Can I Exercise While Recovering From an Eating Disorder?

Can I Exercise While Recovering From an Eating Disorder?

Navigating life while in eating disorder recovery is a challenge. Whether it’s new eating habits or losing old patterns, there is plenty to figure out. The same applies to exercise. Exercising during eating disorder recovery can be like walking on a tight line. Learn more about compulsive exercise, whether you should exercise, and how to stay healthy during recovery.

What Is Compulsive Exercise?

While not considered an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), compulsive exercise is an issue many people struggle with, especially those diagnosed with an eating disorder. Compulsive exercise, also known as exercise addiction, involves a need to exercise despite any consequences or exhaustion.

Similar to eating disorders, compulsive exercise can be categorized as a process addiction. This usually involves compulsions that will usually harm the individual over time. With compulsive exercise, there are always possible dangers, such as injury from over-exertion, bone-density loss, heart issues, and more. It can be challenging to determine when routine exercise turns into compulsive exercise. However, there are six criteria considered when identifying compulsive exercise, including:

  1. Salience: Exercise turns into the most important aspect of daily life
  2. Conflict: Exercise creates conflict between individuals and their loved ones
  3. Euphoria: A person experiences a euphoric high when exercising
  4. Tolerance: Requires increased amounts of exercise to feel relief or high
  5. Withdrawal: Negative feelings occur when exercise is reduced (irritability/anger)
  6. Relapse: Return to harmful exercise habits after trying to cut down

Those experiencing compulsive exercise may also insist on exercising despite weather, exhaustion, illness, injuries, or other hindrances. Sometimes, individuals may only eat if they exercise or use exercise as permission to eat. Exercising to burn calories consumed may also be a common reason for constant exercise. Working out soon becomes a coping mechanism for individuals experiencing compulsive exercise.

Exercise While in Eating Disorder Recovery

It’s critical to know that compulsive exercise is often found in cases of eating disorders. According to one study, 80% of people diagnosed with restrictive anorexia also struggle with compulsive exercise. When in eating disorder recovery, resuming exercise can trigger an individual and have them resume previous unhealthy habits.

It’s easy to convince yourself that you need to exercise for your health. However, a single workout can trigger you back into the compulsive behaviors previously experienced in your eating disorder. Most professionals insist that exercise should not be incorporated into eating disorder treatment. However, when properly monitored and with honest intentions, light exercise can be healing and positive in your recovery journey.

When determining if physical activity is the right choice for you, the decision should always be made with a mental health professional. Together, you and a doctor can discuss whether you are in the right stage of your recovery to start exercising or how to efficiently monitor your activity to ensure compulsive behavior doesn’t arise.

Staying Healthy in Eating Disorder Recovery

When exercising, there are some measures to take to ensure that you aren’t pushing yourself too hard and causing harm to your body or mind. According to the National Alliance for Eating Disorders’ article “Can I Exercise During My Eating Disorder Recovery?” it’s best to understand that exercise is not mandatory and remember to remain mindful throughout the process.

By being fully aware of the hazards, you can appreciate the honest benefits of physical activity without becoming preoccupied with weight or calories. Some tips from the National Alliance for Eating Disorders for safe exercise during eating disorder recovery include:

  • Stay in tune with your body
  • Know when it’s time to rest
  • Be sure to stay fueled and hydrated throughout the day (before, during, and after exercising)
  • Do low-intensity exercises or shorter sessions of physical activity
  • Know when to take a day or more off
  • Keep strong social support to ensure that you’re staying accountable for your mental health

Being aware of your body and knowing when to rest is vital to staying on track in your recovery. Consulting a mental health professional is the best way to ensure you’re approaching physical activity with a healthy mindset that won’t derail your eating disorder recovery.

Finding Nutritional Guidance

At Avalon Malibu, our nutritionists will provide an assessment followed by continued nutritional guidance to ensure your health is in the right direction. When struggling with an eating disorder, your concept of nutrition and eating are negatively affected, and it takes time to unlearn those fragmented habits. With our nutritionist, you can regain a passion for food, eating, and nourishing your body.

Our world-class chefs provide healthy meals with organic and local ingredients to ensure your nutrition is improved during eating disorder recovery. We want you to learn healthier eating habits that will remain consistent throughout treatment. Along with dietary support, we also provide nutritional assessments and guidance to guarantee healthy eating throughout your recovery. With feedback from our nutritionists, you can learn how to acquire and maintain healthy living practices. Healthy eating habits and weight recovery are our priorities when it comes to treatment.

Eating disorder recovery is a fragile journey that requires in-depth attention and guidance. At Avalon Malibu, our expert staff promises to prioritize your recovery and mental health. Whether in our residential treatment or intensive outpatient program, you or your loved one will receive the best eating disorder treatment possible. Our therapeutic approaches include a mixture of scientifically-proven therapies and holistic treatments, such as art and writing therapy. If you’re ready to start a promising journey to mental and physical health, then reach out to our compassionate staff. We can help you decide on which treatment program is right for you. To learn more about Avalon Malibu’s eating disorder treatment, call us at (844) 857-5992.

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