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A Workout Obsession Isn't My Cure

TW: Eating disorders, compulsive exercise




So it took me a while to articulate exactly why, but I’m disappointed in this article from one of my favorite weightlifting sites, LiftBigEatBig (same TWs apply):


I was diagnosed with bulimia this fall, and I’m having success with recovery so far after years of untreated disordered eating and body issues. Yay for insurance coverage and a supportive partner! I also have been lifting weights (intermittently) since I was a preteen, and started getting serious again this summer. I used to compensate for any binge eating with excessive exercise, rationalizing anything but severe caloric restriction with vomiting or hours of cardio. When I first saw the title of this article, I was pretty stoked. I had many of the same struggles as the author.

However, as I read further, our solutions to these problems diverged. I personally think it is a terrible idea to replace one form of disordered eating with orthorexia, binge eating, or any other compulsive (lifting) behavior! It’s easy to do, but in the end you’re just trading one symptom for another, without fully addressing the underlying issues.

“So now I count and track, just like I once did.”

“I’ll probably always have this proclivity to control my intake.”

Exactly. Physically, she may be healthier – which is awesome and important! – but mentally/emotionally, the same issues are still there. I can’t look at this article as the success story it purports to be as much as a work-in-progress. In my own recovery, I am trying very hard to shake the concept of food as a reward for an arbitrary amount of physical activity AND vice versa.

With the blessing of my therapist, I will be competing in my first Strongman meet this Saturday, which means that this is my deload week. AKA no weights until the day of the competition, to allow my body adequate rest from training. If I was using lifting as an addictive replacement for my disordered eating, how would I cope with a week of no exercise? If I was competing in a weight class that required me to lose weight (I’m not, but this may be a challenge to work through in the future), would I be able to do so in a healthy manner? The skills I’m learning in my recovery process are allowing me to honor my hunger, eat mindfully, and heal from all the related issues, rather than simply swap one vice for another. Lifting can be great, but it’s not a cure-all, and definitely brings some new problems of its own.


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