In today’s image-focused society, our relationship with exercise can sometimes become complicated, particularly for young men and women.
The BBC estimates that 1 in 10 men in gyms have a condition named ‘bigorexia’, a form of body dysmorphia that drives excessive exercise with an aim to become as muscular and lean as possible.
Workout videos on YouTube aimed at women frequently use click-bait titles such as “workout for a flat stomach” “workout that targets lower belly fat” “workout for bubble butt”. The environment we live in really pushes the idea that we should be extremely active and use exercise to strive for body ‘perfection’. It is no wonder that so many of my clients have a disordered relationship with exercise. As a registered dietitian that supports people recovering from eating disorders, I believe it’s important to assess our attitudes towards exercise to ensure it contributes positively to our overall well-being.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss the signs of a disordered relationship with exercise, explore the concept of joyful movement, and provide guidance on how to cultivate a healthy mindset. If you find yourself struggling with food and exercise, remember that seeking professional help is essential for your journey to recovery. At the end of this post, I’ll share how my services can support you in overcoming these challenges.
Signs of a Disordered Relationship with Exercise
It’s important to be aware of signs that indicate an unhealthy relationship with exercise. If you find yourself relating to any of the following, it may be time to seek help:
Compulsive exercise: Feeling driven to exercise excessively, regardless of physical exhaustion or injury.
Guilt or punishment: Associating exercise solely with guilt or the need to “burn off” calories.
Rigid routine: Being unable to deviate from an established exercise routine, even when circumstances warrant a break.
Negative body image fixation: Using exercise as a means to control or change your body shape or size.
Emotional distress: Feeling anxious, stressed, or upset if unable to engage in planned exercise sessions.
If you feel that you have one or more of the above then it is likely you have a disordered relationship with exercise. Perhaps reflect on what you want your future relationship with exercise to look like.
Understanding Joyful Movement
Joyful movement is about finding pleasure, satisfaction, and fulfilment in physical activity. It shifts the focus from strict rules and goals to embracing activities that bring genuine joy and benefit our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Engaging in joyful movement helps to create a positive relationship with exercise, one that supports overall physical and mental health.
Cultivating a Healthy Mindset
To cultivate a healthy relationship with exercise, consider the following practices:
Intuitive movement: Listen to your body’s needs and engage in activities that feel enjoyable and energising.
Set realistic goals: Focus on the process rather than solely the outcome. Embrace progress rather than perfection.
Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself and celebrate your achievements, regardless of exercise intensity or duration.
Diversify your activities: Explore various forms of movement to find what truly brings you joy and suits your preferences.
Satisfy your inner child: Movement can be a place to engage in child-like fun and connect with the activities we enjoyed in childhood.
Make adequate rest a priority: Allowing yourself time to really rest, this also means non-active rest.
Put down the fitbit: Assess the role of fitness trackers in how you view your movement.
Seek support: Consult with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional who specialises in eating disorder recovery and can guide you through the process.
Take the First Step
If you’re struggling with a disordered relationship with food and exercise, know that you don’t have to face it alone. Professional support is crucial for your journey towards recovery.
As a registered dietitian specialising in eating disorder recovery, I provide personalised guidance and support to help individuals like you establish a healthy relationship with food and exercise.
You can book a free call with me below or get in touch with me here.