The last week of February 2018 marks Eating Disorder Awareness Week. In a frank and honest piece for the HBC Magazine, Jenn Nesbit from blog Fit Foodie Fan shares her experience recovering from an Eating Disorder and how the gym can sometimes be just another place for control and unrealistic expectations.

 

 

January may be over, but that does not mean that the fitness industry has just disappeared. With new workouts, guides and fitness programmes it is quite hard not to get sucked into the fitness bubble.

While starting a fitness journey can be a positive thing, I know personally it has increased my strength and self-confidence but it has not always been that way. Coming from a disorder eating background I found the strong vs skinny movement empowering, but it also leads to unrealistic expectations of myself.

My question, therefore, is how “Healthy” is the health and fitness industry?

 

I think it is a valid question as it can be quite easy to get into the mentality that more is best, and if you are not 100% on it all the time you cannot be into fitness. Which just is not the case!

It has taken me the best part of four years to get to where I am now regarding recovery. Years that people spent learning to drive, taking vacations, figuring out what they want to do with their lives.

While I kick myself, I know deep down that everything happens for a reason. Although I would not wish it on anyone I am grateful that I went through it as it has made me the person I am today.

 

I started my fitness journey during my recovery, while not in a healthy mind-set. In hindsight, I started for all the wrong reasons, it became a new way to control my body and life. Although I am a bit nervous to share this, I hope that it will raise awareness for the potential for a “healthy” intention but become an obsession.

“Exercise addiction is an unhealthy obsession with physical fitness and exercise. It is often a result of body image disorder and eating disorders.” (Legg, 2016)[1]

From my experience, it becomes an obsession when you are not able to miss a day without anxiety, or you are attending multiple times a day unnecessarily. If this is you, please know you are not alone and that you can gain a healthy relationship with exercise.

I was naive as well thinking my mind was healed and that I could lift heavy when in reality I was still weak.

Turning to social media for advice is not always the best way, because while people post workouts, they may not be certified.

This is something that is often overlooked, as the information is not always accurate and could lead to unrealistic expectations.

I have never actually spoken about this before, which makes me nervous, but at this time of year, I would prefer to share something to raise awareness for the potential risk of starting a fitness journey with a disordered mind-set.

Do I think that gyms should monitor people’s attendance more closely?

Yes, as it could help prevent or provide support people going through a similar issue.

Health and fitness is a massive part of my life now. I love how it empowers me, enables me to meet others, and gain confidence. Through the advice of a personal trainer I have reduced my attendance at the gym and have a healthy balance.

You can be into fitness and only go twice a week. We need to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect and focus on celebrating what we can do outside our physical appearance. Think about how your cognitive function has improved, how you can meet new people and engage in conversations!

While these things can be hard and mentally challenging to change, it is possible, it will just take time and practise.

Shifting the focus away from appearance and numbers can be beneficial. Make it not about how many steps you did or what a Fitbit says which personally I feel are not a good idea for those with obsessive tendencies.

You are not less of a person if you gain weight or don’t hit 10K steps… remember that and try to find a healthy balance that works for you!

[1] Legg, T. (2016, June 29). Exercise Addiction. Retrieved Febuary 12, 2018, from Healthline