What’s the deal with exercise?

Many people consider exercise to be an ally because it helps them stay fit and healthy. But, if you’re not taking in enough calories, whether due to dieting, starving or purging, exercise works against you by keeping the body in a continual state of deprivation. In this way, exercise is a method of purging. Exercise quells feelings of guilt, shame and self-blame about ‘indulging.’ It’s a bailout plan of sorts: the more food eaten, the more rigorous the exercise regime. Some insist that exercise is a form of self-control. It’s a way to deny the body’s need for rest, and the soul’s need to come to grips with what is lacking in their lives.

Compulsive exercise is rampant in those who with food/weight obsessions and eating disorders. In addition to traditional forms of exercise, like running or playing sports, many people who are obsessed with food and weight seem to be in perpetual motion: running up and down stairs, doing sit ups in the middle of the night, taking the longest possible walking route they can find, standing when they should be sitting, and even swinging their legs or bouncing their knees while sitting. These are all attempts to burn calories. There is nothing healthy or fit about this kind of movement! This kind of perpetual motion sucks the joy right out of life. It hijacks your thoughts and makes you its slave.

Some people exercise to such a degree that there is little if any time left for friends, family, school, work, and other aspects of life. Some report feelings of superiority because they can exercise more than other people. Others feel a sense of power when they lose weight and those around them can’t. But let’s be honest for a minute-there is nothing superior or powerful about being driven to move to this degree. If anything, it is an illusion of control. Real control means you can start and stop what you are doing at any point in time. Trust me, if you’re engaged in this kind of movement, you can’t stop even if you want to! No one wants to be doing sit-ups at 3am!

There are health risks involved in this kind of movement. Exercising when one’s body is already depleted leads to dehydration, which causes electrolyte imbalances and heart complications. When you’re tired and weak, working out leads to injuries like sprains and fractures. A malnourished body requires more time to heal than a healthy body, and when people feel compelled to resume working out before they’re well, they are more likely to sustain even more serious injuries.

Important notes:

You can be malnourished even if your weight is normal and even if you are over your ideal body weight.

Learning about diet induced thermogenesis can help take the edge off the urge to compulsively exercise.

Things that signal there is a problem:

Taking the longest possible walking route-e.g. walking around the house to use the back door instead of going in the front.

Parking as far away as possible.

Always taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Carrying heavy items in a bag-e.g. carrying all books even when class doesn’t meet that day, putting rocks or weights in bags.

Going to the gym or out for a run when physically sick.

Skipping social events to work out.

Standing all the time (due to the erroneous belief that it burns more calories and makes a difference).

Being unwilling to eat or eat enough unless they’ve worked out.