. And during a flare several years ago, I was literally on bed rest for almost a year. The flare was horrible. I had to move home. Go on an obscene amount of medications. They almost had to remove my intestines, but I’ll spare you the details. The point is, before the flare, I would mistreat my body, day in and day out, with olympian-caliber workouts. And then — BAM — I was put on bed rest for ten months.
I was so scared. I thought, surely I was going to just balloon up to the size of a whale and have to be carted out of there on a fork lift when all was said and done.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t.
You see, this period of what could have been seen as a devastating turn of events — where my life was thrown on its head and all my plans derailed — was actually a major blessing in disguise. Yes, it flipped my life upside-down…but in a good way. Because it was during this time — when my body literally forced me to — that I began eating three meals a day and two snacks, rather than just one large meal at the end of the day, like I had been doing. And if that wasn’t already a big enough deal, I gave up exercise. I mean, we’re talking: I couldn’t even walk to the mailbox. I was on bed rest.
And let me tell you something remarkable, friends: I didn’t gain weight. In fact, (and I hate to put this on here as it may be triggering) I actually lost weight. You see, by eating only one big meal at night, my body had grown accustomed to just “holding onto” every calorie I’d eat in that one gigantic meal, because it knew I was going to put it through hell the next day during my insane workout, and I wasn’t going to eat again until dinnertime the next day. It was when I nourished it throughout the day that my metabolism started to pick up and my body started trusting me. And I started trusting my body.
You guys, it is crazy how much we can eat without gaining weight. Seriously. You don’t have to kill yourself on the treadmill just because you had an extra helping of dinner. Trust your body.
So where am I now in my relationship with exercise?
Well, I can honestly say that since my flare, and giving up exercise cold turkey, I haven’t run since. I don’t even belong to a gym. I have learned how to exercise for enjoyment. I now take a 45 minute walk in Central Park for enjoyment — To soak up the sun. To move the beautiful body that God has given me and enjoy the endorphins released from light physical activity. It’s not an obligation. It’s not a form of self punishment. It’s a form of love.
There’s nothing wrong with exercise. Let’s be clear about that. Exercise is a beautiful and wonderful and healthy thing! There are SO MANY benefits. Exercise is not a demon. But there’s a difference between taking a “Tone and Chisel” aerobics class, and abusing your body to the point of collapse.
And here’s the realest #RealTalk of them all: If you are “working out” for more than 90 minutes everyday, you need to check your motives.
Friends, you can stop. You can press that big old, red “Emergency Stop Button” on the treadmill – figuratively and literally speaking.
Your body isn’t going to blow up overnight if you don’t workout. Your thighs aren’t going to automatically become massive if you don’t run for two hours everyday. Believe me. That’s what I believed. And after spending ten months literally in bed, eating more than I had ever eaten, and actually having the opposite happen, I am living proof that you won’t balloon up.
I have adopted a spirit of gentleness with myself. I’m learning to love myself more and more, and one of the ways I show myself that love, is by not punishing myself and torturing myself with exercise. And it is so incredible. I have time for hobbies now that I’m not spending every free moment at the gym or working out. The condition of my feet has improved dramatically — I can now wear sandals without being self-conscious about the amount of callouses and blisters from all the pounding. I’m not exhausted all the time. My life isn’t ruled by the gym, or fitness class schedules. I can be spontaneous. I can be me.
But I had to trust myself first. Take that leap. I promise, it will be the greatest thing you’ve ever done.
It’ll be…”grool.” 🙂