eating disorder · recovery

Enjoying exercise

During anxiety and anorexia recovery I have found it really hard to work out the right amount of exercise.

The standard advice seems to be to stop exercise all together, but, although this makes sense from a recovery and weight gain perspective, I know that for many sufferers this isn’t a realistic option. If you suffer from anxiety and anorexia it is likely that you are an extremely high-functioning, sometimes obsessive person who struggles to be completely inactive for long periods of time. I know that when I tried to completely stop exercising I felt anxious, guilty and restless and it actually increased my anxiety as I felt like I should be doing something that I was simultaneously banning myself from doing.

There is also the other, positive side of the argument – exercise releases hormones that boost your mood, it is an opportunity for fresh air and sunshine and it can allow you to clear your head and get a fresh perspective. So here are my top tips for maintaining healthy exercise in moderation this summer:

  1. Plan your weekly exercise regime when you aren’t feeling stressed – for many anorexia sufferers exercise can be a go-to when you feel out of control of other areas of your life, so it’s important not to fall into the trap of exercising as soon as you feel stressed. Make a plan of two gentle exercise sessions a week at a time when you are feeling calm, so you don’t feel the need to add in loads of sessions.
  2. Stick to your plan – just because you have some spare time doesn’t mean that you have to exercise in it just because you potentially could. This may temporarily relieve your anxiety but this feeling won’t last.
  3. Decide on an exercise alternative – pick a designated activity e.g. colouring, baking, meditating etc. which you can instantly go to if you feel like you want to start exercising outside of your designated slots. Try to make this activity something that you really enjoy and something that makes you feel calm and collected.
  4. Try a new, gentler form of exercise – Try something new so that you’re not comparing yourself to the amount and intensity of exercise you were doing before recovery. Something with low cardio impact like yoga, flexibility, walking etc. are good alternatives to high energy exercise which burns more calories than you want to be when you are in recovery.

I know how difficult it is to change an exercise regime when it has become something that you rely on to feel in control, but unfortunately this is as crucial as eating properly during recovery. Although sticking to your old exercise habits may make you feel better and more in control temporarily, you know that your old waves of anxiety and tiredness will soon come back. Extreme exercise is not a long-term or healthy solution for stress-management.

Change your exercise regime this summer, it will be a massively positive step 🙂 xx

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