The Recovery Bean
How to exercise after recovery
Today I wanted to hop on and talk a bit about exercise in Eating Disorder Recovery. Every person's relationship with exercise is different, and depending on it’s role in your Eating Disorder it may be something you have had to cut out or reduce during your recovery. This is because exercise addiction can go hand in hand with an Eating Disorder, and we can easily fall into disordered attitudes of working out to change our bodies or to compensate for what we eat.
In my recovery I stopped exercising all together despite my long standing love for Netball. This is because I knew that my motivations were wrong and I wanted to avoid both further damage to my health, and ruining my love of sport. I stand by the fact that this was the right decision for me, as having allowed myself the space to recover, I am now able to approach movement with a healthier mindset. In this post I therefore want to discuss when and how you can start exercising again (if you want to!), and some rules to follow to ensure it doesn't become toxic again.
I have delayed my reintroduction to sport for quite a while, both because I have been unable to rejoin a netball team due to lockdown, and because I wanted to be sure I was at a place in my recovery where I was ready to. By the latter, I don’t just mean at a “healthy weight” - I mean mentally fit to approach movement with the right mindset, and the ability to recognise any signs of the Eating Disorder creeping back in. I also needed to be certain that if I did spot that things were getting a bit out of hand I would be strong enough to put in place the opposite actions needed such as reducing my exercise and increasing my intake.
I knew I was in this place as the frequency of my disordered thoughts had vastly reduced, and any time they did hit me I was able to almost instantly overcome them and not act on them.
My first steps towards joyful movement were discovering what made me and my body feel good. After however long of using exercise as punishment this can seem strange and unnatural, so try different things out and give everything a fair shot! Personally, I started off with yoga as it has always been recommended to me for it’s mental benefits, and despite having spent the majority of my life thinking this was nonsense, I figured it was worth a try. I actually really enjoyed it for the first few weeks, and got into the routine of stretching most mornings and nights. In order to ensure this didn’t become obsessive I would switch up the routines I did, and make sure that when I searched on YouTube for new ones, I only selected those that advertised inner peace, or mindfulness, whilst avoiding any that were targeting a specific muscle group or body part. This is because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing it in a bid to order my appearance.
Eventually I grew tired of these (and didn’t beat myself up for it or force myself to move when I wasn’t in the mood to) and so decided to give running a go. I downloaded the ‘Couch to 5k’ app and completed about 4 runs before I twisted my ankle and had to stop! Previously this would have seemed like the end of the world to me and I would have instantly found a replacement activity, but this time I chose to respect that my body was injured and give it the rest it needed to heal.
I fear that this is basically becoming a diary entry, and so I’m going to summarise my rules for exercising after recovery and then sign off :)
Fuel your body - exercise uses up energy and so you will need to eat extra on the days you move more, and most likely the following day too in order to help repair your muscles. If this sounds scary to you then you’re not ready to exercise just yet.
Don’t take progress pics/ body checks - If you feel the urge to take pictures of your body before and after you exercise then again, you’re not ready. It suggests that you are only doing it in order to alter your appearance, and especially following recovery from an Eating Disorder it is important that this is not your main motivator.
Filter the workouts you complete - If you’re using YouTube to find your workouts then you have to avoid anything that promises to enhance or alter a specific body part. For example, don’t follow any routines aimed at giving you “a peachy bum” or “a flat stomach” as not only is it false advertising, but it is a warning sign that you are moving for the wrong reasons again.
Avoid a strict routine - It is likely you are predisposed to become obsessed with any exercise you complete, so make sure you take more rest days than maybe you believe you need, and don’t stick to a strict schedule. If you ever feel guilty for taking a break, see it as a sign that you need to make a much longer one in order to refocus on your recovery.
You've got this everyone!
More from me soon,
Mais// The Recovery Bean <3