Check out our Body Acceptance Mini-magazine! As a former compulsive exerciser, I found this article by Libero Network very useful. When I was first starting to correct my unhealthy eating and exercising habits, there was a lot of confusing information out there – an article like this would have helped tremendously. In our society, we’re bombarded with extreme and conflicting messages about fitness and health…it’s difficult to weed through the marketing and get down to what is healthy in reality. This article was written by guest author Jodie, who is recovering from EDNOS. Jodie is working to create change in the fitness industry by encouraging the development of positive body image and advocating for health over appearance. “Exercise is good for you. You’re not doing anything wrong, keep exercising. It will make you fit and strong and lean. You’re not exercising too much, those other people are just jealous. You’re only feeling tired because you’re so unfit, exercise more. You have to work hard if you want results.” exercise and healthThat was what my ED said to me day in and day out to keep me trapped and compulsively exercising. I know now that voice was lying. I work as an exercise scientist, personal trainer and group fitness instructor and study exercise physiology at university so a very large portion of my life revolves around exercise. When I first started exercising, I genuinely loved and enjoyed it, but as my ED developed it began to use this to its advantage. I began exercising excessively and obsessively, yet despite all my own knowledge about exercise I still wasn’t open to the thought that I was doing anything unhealthy and denied it when anyone asked. Exercise, as a general rule, is good for you. However, there are two factors which shift exercise from the ‘good for your health’ to the ‘bad for your health’ basket: exercising to the detriment of your body and exercising to the detriment of your mind. 1. Exercising to the detriment of your body is the result of the amount of exercise you’re doing and the lack of recovery your body is receiving. At this point, you might even still be enjoying exercising (as I was at the beginning) however your body will eventually begin to feel tired, sore and weak. You may experience dizzy spells, fainting, irregular or absent menstrual cycles, difficulty sleeping, increased injuries or illness. The amount of exercise that is healthy will vary from person to person – what is healthy for an iron man isn’t healthy for me. My ED told me that the amount of exercise I was doing was perfectly healthy, because athletes do it and they’re healthy. Athletes also gradually build up to that level over many years, they fuel their bodies appropriately, they have regular recovery sessions and they stop or reduce exercise when injured/sick. 2. Exercising to the detriment of your mind develops because of reasons why you are exercising and the thoughts behind it. You may be engaging in a healthy amount of exercise (or you might be over- exercising as well), but the thought processes behind it are still damaging. Being motivated to exercise purely as a means to burn calories, as opposed to improving the health of your body is a red flag. If you are consistently prioritizing exercise over social situations/study/work, feeling anxious or guilty at the thought of missing an exercise session, exercising because you ‘have to’ rather than because you ‘want to’ and/or spending a large amount of time thinking about or planning exercise, it is likely that you’ve developed an unhealthy obsession with exercise that leaves little room in your thoughts and life for other things. Signs that you may be compulsively exercising or over-training:

  • Irregular or absent menstrual cycles
  • Depression
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle soreness, aches and injuries
  • Prioritizing exercise over social events/work/study
  • Exercising despite being sick or injured
  • Inability to miss an exercise session or feeling guilty for missing an exercise session
  • Exercising because you ‘have to’ rather than because you ‘want to’
  • Exercising purely to burn calories
  • Consistently thinking about exercise
  • Exercising at inappropriate times (eg middle of the night)

So, what is healthy exercise? Healthy exercise occurs when we exercise because it makes us feel good, physically, emotionally and mentally. As mentioned earlier, it’s difficult to set general guidelines on what constitutes the right amount of exercise for everyone; for most people 2-5 hours per week is an appropriate range. However, with some thought and listening to your body (and maybe some professional advice) you can determine the healthiest amount of exercise for you. Signs of healthy exercise

  • Exercise makes you feel good – physically, mentally and emotionally
  • You can take a day/week/month off of exercise without feeling anxious or guilty
  • You rest and recover if you are sore, injured, tired or sick
  • You engage in physical activity that you enjoy (walking, dancing, kayaking, cycling etc), rather than the type you think you should do/burns the most calories
  • You allocate no more time to thinking about exercise than you would to household chores or what’s on television
  • You are comfortable with missing an exercise session to attend a social event/work/study
  • You think about exercise as a way to keep your mind and body fit, strong and healthy; as opposed to simply a way to burn calories or change your body shape

At times, I still battle with compulsive exercising; recovery takes time and I have my slip ups, but I’ve come a long way from where I used to be. I can now recognize when I’m engaging in ED behaviours. I always find it helpful to think about what advice I would give to a friend about healthy exercise and aim to apply that advice to myself. __________________ It’s really a great article. Another thing I’d like to touch on is Libero Network’s “Stop Fitspiration” Campaign. Here’s an introduction written by Libero Network’s founder Lauren Bersaglio. What is ‘Fitspiration’?

Fitspiration: Images or messages similar to ‘Thinspiration’ but focused on exercise. Rather than promoting a commitment to exercise for the sake of one’s health, Fitspirational messages equate exercise with ‘perfecting’ one’s body – contributing to negative body image and compulsive exercising behaviours. ~ Lauren Bersaglio

The Images libero network Stop-Fitspiration1The images associated with Fitspiration usually incorporate a female (or sometimes male) athlete, focusing mainly on the person’s body (sometimes the face is not even included – objectification, anyone?), which is impossibly ‘perfect’ – chiseled abs, perfectly toned arms (thanks, PhotoShop), and, of course, prominent collar bones. The bodies represented, though a seemingly nice ‘change’ from the emaciated bodies we are used to seeing on magazine covers (thanks again, PhotoShop), still do not show a realistic representation of the human body. The Words The quotes associated with Fitspiration include: “Eat Clean. Train Mean. Get Lean.” “It takes 4 weeks for you to notice your body changing, 8 weeks for your friends, and 12 weeks for the rest of the world. Give it 12 weeks. Don’t quit.” and “Strong is the new Skinny.” So, How is this different from Thinspo? Fitspiration masquerades on many occasions as a ‘healthy” response or ‘challenge’ to all of the images out there of size 0 models that promote unhealthy weight and [potentially] lead to disordered eating and eating disorders. However, what the ‘Fitspo’ messages don’t want you to realize is that they are doing the same thing – only from a different angle. Sure, the models may not be a size ’0′, but the images still promote a type of body that has been trained (or even over-trained) and then digitally altered in a way that makes it an impossible ‘goal’ for anyone – even the most active of us ‘normal’ people. So where Thinspirational messages focus on size alone (the smaller, the better), Fitspirational messages focus on an ‘ideal’ body with the ‘perfect’ ratio of strength and body fat % (which can be just as low in a compulsive exerciser as it can be with someone who engages in Eating Disorder behaviours). Both messages promote unrealistic ‘ideals’, both message contribute to negative body image, and both are equally harmful. Join Us in the Fight Against Fitspiration! How can you get involved:

  • Share images and messages that promote healthy body image and go against Fitspirational messages (on Twitter, use hashtag #StopFitspiration – and tag us! @liberonetwork )
  • Share this page on your Facebook wall/twitter etc.
  • Visit our Stop Fitspiration Facebook Album and share images on your wall/page
  • Post anti-fitspiration images on our Facebook wall so we can share them with the rest of our followers
  • If you’re on Pinterest, check out our board: #StopFitspiration and repin to your followers
  • Report Fitspirational images when you see them (most Social Network sites have this available)
  • Download the images below to share with your Social Networks (we are adding more all the time!)

And, most importantly: model a healthy relationship with exercise to your friends/family/children and don’t buy into Fitspiration, because when people stop buying it, the producers stop making it.