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(More) tips needed

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    What are some techniques to deal with exercise obsessions? I realize I have talked about this before, but I really need to put a stop to this. I am wasting a lot of time obsessing… I am scaling back a bit right now, but I can sometimes spend hours thinking about exercise, looking for new routines, etc. This is pretty annoying considering how well I have been doing with food. I just feel like this is the last demon that is really holding me back from freedom. I took an off day today, and will commit to at least one off day a week. My therapist and I set up a sort of plan… five normal training days, one yoga day, and one off day. I know this may still sound like a lot, but it is a big step for me. I wish we had hiking trails or something around where I live, that way I could get out with my fiance and make it more of a social thing. However, no hiking trails nearby AT ALL.

    mighty m

    Congrats on your progress so far! It really is progress on the food front. I guess what I wrote below are all “logical” reasons not to obsess. But if obsession were logical, it wouldn’t be obsession right? Seems like the only real way to break an obsession is with persistent distraction, but perhaps some of this “logic” will prepare your mind to implement a distraction strategy to break the habit.

    I — A time I was obsessed with exercise was after I had injured myself & was very, very anxious to come back from it as soon as possible. My physical therapist gave me a rule of thumb about strength building, which if I remember correctly was: It takes at least 6 (she might’ve said 4 or 8, but you get the idea) weeks to build real, new strength. You might build skill at an exercise faster, but it takes that long to really get the strength benefit.

    In other words, her message was, be patient. If you have a good (not “the best”) program/plan, persist for at least that long and you will see gains. It’s an organic process of the organism, that can’t be rushed along by the mind.

    Of course, I DID try to rush it along quite often. And it was always counterproductive. I made my best gains when I slacked and allowed extra rest.

    II – Recovery is just as much a part of fitness-building as the “exercise” itself is. Exercise stresses the body; recovery builds it back stronger. Without the recovery part, the exercise part is pointless or even destructive. Don’t underestimate recovery time, either: the Body By Science people recommend a whole week after weightlifting, although 1/2 a week seems common, too. I’m just some rando on the internet, but you could probably cut your “active training” days down to 3, maybe even just 2.

    III – Regarding the good enough program, since you mentioned looking for new routines, etc: Despite all the trainers etc trying to put their own “brand” on it, it’s just not that deep. A person could probably go for walks plus do some squats and pushups, and could have decent functional fitness for life with just that. And when it comes time to try new things, remember it takes 2 months to “outgrow” any current routine, anyway, as above, so there’s no urgency to know more, faster. All the information you could ever want will be there for you when you need it.

    IV – Is there a fun or functional physical activity that could substitute for some of those 5 days, like gardening or dancing or bowling or renting a paddleboat? Then you’d be able to put your mind on that activity, and get exercise as a side benefit, rather than focusing on the exercise itself.

    Hopefully something in all that will be a little useful!


    @BauerPower – that volume might still be high for you, though I recognize the impulse to want to stay active, and defer to the plan you’ve worked out with your therapist.

    I like mighty m’s suggestion to consider some sort of active pastime that would be fun and fulfill that desire to move around. That way, you can continue to be active, but reduce the likelihood of overtraining. SRecreational sports allow for growth that is not just fitness based, but skill and competency based. SO it can be fulfilling while not being overly taxing.


    @BauerPower – Regarding your specific question about obsessions: my observation is that obsessions are typically coupled with compulsions where the compulsions are thought to relieve some of the anxiety and unpleasantness of the obsessions. The problem with this pattern of complying with compulsions to relieve obsessions is that it creates a positive reinforcement loop that gives rise to more obsession. Therefore, I truly believe that the best way (and perhaps the only way short of a lobotomy) to resolve obsessions is to short circuit the loop by refusing to comply with the compulsions. This is the essence of the leading therapies for addressing OCD including CBT-ERP and ACT. As someone recovering from ED I expect you already recognize the truth of this in your own experience as it relates to food. So my suggestion is that the same applies to exercise obsessions or any other obsessions – the most effective way of which I am aware to resolve the situation is to refuse to engage in the compulsive activity. In this case, I am guessing/assuming that the compulsive activity is exercise. That’s probably not what you were hoping to hear. And it’s just my opinion (plus the expressed opinion of a lot of other people who have successfully dealt with these sorts of things) so you are free to disregard it. However, you asked the question, and that is my honest answer. I suspect that if you chose to do absolutely no “exercise” (aside from, perhaps, light, casual, socially-oriented walking for very short intervals) for several months then you would probably get much clearer on this whole subject for yourself. It might sound like a scary idea, but then consider what it might be like to truly be free from compulsory exercise – to be free to love yourself as you are no matter what. That sounds pretty good to me. The thing about obsessions is this: they are only thoughts. I know it *seems* like something more serious, but if you really take a look I’m sure you’ll notice that there is no substance to them. I have decades of experience with obsessions. I know that they can loom large and seem very terrifying. Even just yesterday I had a rough day in terms of a repeating unpleasant thought. But the difference for me between now and the past is that I have enough experience after a little more than a year of challenging the hell out of obsessions that I know that they are just thoughts, even if they are repetative and unpleasant thoughts. They have no power of their own. So now when thoughts repeat I just see them for what they are. There is space around the thoughts, even the obsessive thoughts. I don’t have to take them seriously. It is a much more enjoyable way for me to experience life.


    mighty m- great ideas and points! I would love to find something recreational… I really need to start seriously looking.

    Rob- I used to play volleyball competitively and loved it, so maybe that is something to look into!

    J-lo- Thanks for your reply. I do have actual OCD, and I am familiar with the techniques. Ideally, I should have ceased exercise when I started ED recovery, however I did not and although I have GREATLY reduced my exercise, it still needs to be reduced. I understand the loop you talked about, and see it play out in many areas of my life!

    I have cut out almost all plyometrics, all HIIT, cut down exercise to below an hour, and I STILL have body pains. Currently my hips ache, and some other joints as well. It just doesn’t make sense. Before it was like I could do anything with no side effects, and now I am at a healthy weight and feeling really OLD!

    mighty m

    Re body pains, I haven’t had that particular type of body pain before, but I have read that it’s common during ED recovery, and that it’s an adaptation to encourage rest. There was a good thread on this forum about it, but I don’t remember where. Amber/Kaleo mentions it in her post today. And she says her main source is Your Eatopia. You’ve probably read/heard this before, but maybe worth mentioning as reassurance.

    OMG volleyball. :) I’d go for a very leisurely church-picnic pace rather than “competitive” though. Know what else is fun? Shuffleboard, no joke. I played it at a bar for the first time a few months ago. Or maybe you’re in a pinball phase of life?


    Hmm will look over that article. I am going to look into some leisurely stuff my fiance and I can do together. Thanks again for the info

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