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  • Writer's pictureEmma Carpenter

How do I form a healthy relationship with exercise again?

The addiction that wouldn't stop.

I have always been a sporty person, I have played netball since the age of 8 and was always in all the sports teams. Me and my brother used to be out on our bikes after school and it made me happy. I get asked a lot when did this all change? How did you form a positive relationship with exercise again?

Well when my eating disorder started to take a grip of my life so did my obsession for exercise. As soon as I woke up my day started and that started with exercise, I needed to keep my step count above 15000 everyday if not I would have a panic attack. I wouldn't walk to school I would run and this voice in my head that I spoke about in my other blog (Click here to read) took a grip and wouldn't allow me to stop. I remember my summer holiday before I was admitted into hospital, I had to swim 100 lengths of the pool in the morning and evening for the whole 2 weeks holiday...that is not a healthy relationship with exercise.

When I was finally admitted to hospital just over a week before Christmas the doctor told me that the reason I was still alive (my heart was beating 11 bpm) was the fact I was so fit and my heart muscles were strong due to this, otherwise I would of been dead. Did this make me stop exercising I hear you say? Short answer no, getting everything taken away from me, caused me to spiral out of control and I ended up running up and down my room all day like a caged animal. Some points my blood pressure was so high they actually gave me medication to put me to sleep. The urge and obsession to exercise was too strong for me to say no too. I was miserable, knackered and didn't want to be here anymore. If this was what my life was going to look like I would rather not be here. The turning point was once again when I started medication which I have mentioned in a lot of my blogs (Click here for my main blog page).

So now you know my back story on how obsessed I was with exercise, I am going to answer the question which is " How do I form a healthy relationship with exercise again?"

It wasn't easy and it took me 10 years to conquer this however I managed to do it and I used my tool kit. How many of you got told by a consultant that 'you would be a revolving door' or 'you will never form a healthy relationship with food or exercise again?' This was me, the amount of times I got told this and honestly I started to believe what they were saying. However no one can define which path you choose, you are your own destiny. The only thing you need to do is dig deep, prepare to fail multiple times but get back up kicking and screaming.

If you want to form a healthy relationship with exercise again you need to use my 5 steps once you are physically well enough to start trying again.

  1. Experiment with different types of movements: What did you enjoy doing before you got engulfed by your eating disorder? Is there sport you always wanted to try but your ED stopped you from doing this?

  2. Notice how the movement makes you feel: Are you doing this exercise as you enjoy it? Are you doing it as ED says you are enjoying it? Did you enjoy this before your ED?

  3. Be Flexible: Don't set time frames. sometimes life gets in the way and you won't be able to do that sport for that day, Don't set times for how long you are exercising, Exercise for the amount of time you enjoy for.

  4. Give yourself permission to rest: Listen to your body.If your body is fatigued that means you need a rest day. Your body deserves to rest and repair.

  5. Be patient: It takes time to form a healthy relationship with exercise again. For some people you need a complete break from exercise for a while. If you notice your ED creeping in regarding exercise take a step back. Start again.

For me I started to train with others and if I am being completely honest I did not trust myself or the ED around exercise. I would highly recommend you seek a pe teacher or personal trainer like myself who knows your back story, This way they will know when you are enjoying it or if your ED is enjoying it. I work with a lot of clients who have had eating disorders and I always work with a rep range, As if I said "do squats for 30 seconds" your ED will sometimes take advantage of this and you will go all out till you physically can't go anymore. Reps doesn't allow the ED to creep in. Also as a personal trainer with lived experience I know the signs and triggers when the eating disorder is creeping in or when I can tell you are fatigued but your ED has made you come. Find a trainer that knows you inside out and knows your back story so they can support you through the process. Its okay to ask for help.

Forming a healthy relationship with exercise can be done but takes time, you don't have to be labelled due to your past, I do exercise for a living now and its the best job in the world. On my off days I do absolutely nothing and I love it! Watching vampire diaries with my feet up under the duvet is the perfect day for me, Would I have thought I could of been like this when I was in the mix of my eating disorder? No, quite simply and if you are currently reading this and are in the mix of your ED let me tell you, you can do this too.

So let's recap, 'How do you form a healthy relationship with exercise again?' You use my 5 steps to forming a positive relationship with exercise which I have attached below. If this is too hard and you want to get into exercise but don't trust yourself or your ED then ask for help. It's okay to reach out to a Personal trainer, Friend, fitness instructor and tell them about your story. This way they'll know what works and what doesn't work for you. Your not failing asking for help, you are taking a step in the right direction!

So like every blog I am going to leave you with some questions to think about.

Can you form a healthy relationship with exercise again? Will you always have an obsession? Is exercise a positive or negative when it comes to mental health? Remember guys lets be honest and 'Let's keep it real"

11.5 steps to reconnecting with exercise
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