How To Stop Using Exercise As Punishment For What You Eat

De Elizabeth
·2-min read
Unlinking exercise from food can have a profound effect on mental health, including helping to heal eating disorders.
Unlinking exercise from food can have a profound effect on mental health, including helping to heal eating disorders.

For many people, exercise and weight loss are seen as intrinsically linked. Between fitness industry messaging and the pervasive diet culture, it’s no surprise that we’ve developed a harmful connection between what we eat and how much we need to work out.

According to a 2018 study reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of adults attempted to lose weight between 2013 and 2016. Almost 63% of those people chose exercise as a means to achieve that goal — along with consuming less food.

The desire to lose weight begins at a startlingly young age: The National Eating Disorders Association reports that 40% to 60% of elementary school girls are concerned about their body and weight — a concern that might endure throughout life.

Meanwhile, the fitness industry has long connected working out and losing weight, spreading the harmful belief that exercise is intended to reshape one’s body. Together, these messages can lead to a myriad of unhealthy behaviours, including exercise addiction or compulsive exercise.

The eating disorders association notes there’s a strong link between compulsive exercise and various forms of eating disorders: Between 40% and 80% of anorexia nervosa patients are prone to excessive exercise, and an estimated 90% to 95% of college students with an eating disorder belong to a fitness facility.

Recovery from any eating disorder or even just unhealthy habits can be an ongoing process, and one that often isn’t linear. But if you’ve struggled with exercise in the past, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy relationship with fitness in the future.

This particular journey is one that Dani Tsukerman knows all too well. The fitness trainer and owner of Very Personal Training, a body-positive fitness centre in Brooklyn, New York, has struggled with eating disorders since childhood and now aims to help others reframe the way they view exercise and their bodies.

“It’s so important to remember that...

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