Make a Change in Your Life: How to Overcome Exercise Bulimia

I have a confession. I used to be an exercise bulimic.

When I was 11 years old, did I know what drove me to practice so much? Of course not. Taking my passion for multiple competitive sports into high school and college, were there red flags? Sure. And did I continue to over-exercise as an adult? Unfortunately, yes.

rp_iStock_000005411273Small.jpgLet me give you an idea of what I mean. I started playing tennis and soccer at 4 years old. By my 5th birthday, I’d added basketball to my list. At age 11, I’d wake up everyday before school started for a morning run––that was in addition to my other hours juggling a soccer ball or shooting hoops.

But that’s the most frightening thing about exercise bulimia: I, like so many others, didn’t realize I had a problem.

The pressure to succeed was not forced by my family––it came from within me. Being the shy, shy child I was, I had a lot of nervous energy stored up, and I felt the only way to release it was to sweat.

For a long time, exercise and sports were my life. It wasn’t until much later, after having my kids and becoming a fitness instructor, that I made a change.

Fixing my problem took a lot of soul searching. I started taking yoga and then learned to teach it. I began to work with an amazing woman named Fran Wellgood, who taught me to put mindfulness into my thoughts, words and actions. I came to terms with why I was addicted to exercise, and I improved.

I still exercise, but now my mind and body are in tune with one another. I don’t exercise out of compulsion or because I have to do it to control my weight. Exercise feels good again!

Unfortunately, there are many kids and adults out there right now who are just like I was. They push themselves to exercise too much each day. Exercise is important, sure, but only when it’s balanced in life.

How often do you exercise? Do you do it because it makes you feel good, or do you do it to avoid something?

The first step in getting your exercise habits under control is identifying why you over-exercise. For me, it was a combination of shyness and because it was something I excelled at.

Once you know why, make a change. See a therapist, support group, dietitian, massage therapist, or online resource. Find someone who understands and can help you transition to reasonable amounts of activity.

If you’re a parent who thinks their child might have exercise bulimia, make sure your child knows that you’re always acting out of love and kindness. If you’re trying to help your kids, never, ever try to shame them. Do your research and try to get help in a manner that is best for your child.

They say that hindsight is 20/20. When I look into my past, I see a young athlete who didn’t know herself well enough, who didn’t know how to ask for help, who didn’t even know she needed help until much later in life.

Make a change in your life or someone else’s today. It will make for a healthier tomorrow.

Deb Zacher is a freelance writer, fitness instructor, triathlete, TeamSnap Support Employee and soccer Mom to her two girls. She is passionate about fitness, health and helping make a difference in people’s lives. Deb teaches many sports including cycling, PiYo, yoga and TRX. She enjoys finding humor in just about anything and likes to make others smile, so she will try to add comical points of view any time she possibly can! 

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