Yes, you can be addicted to fitness. When I was going through my compulsive fitness phase I always justified my hours in the gym with, “there are worse addictions I could have…”
I needed fitness to transition out of my eating disorder that is a fact. When living a life controlled by an addiction it was extremely challenging for me not to act on my old habits. I used fitness as a crutch to survive. It is very common for people with eating disorder to transition into what they probably call a “love” for fitness. We also see people who never had an eating disorder begin to develop one due to their new relationship with fitness.
Why is fitness so addicting? Here are some factors of why it can become an addiction:
- Accepted in our society. No one ever judged me for working out BUT if I told them I ate a pizza and then purge is you bet I would be getting some concerned looks.
- Encouraged: we are applauded- we even brag about what we can do in the gym. It builds our ego’s. If you are moving on from and eating disorder your eating disorder ego will love this new replacement.
- Endorphins – when you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling the body, similar to that of morphine… that is no joke my friends. AKA runners high is a real thing.
- Physical change: we get addicted to seeing our body change – for the good or the bad.
- Numbing: exercise can numb our mind to what crappy thing might be going on in our life. What might have once been an escape for just an hour turned in to a necessity.
- Stress: fitness reduces stress and helps the mind to relax.
- Escapism: Some people need to escape the real world be alone (distance running for example). Other people need community and to be around others (Crossfit for example). We create the environment we need for what we are going though. Escapism is similar to numbing but for some if part of creating the routine..
- Routine: It give you purpose something to do on a daily bases. This give me purpose.
If you are an athlete with an eating disorder (like I was I will post about the complications with that soon!) Today I want to leave you with just some warning signs to look out for.
I would like to note that if you are a top-level athlete these don’t apply to you- you are payed to be on a team or pay a college sport. BUT I would like to say I trained for a figure show in 2010 to help cure my eating disorder and it only made it worse. Get real with yourself here… Fitness is awesome but so is being happy. Next week I will post things you can do to help if you have a poor relationship with fitness!
- Needed more and more of the activity to achieve its initial effects.
- Withdrawal: Increased agitation, fatigue, and tension when not exercising.
- Restrict food when not exercising
- Lack of control: difficulty scaling back the duration and intensity of exercise
- Time spent: how many hours a day or week do you spend exercising? How much time do you spend thinking about your next workout?
- Reduction of other pursuits: AKA bailing on social engagements, cancelling plans, showing up late to things due to your exercise routine
- Continuance despite injury
It took me five years into my recovery before I was able to address my addiction to fitness. I was completely depending on my need to workout. I planned my workouts into my daily calendar and would never miss a workout. I was working out two hours a day and only took one day off because I physically was unable to move. I competed in CrossFit in 2014 and 2015. I was obsessed with being able to get stronger. I replaced my obsession with loosing weight with being able to lift weight. Yes, it was an addiction I could live with but, my life around me was suffering. I was too tired to go out and be social. My sex drive decreased and I was starting to get depressed from fatigue and hormonal imbalances. The thing I was holding on to was I was able to eat with ease because I was working out so much… I traded in one addiction for another…
All of the above points I made applied to my life. I was so stuck in it and did not realize it till I got surgery on my wrist- the most beautiful gift I was given… Having surgery and NOT being able to workout brought up a lot for me. The one thing I realized was I do not need fitness to survive. I am strong and cable of life without any addiction.
Follow along for my next post will be able ways to over come your fitness addiction!