Exercise addiction and how to overcome it

What classifies a love for exercise to becoming a harmful addiction?

  • Do you feel the need to exercise every single day, even when your body cries for rest?
  • Do you feel guilt or a sense of depression after missing a day of exercise?
  • Have you missed out on social events because you chose to exercise instead?
  • Do you find yourself constantly planning when your next workout will be?
  • Do you work out even when you’re sick, exhausted of even injured?

Sadly, just a short three weeks ago I could have answered yes to every single one of these questions.

I was an exercise addict without even knowing it.

I went two and a half years believing that my obsession with exercise was nothing more than the love for the activity, little did I realize that it had become an unhealthy addiction and was affecting my life in an immensely negative way.

I have a hard time putting a finger at exactly what point in my life my love for exercise became an addiction, but I think that goes for addictions in general; they happen subconsciously.

When I first decided to make a change in my lifestyle I found motivation by seeing the progress of others, which was readily available on the wonderful world of Instagram. I religiously followed the daily lives of athletes working out for hours every single day and saw that they didn’t seem to have an unhealthy obsession so I figured my own habits had to anything less than a problem.

Growing up I never had to essentially “exercise” because I was involved in sports on a daily basis. Then once I realized what a couple extra workouts could do , the pounds seemed to fly off. The comments started flowing in “Oh you look so good” “How did you lose so much weight” … These comments fueled my obsession.

In the beginning I was still enjoying exercise but then my thoughts started to turn negative. It wasn’t as if I was spending hours in a gym but the reason why I would be spending my time exercising WASN’T positive.

So what was so unhealthy about it?

Better question , what WAS healthy about it.

The last thought when I went to bed at night was how I was too be able to plan my day so that I would be able to get some sort of exercise in as well as to plan how I would walk as much as possible throughout the day.

I went years stuck in a routine of sneaking in exercise as often as I could, even if it would be simply a quick ab workout or a five minute walk. I was that strange girl who would walk for hours while reading a novel to try and kill two birds with one stone. 

Then I started using the excuse of exercise being my only way to exert stress. I stopped seeing my friends because I felt I had to stay home and get my daily workout in. I started using Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide as a way to create a structure with my exercise habits which I thought was beneficial. Little did I realize that it was only creating more problems and less flexibility. Don’t get me wrong I think her guide is amazing and someday maybe I will be able to do it again, but I am in no way, shape or form in a place to do that in my current state.

What was the final push?

Sadly my breaking point only came after suffering from an injury to my tendon in my knee. I put off going to the doctor because I knew exactly what the treatment was going to be and mentally I didn’t want to accept that. My host family forced me to get my knee looked at which resulted in the diagnosis of patellar tendonitis. This meaning no exercise for at the very least 6 weeks… SIX WEEKS… I couldn’t even go a day without doing some sort of exercise. Yoga had even began to feel like it wasn’t enough to satisfy my addiction and here I was being told that I needed to stop cold turkey.

Needless to say, I did it and it’s been three weeks now and the desire is no longer there which on another hand is scary. I’m constantly faced with the thought of whether of not I will ever actually want to exercise again, but i’m sure these thoughts will pass.

The smartest thing I’ve done by far is that I’ve changed my surroundings in order to mentally be in a good place.

  • I said goodbye to about 200 instagram accounts that I was following that focused mainly on fitness and healthy living.
  • I hide my exercise clothes and my sneakers.
  • I’ve started reading novels again instead of fitness blogs.
  • I proactively make an effort to see friends and spend time away from home.

When I thought of the ultimate healthy life I thought that meant exercise had to be the focus which I’ve found not to be true.

I’m not exercising, yet I feel happier and healthier than ever.

I feel that our perceptions are based on what surrounds us; what we believe to be true. We can’t change everyone else, but we can make an effort to put ourselves in a positive position with less negative influential factors.

Find what works for you and KNOW what doesn’t and eliminate those negative influences .

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