Four Common Thoughts about Exercise that are Actually Unhealthy

Remember being a little kid, poking or pinching or prodding at a perceived injury and telling your parent, “It hurts when I do this!” The parent unfailingly responded with, “Well, don’t do that.”

I recently read an article in which the writer was comparing her exercise preferences to her friend’s. The friend preferred yoga, while the author mentioned that she typically only did yoga when she was injured from CrossFit. What got me was this – she was injured from CrossFit frequently enough that she had a routine. It reminds me of what my parents always said when I was little, “Well, don’t do that.”

stairsThere are lots of false notions about exercise, such as that exercising to the point of injury means you’re doing something right. Many of these ideas are indicative of compulsive exercise, a disorder in which a person has a perception that they are only okay/healthy/worthy because they exercise, and because of how much they exercise. A compulsive exerciser uses exercise beyond the point of achieving health benefits to a point where exercise can become both physically and mentally unhealthy.

Here are four common thoughts about exercise that are actually unhealthy:

  1. “I have to exercise to burn off the treat I ate” OR “I have to exercise so that I can go out to eat later.”

Thinking of exercise as an exchange for food is very typical. This thought is perpetuated by “motivation” such as, “Before you eat that candy bar, think of how many minutes you would have to exercise to burn it off!” This may seem harmless, but it cheapens exercise to simply being a means to manage weight by disregarding the other health benefits of exercise. Additionally, thinking of exercise as punishment or permission for eating can be damaging to mental health by growing into an obsession in which a person eats only if they have or will exercise to balance out the calories from the food.

  1. “I should run/CrossFit/etc. to be healthy.”

Some sort of exercise and body movement is important in a healthy lifestyle for many reasons. However, people often get caught up believing that one specific exercise is the best or only way to achieve health.  Even if they dislike running, a person may believe they have to run. The same goes for CrossFit, or any of a number of other exercises. This can be harmful to health in two ways. First, a person may not exercise at all because they dislike CrossFit but they believe they must do it, and thus end up not exercising at all. Another possibility is that a person believes they have to do Olympic weightlifting, and participate even though it is not something they enjoy and may actually dread. This person might develop a negative association with exercise and their overall happiness and well-being may suffer as a result.

  1. “I have to work out every day no matter what” OR “No excuses.”

This is where the obsession piece of compulsive exercising becomes a bit more clear. A compulsive exerciser takes the “no excuses” mantra to the extreme, possibly missing important events such as with their family, or forcing themselves to work out even when distressed such as experiencing loss of a loved one or a divorce. While it is important to prioritize exercise and include it in your lifestyle frequently and consistently for stress relief and other health purposes, this extreme can reach a point of being unhealthy as the person may be using exercise to avoid dealing with other stresses or concerns in their life.

  1. “If I don’t go ‘all-out,’ it isn’t worth exercising.”

Extreme workouts have become very popular in recent years. Exercising to the point of exhaustion and injury is starting to be seen as noble. While we have to push and challenge our bodies to make gains in strength and speed, there is also benefit to be gained from gentler exercises. Taking a walk, playing with children, or going for a leisurely bike ride or swim all count as exercise and are all worth the time to glean well-being value.

Achieving and maintaining balance with exercise can be a struggle. Unlike other addictions, exercise cannot and should not simply be removed from one’s life. Rather, an ongoing re-evaluation must take place to determine whether exercise is being included enough or too much, and in appropriate ways that the individual enjoys. There is no one way to be healthy; many different means of choosing health can be right for any person.

 

For more information about compulsive exercising, please visit the following links:

http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/compulsive-exercise

https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/orthorexia-excessive-exercise

 

Have you or someone you know experienced compulsive exercise thoughts or practices? Please share in the comments section below!

 

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Adventures in Cooking: A Dietitian’s Discoveries in the Kitchen

Y’all, I’m not a cooking dietitian.

Whew! Glad that’s off my chest.

Really, though. There are MANY dietitians who are great and cooking and passionate about cooking. In fact, a love of cooking is often cited as an attraction to entering the field of dietetics and nutrition. However, cooking has never been my strong suit or something I really enjoyed very much. I always fumbled a bit when patients and clients asked me for cooking tips because I had none.

Recently, however, I have made a point of learning more about how to cook. In addition to my inability to advise others, I am motivated by my own lack of interest and inspiration in the few meals I am capable of preparing for myself. I want to eat veggies in some for other than raw or steamed (because those are the easiest ways to avoid cooking). I want to eat new and different things. I want to create and I want to learn!

I’ve begun my adventure of discovery with meal prep. This way, I only cook once at the beginning of the week, and I usually don’t have to cook again until the next week. (I have yet to overcome my lack of desire to actually cook frequently.) In just a few weeks of consistently doing meal prep, there are a few lessons I’ve learned that have really opened doors for me!

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  1. I’m not the first person to try (or struggle!) with meal prep!

It seems obvious, I know; but to be honest, I felt sort of alone and anomalous among dietitians as someone who would rather hand over the knife and spatula than wield them herself. Simple internet searches, though, revealed so many resources from dietitians who LOVE meal prep and are totally willing to share their favorite tips and tricks! It also helps to remember that what I do doesn’t have to match anyone else – I can use the hacks I find most useful.

  1. A new recipe is only new once.

I find myself intimidated by new recipes. It only just dawned on me recently that a recipe is the hardest to make the first time. The initial making of a recipe takes F O R E V E R and it’s uncomfortable because I don’t really have the flow of the thing. I’ve realized, though, that all subsequent preparations of that same recipe are much easier. This “First Time Challenge” is why I…

  1. Pair one new recipe with one familiar recipe.

It’s much easier to [relatively] efficiently cook my lunch and dinner entrées for the week at the same time if I am comfortable with at least one of the two recipes. This way, I can build my recipe repertoire but cut down on the amount of intimidation and overwhelm I feel about doing my meal prep.

  1. Make YUMMY foods!

Duh. Why wouldn’t you?! Well, I didn’t. I made a whole week’s worth of salad-in-a-jar that I wasn’t even excited about at the outset. I was impressed by the nutrition in the recipe, it called for ingredients with which I was very familiar, and it seemed like something I ‘should’ like, so I made it even though I didn’t really want it. And you know what? I didn’t really care for it. It’s pretty disheartening to put in the time to do meal prep and not even like the results. I’ve since found more salad-in-a-jar recipes that seem more challenging but that actually sound good to me, so I’m going to be trying those instead!

  1. Convenience can be well worth the cost.

I had a thought at first that I wasn’t doing meal prep “right” unless I made everything from scratch. It seemed like the most foodie/cooking-dietitian way to do it. Maybe someday I will do everything from scratch, but it isn’t likely. For me, it’s worth it to use a pre-made pie crust for quiche, or to use frozen chopped spinach instead of buying fresh and chopping and cooking it myself.

  1. Lastly…

I’ve learned that my week is SO much easier when I don’t have to worry every night about what lunch will be the next day (or, let’s be honest, every morning when I’m getting ready for work). I’m learning as I go, and the most important part is that I’m DOING it and setting myself up for a nutritious week!

Have you learned any tips, tricks, or hacks for meal prep? Please share them along with your favorite make-ahead meals in the comments!