The following is a guest post by Clare Brady of Fitting It All In The views expressed do not necessarily reflect that of Exercise Basics
Hi everyone! My name is Clare and I blog at Fitting It All In. On it I share my attempts at balancing life in the working world and write about my favorite workouts, healthy meal ideas, outfits, amongst other rambling. Currently I live in Dallas, Texas and work full time as an account executive, seeing clients as a Certified Holistic Health Coach on the side. Please pop over and say hi!
I started my blog almost two years ago as a way to join a community that helped me recover from my own eating disorder. I battled anorexia in high school and college, and after getting to a healthy weight I struggled with binge eating. Reading about other women that were eating big complete meals and challenging their bodies with exercise while still being healthy and happy really inspired me to do the same. Eventually this passion for wellness expanded beyond the blog as I studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and graduated this past April as a health coach.
Today I’d like to talk about a controversial topic - the role exercise plays in eating disorder recovery. Please note that while I am a certified health coach, I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or personal trainer.
I think the first important piece to consider is what type of eating disorder you have. Exercise obviously exerts energy and burns calories, so it fits totally differently into the life of someone who under eats than someone who overeats.
When I was in the depths of my anorexia, I stopped exercising at the gym. My nutritionist (and mother, who is a pediatrician) allowed me to continue one day a week of dance classes and my low-intensity tennis practices under the condition that I was eating more to make up those calories burned. This helped me maintain sort of normalcy in my life while everything else in my head was kind of crazy.
While I appreciate that I was allowed to continue that part of my life, I don’t necessarily think it is right for everyone. I agreed to the higher calorie intake and continued to gain weight, otherwise my privilege would have been taken away. In addition, dance classes and tennis weren’t forms of exercise where I could obsessively count the calories I was burning, so I did them for fun instead of as a form of control. After all, exercise addiction is a problem too.
For those that are battling anorexia and are severely underweight, the first urgent concern is gaining enough weight back that their lives are no longer at risk and their bodies can function properly.
Exercise, particularly going to the gym with the intention of burning calories, detracts from that goal. I would assume that many other doctors or nutritionist would agree that exercise should be banned or limited until the person has gotten to a healthy weight and a healthy mindset. At that point, adding exercise such as weight training can be crucial in helping to build muscle and bone strength that may have been compromised during the eating disorder.
Dealing with binge eating or an eating disorder that has led you to be overweight is an entirely different scenario, as exercise can help get you to a healthier weight and provide stress relief. When I was struggling with binge eating I ended up 30 pounds overweight, and learning to really push myself with exercise played a key role in my recovery. For me, it was starting to run and training for a half marathon that taught me how to fuel my body well and treat it with respect, but it could take a different form with someone else. For more on how running changed my eating, read my guest post on MizFit.
I hope that provided some insight into a part of exercise and health that isn’t always discussed. If you have any questions feel free to email me at email@example.com. Thanks, Brandon, for the opportunity to guest post!