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22 July 2011

Healthy exercise in recovering from eating disorders

People suffering from eating disorders often use exercise for weight loss, self-punishment, or as a form of control, writes counselling psychologist Althea Sherry.

People suffering from eating disorders often use exercise for weight loss, self-punishment, or as a form of control, writes counselling psychologist Althea Sherry. 

On the other hand, moving away from an eating disorder and into recovery often leads to a change of attitude regarding exercise. People find that they start to exercise for health and relaxation, rather than to lose weight. Exercise becomes about taking care of their health and body, rather than for control and just to burn kilojoules.

  • Do you force yourself to keep going even when you're tired?
  • Are you exercising to lose weight, burn fat or kilojoules?
  • Does exercise feel like a punishment?
  • Do you do the same exercises over and over?

  • Exercise for health, not weight loss. Focus on feeling genuinely healthier, rather than on control and burning calories.
  • Don’t be too repetitive. Cycling for hours everyday at gym, or running on a treadmill can lead to that control-based mindset. Try different types of exercise rather than the same thing each session.
  • Make exercise fun – exercise out of doors, with a friend or by dancing at a club to make exercise more fun. Toss a balloon at a friend. Take your dog for a walk.
  • Connect with your body. During eating disorders, we often cut ourselves off from our bodies. Getting reconnected to your body will help exercise to be more healthy. This can be scary at first, but it’s an important part of healthy exercise.
  • Don’t push too hard. Do enough exercise, but not too much. It may take a while to get the balance right, but over time it should start to fall into place. If you feel sick, sore or dizzy, then you know you’ve pushed it too far.
  • Do mindful exercise that helps you connect. Examples are yoga, pilates and tai chi. All these focus on the body in a slow and careful way, so that you learn more about how your body moves and how to move it well.
  • If exercise starts to feel like it’s moving towards “unhealthy” mode, take some time out and think about what you really want to gain from exercise, and how you can approach things in a healthier way.
  • It’s not so much what you do, as how you do it. It’s about enjoyment, rather than just about doing the “right” type of exercise. Yoga can be unhealthy too, if you push yourself too far.

 
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