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7 warning signs that your exercise is becoming destructive
by Harriet Frew on August 31st, 2017

7 warning signs that your exercise is becoming destructive
 
We know that it is helpful to move more and make exercise part of our daily lives. There are numerous physical benefits to our cardio-vascular system; managing weight; strengthening bones and muscles and reducing the risk of developing diabetes.  The mental benefits are marked also, with improved body image; reduced anxiety; enhanced mood and self-esteem, plus meeting others and engaging socially.  So for most people in the western world, moving more and engaging our bodies in activity is profoundly helpful.
 
However, if you are struggling with your relationship with food, then exercise can start to be used in a destructive way – from pushing your body to exhausting limits when you already feel tired; to being used as a stick to beat yourself with when you are unable to be active, or becoming the sole factor you use in assessing your self-worth.
 
Here are 7 warning signs that  your exercise is not so healthy anymore: -
 
1. You can’t take time off from the gym without feeling guilty or anxious. You constantly worry about potential gaps in activity days ahead. 

2. You instantly FEEL fatter or bigger when you miss a gym session, even when logically you know this probably isn’t possible. The feelings are intense and hard to bear. 

3. Your sense of worth is directly related to the amount of activity you have done. If you are highly active, you feel good. If you haven’t achieved your activity quota, you feel bad. 

4. Your primary motivation for exercising is to burn calories. You train to eat, rather than the other way round. 

5. You compare yourself relentlessly to others at the gym, frequently feeling negative about your body image. 

6. No amount of exercise feels good enough. You have to do a certain number of reps, burn enough calories or lift specific numbers of weights to feel okay. 

7. You feel constantly exhausted from exercise, but feel unable to take a day off. You have lost the joy of movement; it now feels like an obligation. 
 
If you recognise yourself in the above, having awareness is the first point of change.  Be kind and compassionate with yourself, rather than being harsh and judgemental. Take a step back and be curious about ‘why’ exercise has become problematic for you. Maybe you are not feeling good enough about yourself in some way? You are trying to feel better by pushing your body to unhealthy extremes?
 
Think about working to approach exercise for the joy of physical movement and for appreciating what your body can do for you. If you feel very stuck in being able to change your attitude towards exercise, it could be a time to seek support with this through counselling. Counselling can help you understand why exercise has become an unhealthy coping strategy. You can also be supported to make changes and adopt a healthier approach to managing physical activity and improving self-esteem.
 
 
 


Posted in Anxiety, Body image, Change, Eating, Eating disorder, Exercise, Feeling fat, Habit, Motivation and change, Self-care, Self-compassion, Self-esteem, Thoughts    Tagged with over-exercise, compulsive exercise, exhaustion, tired, anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, body image, self-esteem, self-compassion


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