UNpodcast 097: Exercise Addiction: How to Face Your Demons

UNpodcast 097: Exercise Addiction: How to Face Your Demons

TL;DR: Go listen to today’s podcast with Kimber Simpkins & find out how to win 12 books on body love for free!  In today’s podcast, Kimber Simpkins shared a parable about the Buddha that made my brain melt a little, so I thought I’d talk about it with you: The buddha was sitting in a cave when the demon Mara, showed up at the cave’s mouth to torment him. Each day, the demons would return and torment the buddha from the mouth of the cave. Finally, one day, the buddha invited the demon in for tea. If you’re struggling with your weight (keeping it on or taking it off), your food, or your exercise, you have a demon who shows up each day at the mouth of your mental cave and begins to torment you. Maybe it’s the torment of overeating. Maybe it’s the torment of restriction. Maybe it’s the torment of exercise addiction. If you let the demon sit at the mouth of the cave and taunt you, all you will hear all day long are the echoes of each insult. But what if you were to invite that demon in for tea? Sorry to get all metaphorical here, but I see this as an incredible lesson for using your inner demons to your advantage. In order to make it less esoteric and parable-like, I’ll give you a great example of how I invited my exercise addiction in for tea. I had my third ankle surgery in January of 2014. I was already recovered. But even recovered, lack of exercise still gave me anxiety. I went for three...
UN-Podcast 064 & When Eating Disorders Become Your “Business”

UN-Podcast 064 & When Eating Disorders Become Your “Business”

TL;DR: Go listen to today’s podcast with Jodi Rubin now! I’m not going to pretend that the main reason I got certified as a personal trainer in 2010 wasn’t because of my eating disorder. I “wasn’t” an anorexic at the time. I was just getting my toes wet again with EDNOS—a nice combination of “clean eating” (read: rabid orthorexia) and “lifting heavy” (read: compulsive exercise). I wanted nothing more than to be featured in the pages of Oxygen Magazine, so I spent as much time as I could in the gym and the kitchen, the latter of which I learned was “where abs are made.” When grad school and theatre—two things that I formerly loved with a fiery passion—started getting in the way of my workouts, I knew that I needed a way to be in the gym as much as possible. I reasoned that personal training was a great way to live my new passion, while also “helping” the “pathetic cardio bunnies” I sneered at while I did my own fasted cardio after lifting a favor by showing them how to fall in love with the squat rack as I had. I was not in a good headspace, as you can clearly tell. Now, I know a whole bunch of fitness professionals who are the most UN-disordered people in the world—people like Jessi Kneeland and Luke Robinson and Kevin Geary, who truly, truly get that fitness isn’t a punishment and that women’s bodies are different and beautiful and don’t require harmful force to reach and maintain some perfect ideal. There are also a lot of trainers out there...
UN-Podcast 053 and the True Meaning of Fitness

UN-Podcast 053 and the True Meaning of Fitness

Raise your hand if you think you know what the word “fitness” means.  [image source] Here—let me get rid of the mystery: the condition of being physically fit and healthy. the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task. an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment. Nowhere in that definition did I see the requirement of being able to do 30 regimented minutes of supersets or an extra mile of marathon training. I used to think that fitness meant achieving some level of athletic or aesthetic perfection—PRs and 6 packs were the visible, quantifiable means for me to prove that I was “fit.” But when I was a runner, though my race times kept getting lower, I wouldn’t have been fit to lift an injured runner on the course and carry him or her to safety. When I was a lifter, though I could squat to parallel with a bar on my back, I wouldn’t have been able to outrun an attacker or take him to the ground. When I was doing two-a-day yoga, I could go deeper into Standing Bow, but I couldn’t muscle up over a fence if I needed to take a shortcut. I was “fit” for my exercise because I was training for my exercise, but I was not fit for usefulness in my environment. And here’s the thing…in this post-Venice-Beach physical-culture-and-24-hour-fitness-for-all era, many of us are very fit for exercise, but very few of us are fit for our environments. The government and the media think we need about 30 minutes of exercise a day, so we...
Is it Fitness, EDNOS, or Anorexia? Differentiating Disordered Behavior

Is it Fitness, EDNOS, or Anorexia? Differentiating Disordered Behavior

*Trigger warning!*  It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness week, and today’s post comes from a desire to raise a little awareness about what an eating disorder really looks like. You see, we throw a lot of words around: you look anorexic. I just totally binged on ice cream. Strong is the new skinny. But I don’t think we understand what an actual eating disorder LOOKS and FEELS like. So…what does it mean to have an EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified)? What does it mean to be truly anorexic? Read on…but please be aware that there are triggers here: I come from a family of exercisers. Fitness, for us, was an identity. I am my last marathon. I am my PR. I am my boot camp workout. “Health food”* was an important part of that identity: how you ate affected your body composition and your athletic performance. Fitness was also a ritual. It was Tuesday nights at the track. It was waking up early on race day. It was biking to the gym before I could eat a rice cake. It was squat day or sprint day or deadlift day. At some point, I came to accept the “fact” that I was only as good as my fitness.** My EDNOS, my eating disorder not otherwise specified, took on many different forms throughout my life—from apples and rice cakes to “clean eating” to vegansim—but it was always closely followed by compulsive exercise. So here’s where I want to differentiate between EDNOS and anorexia proper, both of which I’ve experienced: My final relapse with my EDNOS kicked into full gear in 2009....
UN-Podcast 040: Am I Addicted to Exercise?

UN-Podcast 040: Am I Addicted to Exercise?

Is it possible to be addicted to exercise? Let me start off by saying that exercise is NOT inherently a bad thing. Getting out, moving your body, lifting weights, spinning, biking, running, hiking, Crossfitting, or bending yourself into a yogic preztel–whatever your poison, what truly matters is the dose. The difference between committing to your sport/training/gym routine and having an addiction is the psychological and physical dependence that begins to occur when you overdo it–and when your exercise begins to take precedence over everything else in your life. [source] Like an alcoholic who can’t stop at just one drink, an exercise addict can’t stop at just one hour. Or just three days a week. Or just one trip to the gym a day. It’s not just about “getting thin” or getting in shape”–exercise becomes the entire system by which you define your values and achievements. And you don’t have to have an eating disorder in order to develop an unhealthy addiction to exercise, although the two can go hand in hand. So how do you know if you or someone you love is addicted to exercise? If you can answer the following questions “yes,” then it might be time to seek help. I can’t take a rest day–other people can, but I need to work out. If I don’t exercise, I am irritable, depressed, or angry all day. It’s impossible for me to rest–I need to be constantly moving. I’m tired/exhausted all the time, but working out gives me the shot of energy I need to keep going. I’m an athlete or I’m training for a competition/race/etc., but I...