Exercise and Eating Disorders
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Examining your relationship with exercise

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The relationship with exercise and eating disorders can be just as complicated as it is with food. 

Exercise is something that we are taught from an early age is very good for us. We know that exercise, when used appropriately, can be great for our mental health. Exercise can help us sleep better and can be used to manage stress. Exercise can even be a key factor in achieving our dream whether that is through athletic pursuits or travel adventures or simply being able to keep up with the next generation.  


So where do Exercise and Eating Disoders go wrong? 


Diet culture is very intertwined with fitness and athletics. You may have heard the popular mantra of “no days off” despite the fact that sport science teaches us that more is not always better and that we should be training smarter, not harder. This means that rest days are just as important as days we exercise.  


When exercise is used as a method to burn calories, when it is our only method of stress management, when we participate out of guilt, or if it is only being used to manipulate the body… then something needs to change.  


There will be times when exercise is not the best solution. 


In eating disorder recovery, it is common to have to take a step back or take a full break from exercise in order to repair the relationship you have with movement. This does not mean that you will never return to exercise, but it does mean that when you do, it will be in search of joyful movement instead of exercising out of obligation.  


It can be difficult to figure out when to use your discipline to stop instead of when to push through.  To help you begin exploring this debate here are some questions to consider: 

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3 questions to ask yourself about your relationship with exercise


Why are you exercising?


  • What is the driving force behind your desire to move your body?  
  • Are you worried about what you ate or your weight?  
  • Are you moving as a way to get outdoors or to be social with friends?  
  • Would you continue to exercise if you knew it would not change your weight or your appearance?  


Are you flexible with your plans to exercise?

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  • If something comes up and you don’t have time to fit in that spin class or run today, how will you react? 
  • Can you stop without feeling guilty If you are tired, run down, sick, or injured? 
  • Do you miss out on social events or time with friends instead of missing a day of training? 


How do you move?


  • Are you moving in ways that you actually enjoy?  
  • Do you love being outside or in nature for your movement?  
  • Do you love the competitive atmosphere of a fitness class or sports?  
  • Do you dread exercise or look forward to it? 


Understanding the relationship with exercise and eating disorders can be just as important as exploring your relationship with food. It is also just as rewarding and can lead to a sense of freedom when you are using exercise in a healthy way. 


You may also may want to check out these related articles about eating disorder recovery and body positivity on our blog:


Looking for more simple meal planning tips and healthy recipes for a healthier lifestyle? Sign up for our weekly newsletter for a healthy recipe of the week (and nutrition articles and videos with a balanced living philosophy to help encourage healthy habits but still save room for your favorites). Our nutrition newsletter is written by the Online / Calgary Nutritionists on our team who each hold a professional Registered Dietitian license to ensure you are getting credible advice.

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