I keep seeing eating disorder recovery stories pop up on social media sites and a theme seems to be present amongst most. Each individual has faced the challenge of overcoming their eating disorder and have done so well, as I see heartbreaking before and after photos to accompany each individual’s amazing journey towards a better and more positive life. I’m deep into their story and am in awe at how far they’ve come and what obstacles they’ve fought to get to the present day.
Suddenly the story turns into one based around fitness goals and exercise. I see this on people’s Instagram and Facebook profiles and wonder whether an addiction to exercise is equally as damaging as an addiction to being thin. Some may argue that there is no such thing as ‘too much’ exercise, or that is it is ‘better’ to be addicted to the gym than to have an eating disorder. I’m not too sure this is the case.
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The word ‘fitness’ has over 239 million tags on Instagram
Is swapping one unhealthy obsession for another, one which is so often labelled as ‘healthy’, really the answer when facing recovery? I worry that people in recovery will follow the current gym trend on social media as an excuse to exert their body to a new form of abuse, in the belief that attending the gym daily is the answer to help them get over their eating disorder. For some maybe it is.
But what if others find themselves in a new type of obsessive world where going to the gym becomes their new addictive behaviour, a substitute or disguise to calorie control and food restriction, where everyone around you seems to be encouraging your new-found love. Isn’t a better life one of a happy balance, where self-love and a healthy relationship with both food and exercise can co-exist?
I don’t trust myself in the gym yet
Over the past few months, whilst being in recovery, I have learnt a lot about myself. I know that I don’t trust myself enough yet to go to the gym without it becoming my new substitute obsession. I believe I would fall back into my restrictive behaviours surrounding food, and would use the gym as an excuse to eat ‘better’ or to binge and then purge in the form of over-exercise the following day. Instead I choose to focus on recovering from my eating disorder one day at a time without throwing a new component into the mix.
If you have found that exercising in a healthy manner is helping your recovery, then I applaud you. Everyone’s recovery is different and an important part of it is to discover new things on your journey.
But if you’re unsure whether you can yet trust yourself to do more exercise, then perhaps it’s better for now not to take the risk. Make sure that exercise isn’t going to become your new replacement obsession.
Amy Whittle is 22, and has been living with an eating disorder for 9 years. A few months ago, she was finally honest about it with her loved ones and is now on her challenging journey towards recovery. She started an online blog to help her and provide some positivity and motivation for others who are going through a similar thing at: https://ednosandi.blogspot.co.uk