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Exercise craving?

Posted Jan 08 2010 8:19pm
A few days ago, I was in a sporting goods store with my mom, helping her pick out a mat for her new Pilates class. We passed by the elliptical machines, and I thought I saw one with an iPod dock and (get this!) built in speakers. So I stepped in the little foot thingies--I'm assuming there's an actual name, but it totally escapes me right now--to get a closer look at the iPod dock.

This was not a smart idea. I didn't exercise in the store, other than about a half a stride to steady myself on the foot thingies, but since then, I have been craving exercise machines like, well, like a junky.

Hi, my name is Carrie, and I'm an exercise addict.

I haven't ridden my bike at all this week, as the weather has been freakishly cold, even for this Midwestern native. I started Pilates classes, which are fun and challenging in ways that my cardio marathon sessions never were. Those sessions were a question of endurance, and part of the hook of working out was just to see how hard I could push myself on so little food. My Pilates classes are challenging in that it's hard for me to coordinate positioning my body, doing the breathing, and everything else that goes with it.

The interesting thing is that I'm not craving a bike ride (although I do wish the weather would warm up because I miss riding) or an extra Pilates class. No, I'm missing that damn elliptical machine. All I can think about right now is that machine and the stupid little red flashing lights and yes, that having an iPod dock and speakers would be awfully fun. Except that fun wouldn't last for very long before the trouble started. In a sense, I suppose that being so particularly attached to the machines is a good thing because it doesn't rule out other forms of activity. It just means that I probably shouldn't be setting foot in a gym anytime soon.

The other interesting thing is that the exercise cravings are a (relatively) new phenomena with my eating disorder. Before, I used to mostly miss restricting, or occasionally, purging. My ED-related "urges" were mostly to skip a meal. Not that I don't have those urges now, but it seems that this past relapse altered some of the behaviors that I find myself missing somehow. A lot of it is the exercise and the endorphin rush, but some of these feelings of "missing" exercise has to do with both the routine I had in place for so long to accommodate all of the exercising and the self-identification I had as Carrie the Exercise Freak. I miss the utter certainty I had in knowing exactly what I was going to be doing at every moment in time. I'm far from bored, but my schedule has been much freer since starting to do freelance writing full time.

The identity issue is another thorny one. I don't identify as an eating disordered person and nothing else, but the eating disorder has been such a part of my life for so long that I often feel lost trying to navigate my way through life without having anorexia as my Plan B. This is perhaps not one of the most savory thoughts I've ever had--nor is it particularly flattering of my character in general, but it is what it is--but I miss the feelings of "virtue" I had when I was uber into exercise. I liked knowing how mentioning one of my several daily workouts would give me a social pat on the back. Yes, it was irritating because I knew I wasn't exercising because I wanted to, but it also provided a shred of self-esteem for me. Maybe it was a half of a Milk Bone when I needed a can of Alpo, but nonetheless, it was self-esteem. When I seemed to screw up everything else I did, at least I could be really good at exercising and losing weight. Also losing my mind.

I don't know if there is a solution to these exercise cravings, other than to keep avoiding machines, maintain my activity at a level my treatment team approves of, and trying not to judge myself too much for having these cravings. One step is that I'm naming and admitting these cravings for all the world to see, and I think I need to accept that missing my ED behaviors in a sense is a normal part of recovery. It's not freakish and doesn't make me a bad recovery advocate and doesn't mean I'm doomed to have these thoughts for the rest of my life. It just makes me real.
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