A Strong Body With a Sick Mindset Still Isn’t Healthy: Exercise

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The number one question I receive is for advice for those who have struggled with an eating disorder, and are now working to develop a healthy mindset towards exercise (or food, but that will be another blog post). Most would agree exercise is a healthy, necessary habit. But for those who’ve struggled with an eating disorder, if not careful, exercise can become another obsessive means of weight control.

I want to preface this by saying, I AM NOT A DOCTOR, COUNSELOR, NUTRITIONIST, OR LICENSED ANYTHING (lol). I’m simply a girl who can resonate with the thoughts stated above, but praise God, found freedom. Freedom after hours upon hours of prayer counseling to deal with the root causes of this past struggle within my heart. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, please seek help from a professional counselor. I believe there is 100% healing for you, but please know, you’re going to have to want it. You’re going to have to fight for it (daily), but it’s there. There is hope. There is freedom. The tips below are from personal experience and geared toward those who have come a long way in their recovery already. ❤

1) There needs to be a change in mindset. The gym can longer be a place you go because you hate your body. The gym must become a place you go because you LOVE your body. The ability to exercise is such a GIFT, to have a healthy body is such a GIFT. The gym shouldn’t be a place people go and feel bad about themselves, but rather a place people go and learn to better love, take care of, and appreciate the strong, amazing bodies God has given them.

2) Focus on health, over appearance. When I began going to the gym genuinely focused on health over appearance, everything changed. I speak life and positive self-talk over myself, over other people there, and pray as I work out. It’s like therapy, an outlet, a passion, a happy place.

3) Learn to listen to your body (because hey girl, #LOVEYOSELF). Instead of tearing your body apart, you must learn to love it by listening to it. So much of an eating disorder involves mentally disconnecting from your body, denying its signals for food or rest. One must learn to reconnect and listen. Am I hungry right now? Will this particular food fuel my body well? Eat something nourishing. Am I super tired and sore today? Take a rest day. Is running on the treadmill for an hour “punishment” for what I ate (or going to eat), or is it an empowering means of pushing myself to grow strong in a healthy way at a healthy pace? Your actions (whether regarding food or working out) ought to be a reflection of how your body feels, not merely a means of control and burning calories.

4) Get in community. There’s something about group fitness that just does it for me. The camaraderie of a team is incredible. It takes the focus off yourself. You’re in it together, cheering one another on. It’s a blast and so empowering! Group fitness classes also provide great flexibility + variety, which is great, because you want to avoid repetition/doing the same thing every workout as that can trigger feelings of control. It keeps it fun too. 🙂

5) Have regular mental “check-in’s” with yourself. Think about, what do you really want to gain from exercise? How can you go about that in a healthier manner?

6) Know not everyday is going to be easy. The important thing is to acknowledge that difficult days will come, but to have a game plan for when they do. Remind yourself of truth, the truth of who you really are, what God says about you. You have infinite worth and purpose. What truly fills you up? Talking it through with a trusted love one? Listening to worship music while journaling? Reading the Bible? Doing a face mask? Reading a book with a warm coffee? Making a delicious, nourishing, meal? Getting a pedicure? These are all things that help restore my heart and mind to the right place during difficult days, as well as some self-care to show my body some love.

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