The Question Of Excessive Exercise

I know I am prone to over-exercising. I purge through exercise, I also use it to self-soothe, as a fairly feeble attempt at improving my body image and to feel physically exhausted to the point that I will be able to sit still without jittering to the tune of my anxieties. I realize that I abuse my body through movement in the same way that others abuse themselves with drugs or self-harm or toxic relationships. Yet, I can’t quite pinpoint where to draw the line between appropriate movement/exercise and overexercise. I’ve been so focused on the food element of recovery, which is still a struggle, that I’ve often overlooked my other behaviors. Anorexia is such a dangerous disorder that there really isn’t time to carefully pick through one issue at a time – I need to approach both of them now, or I will end up back in treatment, I’m aware of and terrified by this reality. So where is that line in the sand? Is it flexible? Will it ever seem natural? Will I someday know when to stop? How do I reach that ambiguous state of “balance”? I’m not doing badly with exercise, it’s just been on my mind a lot. With the threat of returning to Denver looming large in my mind I’m sticking to yoga and walking, but the urge to run or bike is strong and continually compounded by anxiety. My family and I leave for Chicago (for my cousin’s New Year’s Eve wedding!) tomorrow. This presents a whole bundle of worries – I have an awesome (and tight) dress for the occasion; I’ll be seeing both sides of my family; I don’t know when, where, what and with whom I’ll be eating; can I exercise a bit? I’m not asking for permission to over do it, I just know that my anxiety will be unbearable if I can’t blow off some steam this weekend. When my anxiety is unbearable, I very quickly become unbearable.I can read endless pages about moderating overexercise, but when I try to put it into practice it feels like I am attempting to tie myself to the railroad tracks – panic, dread and resistance are among the things I feel. My eating disorder came on slowly and continues to change – every time you slay one head of this monster it grows two new ones. I began with restriction as a young girl, ten years later I still tend towards restriction and then ask my body to purge everything it has consumed through sweat and achy muscles. I realize this is a problem, but why can I not quite fix it? I’m getting closer; there’s less denial these days than there’s been in the past and I am actually capable of taking a day off once in a while and I (almost) consider yoga to be exercise. I am aware of the pain and fear compulsive overexercise has caused me, why then do I still value it as a coping mechanism? I tried so hard to value myself as an athlete and a runner, but it has turned against me. How do I find that sense of worth again without it consuming me? I am a good runner, in moderation I could probably improve. With too much I know, in my rational mind, that I will end up unable to run for good.Maybe this is the first step – admitting what a struggle it is. Putting it on paper and referring to it often in order to avoid returning to my cozy den of denial.

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