Exercise and Eating Disorder Recovery

I come from an incredibly active family. My brothers and I were playing sports year round starting at a young age. My parents do triathlons and long distance running.

Being active has always been part of who I am. I have always found running particularly therapeutic. It’s a great time for me to reflect on life and enjoy being outdoors.

I took a break from most exercise in the beginning of my recovery. I did yoga and some dance classes in the treatment center I was at, but I didn’t run or do strenuous activity. I think this was important for me to have a mental break. I learned to not NEED exercise and a gained a greater appreciation for it when I did exercise.

So many diets preach exercising as a way to change your body and burn off the “sinful food” you ate on the latest special occasion. I had mixed my love of being active with a desperate need to burn calories to ease my anxiety about the food I was eating.

But exercising from a place from fear is not only unhealthy for your relationship with your body, but it isn’t productive. It isn’t sustainable or satisfying for most people.

When I started exercising again, I would only do workouts approved by my treatment team. I journaled before and after and recognized the thoughts that came up.

I picked the ones I like and focused on only thinking them. Things like “I feel strong”, “my body can do amazing things”, “the scenery and fresh air is so beautiful”.

Working out with these kind of thoughts is truly healthy for me. My mind, body and spirit all benefit. And I don’t NEED to do it to stay sane.

If you work out right now, try noticing the thoughts you let yourself think about working out and try to recognize the thoughts that serve you and ditch the ones that don’t.

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This is What is Holding You Back

You want to stop bingeing, right? But do you really believe you can?

What would life look like if from this day forward you stopped feeling the insatiable desire to gorge yourself with food?

I got honest with myself about this in recovery. I realized it would be hard. I’d feel really uncomfortable emotions. Fear, anxiety, sadness, shame, anger and disappointment. I’d have to feel it all without escaping with bingeing. Or try to solve it by restricting my food or coming up with a new diet.

Food wasn’t going to solve any of my problems. I had to learn to use the power of my mind to overcome my demons.

Man using scissors to remove the word can’t to read I can do it concept for self belief, positive attitude and motivation

I had to get really uncomfortable and sit through really uncomfortable urges, but eventually I realized I was capable of sitting through them.

Believing that I wasn’t a slave to food freed me. The thought that food controlled me gave food even more power over me. Believing I could feel ANY emotion helped me take back the power.

So start with the thought that you CAN start your journey to recovery. And then practice believing it over and over again. Because you CAN!

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When to Let Go of the Eating Disorder Label

People disagree on whether or not you can fully overcome an eating disorder. So early on in my recovery I wondered “will I always be labeled as Bulimic?”

The DSM criteria, which diagnoses eating disorders, eventually no longer applied to me, but I still carried the label.

Something I’ve learned, is that you only need to hold onto the labels that serve you.

I noticed that the label of my disordered eating didn’t serve me. I’m not ashamed of it, but I defined myself by that rather than the things I wanted to become.

The labels I choose for myself are labels that help me define the person I want to be: entrepreneur, life coach, wife, intuitive eater, daughter, sister, friend, daughter of God and so many other wonderful things.

So spend less time worrying about your past or what other people might label you as and decide what you want to label yourself as.

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How I Ditched the Diet and Took Control of My Life

I started a diet to get in control. Then I lost control and started bingeing. Then I’d try to regain control by restricting food again.

This lifestyle of control is the most out of control thing I have experienced.

I couldn’t control the people around me, I couldn’t control the depression, the anxiety or the things going on in the world around me. This scared me, so I tried to control my food.

And I lost even more control.

But I eventually learned something I could control. My thoughts. This gave me the power to decide how I wanted to experience my life.

Here are some lessons from this process:

1. Be willing to feel all emotions

No feeling can hurt you. Being scared of feeling anxiety just makes the anxiety worse. But I’ve never felt one emotion forever, it always comes and goes. Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable gives you the power to feel anything.

2. Notice emotions and the thoughts causing them

Our emotions are great guide post that can lead us to understand our minds so much clearer. What are you feeling at this moment? Why?

3. Decide What You Want Your Life to Look Like

If you don’t know what the end result will look like, you won’t be able to get there. I decided what I wanted to think about myself, food, other people and my goals.

4. Use Your Thoughts and Feelings as a Guide

You will have thoughts and emotions that won’t lead you to the life you want. It is your job to notice them. Sometimes the garden needs weeding. Take out the “I’m not good enough”, “I will never recover” and anything else that doesn’t belong.

5. Practice

Using your mind as a tool is a skill that takes practice. Be patient with yourself as you notice the thoughts and emotions you want to change.

My passion is teaching other women who battle with food on a daily basis to learn how to harness the power of their minds.

Your thoughts are the most powerful thing you have, so learn to use them. Schedule a mini session with me if you need help with this. It’s free.

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Getting Started

Why can it be so hard to take the first step towards recovery? When we don’t have any evidence that we can be a person who is “in recovery” it is hard to believe it was possible. But we will never have any evidence until we try.

We hold ourselves back by not believing we can recover. I know recovery from a life long eating disorder might feel like a big task, but putting it off by not believing in yourself might be the only thing holding you back from getting started.

But what if you truly believed that recovery was possible? Not that it will be possible one day or that you want it to be possible. You truly believed that the person you are today is capable of life long recovery. Because you are.

The only reason we live in the shame, discomfort and pain of the eating disorder is because we don’t believe it’s possible to recover. But then we show ourselves it IS possible and then we have the hope we need when the desire to overeat or purge is overbearing.

But what if you believed that you could recover today? Then you’d be able to feel the confidence necessary to resist the overbearing urges. So why don’t you try and see what happens?

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