The day has arrived when your treatment team (including you of course) agree exercise can be introduced. Abusing exercise, exercise obsession and compulsive exercise are common symptoms of an eating disorder and yet it can be reintroduced during recovery. Exercise may be the most easily distorted and manipulated behavior known to ED. Fortunately, by utilizing support systems, incorporating strategies with honesty, exercise can be enjoyed again.
Here are my top 10 suggestions for introducing exercise in recovery successfully.
GET PERMISSION. This is number one for a reason. Permission and guidelines are necessary fundamental steps. Communicate with your team your desires and options for activity. They are there to protect your recovery and provide honest, objective, supportive feedback. Trust.
USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM. All the time if needed. Find someone who supports your recovery goals. Avoid friends or family you feel competitive with. Confide in them that you have limitations on your activity and you need help sticking to the guidelines.
“SANDWICH” YOUR ACTIVITY BETWEEN TWO COMMITMENTS. Avoid exercise when you have several hours of spare time, this can lend itself to going past your time restriction. Try to makeplans after exercise to help maintain your time limit.
MAKE A SCHEDULE. If your challenge is obsession over when to exercise and which work out to do, create a schedule, try not to deviate, check motive honestly if you want to change the plan, or ask your team.
DAYS OFF. Rest days are essential for the body to heal and to stave off the obsession to exercise compulsively. Be sure to plan something else on those days. If your schedule is to exercise from 5-6pm after work, book a pedicure, coffee date or grocery shop etc. Do not bring any work out gear with you…just in case urges occur.
CHOOSE SOCIAL. Social activities have benefits beyond the physical. Try to engage more in these. Join a non-competitive group.
MODERATE CLASSES. Be cautious, classes can be strenuous. Check the length of the group, let the instructor know if you need to leave early. Classes can be a good way to limit time and have fun. Go with a friend. Get in and get out…avoid changing rooms, scales, lingering at the gym.
YOGA CAN BE STRENUOUS. Most yoga classes are a work out! Opt for “restorative” or “gentle” yoga classes or introduction levels. “Hot yoga”, yoga blends are quite strenuous, check with your treatment team first.
TRY SOMETHING NEW. Returning to an sport you used to play often or competitively, may trigger the obsession/compulsion. Learn something new, maybe with new people. Recovery means change...for the better.
COMPENSATE. In most cases you'll be asked to increase your nutrition on exercise days. Your body will require additional nutrition and compensating is a way to challenge the ED voice that pushes you to exercise just to burn calories. Muscle growth and tone cannot develop without adequate nutrition. If your goal is to become stronger and healthier, you must meet your nutritional needs.
Also, I am very fortunate to have recently hired an assistant, Kayla Sabatini. I have worked with Kayla in the clinical setting for several years, and she has tremendous work ethic. Kayla will be helping me with reminders, scheduling, bookkeeping and assorted administrative tasks. She will likely contact you by phone/ text or email.
If you have any concerns regarding this, please do not hesitate to let me know.