Exercise & Eating Disorders

Monday, Apr 27  •  


Exercise is defined as any movement that makes your muscles work and requires your body to move. When done correctly and in moderation, exercise has numerous mental and physical health benefits. When exercise becomes excessive, however, you can cause more harm to your body and mind through misusing exercise. 

Working out is supposed to make your body healthier, but for someone suffering from an eating disorder, it can be extremely difficult and even dangerous. In quite a few cases, these recovering individuals substitute their eating disorder with another unhealthy obsession; excessive exercise. Compulsive exercising has to do with control, much the same way people with eating disorders use limiting intake of food as a way to take control of their lives. These behaviors go hand-in-hand. Often, the excessive use of exercise can be an indication that someone may be suffering from an eating disorder. 

Learning to shift away from these behaviors and establishing a balanced mind-body connection allows recovering individuals to enjoy the benefits of exercise in a healthy way. 

Find something that you love. Exercise should not be a chore, it should be something you do to improve your mood and feel better about yourself. Physical activity time can also be supportive for its social involvement, time spent interacting with others and making new friends that share common interests. Social involvement is a key factor supporting recovery.

Avoid competitive spaces. Exercise should take place in an environment where you feel comfortable and completely yourself. Competitive spaces can lead to body comparison which can turn into body shame and dysmorphia, often triggering those who are working through recovery from an eating disorder. Inclusive spaces with a wide variety of people, body types, and ages can offer feelings of healing and community, rather than stress.

Be comfortable. Find clothing that allows you to work out and feel good about yourself. Setting yourself up for a successful workout is just as important as the workout itself. 

Listen to your body. Your body is an amazing regulator and will tell you exactly what it needs and is capable of if you tune in and listen. Being aware of how fast your heart is beating, how rapid your breaths are, and doing a mental muscle body scan are great ways to establish the mind-body connection. Taking frequent breaks also helps you to stay present throughout the activity and listen to your body.

Try new things. Trying new activities is a great way to establish a new and positive relationship with exercise. Learning new skills is a great way to check-in with your body and feel it’s capabilities. Mixing up your choice of activities also prevents you from getting stuck in the same routines and styles of movement.

Everyone’s fitness routine looks different, and everyone has different ways they love to move. Regardless, working out is supposed to be good for you and these tips can help you to nurture a healthy relationship with exercise. 

If you’re in recovery, lean on your intuition and support team of doctors, therapists, and nutritionists to find the right routine for you.