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In which I begin to understand the depths of my exercise issues

Posted Apr 04 2009 11:06pm
I've been wearing The Boot for several days now, strapping it on each morning, and only taking it off for bed. This has also meant full exercise restricting so that my foot can heal, which is far tougher than dealing with the quirks of having the lower half of your leg covered in plastic and Velcro.

My mood this week has taken a definite downturn, without the (fleeting) boost it received from all of those endorphins. And I feel restless, edgy, anxious...lazy. All of these are signs of exercise addiction, which is hard for me to accept. I don't want to believe it, but that doesn't make it any less true.

I fit the profile of a person who would struggle with compulsive exercise, not the least due to the compulsions in other areas of my life. And yes, this does appear to be true in others, as researchers have suggested that AN with compulsive exercise shows many characteristics of OCD.* Furthermore, people who exercise in response to negative moods show more eating disordered behavior and psychopathology than those who don't.

Which makes sense. That endorphin rush doesn't last forever, but our memory of it lasts quite a bit longer. The solution? Exercise more, again, harder. And eventually, the system spirals out of control and you end up with a busted foot.

Of course, lots of people regularly perform high levels of exercise (professional athletes come to mind), that don't result in exercise dependence or addiction. What seems to separate these people from those with an exercise addiction is this:

The experience of intense guilt when exercise is missed and exercising solely or primarily for reasons of weight, shape or physical attractiveness, were the exercise behaviours that most clearly differentiated between women with eating disorders and healthy women.

Ummm...check and check.

This is clearly something I have to deal with and figure out a way to fit in healthy activity without overdoing it. I will probably always have to be vigilant about my activity levels from now on, just like I have to for food. Right now, I'm doing okay with not exercising because I have The Boot and there's this external validation. But I worry about the emotional backlash once I get the all-clear.

There's time for that later, and also time to figure out a way to cope with that. I think it's time for a new hobby.

*If anyone has access to the full text of this article and wouldn't mind passing it along to me at carrie [the little at symbol] edbites [dot] com, that would be great. Sorry for the convoluted email address, I just get heaps of spammers trying to sell me drugs for another condition that can be abbreviated "ED."
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