How much exercise is too much?
Penny Bell Says...
Exercise is an important part of gaining strength, health and a feeling of well-being, and it sounds like you have worked very hard to gain the body size and shape that you desire. But am I right in perceiving that a part of you is wondering if you are perhaps taking it a bit too far? You say that your friends are noticing a change in your behaviour that concerns them and that you are avoiding them because of this. So you are passionate about working out and body shaping to the point that you put it before everything, including your relationships?
That’s got to answer your question – but if it doesn't, this information might: Obsessive or compulsive exercise, or exercise dependence or addiction, is characterized by a compulsion to exercise excessively even when the consequences are harmful to an individual's health, family relationships, and personal wealth. What marks a behaviour as obsessive is a build-up of anxiety before carrying out the behaviour, and a sense of relief and satisfaction after, followed shortly after that by the urge to engage again in the behaviour accompanied by increasing anxiety – this is called the addiction cycle. Typical symptoms of addiction are the presence of withdrawal symptoms, detrimental social consequences and interference with relationships or work. To complicate things, primary exercise addiction manifests itself as a form of behavioural addiction where just the exercise is involved, but there can also be a secondary exercise addiction because it co-occurs with another dysfunction, typically with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. And because you are so careful about what you eat, and report “feeling like shit” when you eat the same way as your pals, this could also apply to what is going on with you.
Why not engage in an experiment, just for a week. Change your behaviour by not going to the gym, and by going out with your mates. As you do this, keep a “feelings journal” – record what this was like for you at the end of every day. Go back over your journal at the end of the week, and you may find that you had a whole lot of fun and that you really enjoyed being with your friends.
My hunch is though that your anxiety level will become extremely uncomfortable – so much so that it will be very hard for you to do this experiment at all. Please use this information you gain about yourself to make a decision to get some help, in the form of counselling. If you quit your exercising without counselling you may find that whatever is driving it will emerge in the form of some other addiction.
Page last updated Sep 26, 2013