Recovering Anorexic Afraid to Start Exercising Again

By December 10, 2012

I am a recovered(ing) anorexic who previously struggled w/ over exercising. Now I am afraid to start because I feel so guilty about not doing as much or enough as I think. I am becoming lazy and really want to maintain a “healthy thin.” Any advice? – Natalie

Dear Natalie,

I read the following sentence several times: …” I am afraid to start because I feel so guilty about not doing as much or enough.” Wow! Check out that thinking! In recovery we take it one day at a time. And I would really wonder about that “guilt” feeling. I think the detective part of the eating disorder (detective refers to the part of the Anorexia that takes account and stands in judgment of you) has to be dealt with.

At times when persons enter recovery there is a pull to return to the “sick excitement” we used to feel when we were active. There is a “sick excitement” that comes from over exercising (feelings of power, control, and losing calories) and it drives us until we are willing to hurt ourselves. Some persons with disordered eating like the high feeling associated with the old behavior. When we no longer practice the behavior (over exercising) we lose the “sick excitement.” I have heard people say they feel down, sad, lonely, guilty, afraid and always judgmental about themselves. I think there is an internal anger about one of the coping methods not being used anymore (it was counterproductive and had to go) so we start talking trash inside. “I am turning lazy” or “I feel so guilty about not doing much” are two versions of a trash voice.

Tell yourself the truth… “I actively choose to surrender over exercising as the way for me to feel good and know that I am o.k. I choose to relax when I need too, to listen to my body, and to move when it is ready to move. I trust myself to be active. I trust myself to care about me”.

Achieving “healthy thin” is about knowing how to take care of ourselves with love, compassion and opportunities for activity. It’s about balance. You need as much time in spiritual study as exercise class. As much time journaling your emotions as exercise class. And as much time expanding your mental self as exercise class.

Thin is not just a physical number on the scale and not all persons are born to be “thin.” Especially not as our culture defines it.

Are you listening to hunger? Are you lovingly feeding your body when it requests nutrition? Do you have social contacts? A circle of friends? Do you allow appropriate hours of sleep, i.e. 8-10 hours a night? All aspects of what comprises you must be taken into consideration when striving toward a healthy you!

Congratulations on your recovery steps from anorexia. You are a brave sojourner to step out and away. I have full faith that in time your path away from guilt and shame associated with how much or when you exercise will occur!


Leanne Spencer, LPC, MAMFC