I read an article that caught my attention on my main Yahoo! page. The title was ‘Exercise Addicts: Pushing Ourselves Too Far?’ I clicked in right away and started reading the story. You can read it here. I read the whole story and at first I felt a bit of shock when I read just the extent of how serious this woman’s addiction was. But then, I started to understand. When your brain is unhealthy, everything is taken to extremes. Oftentimes logic and common sense are thrown out the window. Even if you can see how dangerous your behavior and actions are, you often can feel powerless and end up going along with whatever your brain tells you to do.
I remember all too well how it feels to be caught in the dangerous place of an unhealthy mind. No matter what logic or reasoning you could try to come up with on your own, or that others tried to convince you of, it just simply didn’t matter. The fact that this poor woman was injuring herself so severely, yet couldn’t stop herself from her extensive workouts, is so sad. But what made me even more sad was when I started to read the comments that people left in response to the article. That’s when my heart truly sunk. I can’t tell you how many people identified with this woman and either were currently addicted to exercising or in the past dealt with this addiction. Even the ones who said they “were just being healthy” in describing their exercise habits, seemed to be either oblivious to their addiction or in denial.
What was also “interesting” (for lack of a better word) was just how many men also indicated that they, too, suffered from exercise addiction. I think many people easily think that a lot of women are ones that face this addiction, paired with eating disorders in being more prevalent in women. But the reality is that this addiction is prevalent in men, too. Their reasons for over exercising may be different than women, however. This article was a really interesting read. The article referenced a few different reasons why men over exercise or have the tendency of over exercising. It referenced that men who have a need for self-control and are high achievers. This isn’t really all too surprising, I found this to be interesting, “the population of exercise addicts is a bit different from that of, say, cocaine addicts. Exercise, like being thin, is highly reinforced by society, says Klein. “So for people driven to achieve, to be perfectionists, and to be in optimal health, it’s kind of understandable that they become excessive.””
Men, too, can easily be impacted by society. We often think of the bombardment women face from media telling them how to lose “x” amount of pounds in “x” amount of days, or how eliminating ‘xyz’ from their diet will guarantee their losing weight. Covers of magazines show thin, toned women and it’s all too easy to strive to reach that unrealistic ideal. But when you think of it, men are faced with the same exact thing.
Granted, these magazines are more geared towards health and fitness, but even so, when men see these magazines and the chiseled, defined abs and arms of the people on the covers, they no doubt get the idea that they could attain that body if they work hard enough. Media so easily lures us and draws us in.
But when you stop and think about it…about just how prevalent articles like this are on the shelves, or how we can find information about any diet or workout that is guaranteed to be the solution we were looking for, it really paints such a scary picture of reality for us. This takes me to the title of this post. In recovery from my eating disorder, I always told myself that I wanted to be “normal” someday. That I wanted to reach a point where I could live my life normally with a normal view of health and exercise. But now, I worry about what “normal” is. Sadly, I think “normal” is becoming very unhealthy. From reading all of the comments from that article, I see just how widespread and prevalent the need to compulsively exercise is. And not just exercising, but the need to eat “healthy”. We have taken these two ideas to such an unhealthy extreme. Even us “healthy living bloggers” who claim they are healthy and being balanced, really aren’t in my eyes. Again, it may be that some are in denial, or that some really don’t see the problem with their compulsive behavior. But it isn’t healthy.
My RD told me what a healthy amount of exercise was. Up until she told me, I really had absolutely no idea. I was reading so many things online (including many blogs) about how people spent hours working out and didn’t miss a day. My idea of “normal” was skewed. When my RD told me what healthy was, I was shocked. She told me that 150 minutes a WEEK was healthy. That equated to 30 minutes a day, five days a week. I can’t remember the last time that I saw someone openly say that they practiced 150 minutes of exercise a week.
The same thing goes with healthy eating. What does that really mean? It requires balance. It requires flexibility. It allows for exceptions. There should be no rigidity or rules. But again, finding someone that is a good example in the blogging world can be hard to do. I’ve found some, however. But again, I see more disordered eating than I do “healthy” eating.
What I’ve realized is that I can no longer use the idea of “normal” as my goal in recovery. Sadly, the new normal is becoming more and more disordered and unhealthy. I guess what I now realize is that I need to create my own normal. I no longer can base my eating and my exercise on that of what others do. It needs to be tailored to what I need and what I know that I can do. I need to learn to turn off the idea that I can compare what I do and what I need to do to others. My new normal is taking care of myself, compared to myself and where I once was and where I yet need to be. The more I shut out what others do, the messages and ideas that are portrayed in the media, the more of an advantage I will be in and the healthier I will really become.