Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Exercise: Affection or Addiction

I recently got a few messages and emails stating a 'concern' (some sounded like criticism) about me exercising too much. I've even gotten this from my family. Mentions of being an exercise addict and suffering from exercise bulimia have been brought up ... I thought I'd address these 'concern's in this post.

I love working out. 

I've always enjoyed exercising and trying new physical activities. I haven't been good at them, but I've tried. It's my eating habits that have been all over the charts.

There was a time, around 7 years back, when I would hardly eat anything (maybe consume 500-600 calories a day) and would exercise desperately trying to shed weight.

That formula didn't last.

Then I started counted calories (but not watching what type of calories I was eating) and tried to burn off all those calories and get into a negative calorie for the day -- eat 1,000 calories, burn 1,200 calories. Then one day I fainted in the gym locker room.

I've starved myself - eating 2-3 apples a day - and not exercised at all. That, also, was not a smart move.

... and yes, I've binged and purged. In fact, I've hardly eaten (like just a plain salad) and then purged.

It was sick. I was sick.

For me, my main issue was with food. I just didn't know how to eat right. I wasn't getting the balance right, and worst of all, I was impatient. I wanted to just eat salads for a week and expect that my weight would drop and my body would finally be the shape I wanted it to be.

Of course that's not reality.

It took me a while to get to where I am now:
Phase 1: Exercising so that I could eat (Exercising regularly, but still eating crap and not caring about quantities)
Phase 2: Exercising regularly and limiting my portions, but still not watching what I ate
Phase 3: Exercising regularly, limiting my portions, and cleaning up my food a little
Phase 4: Exercising regularly, increasing my portions a little, and cleaning up my food a lot
Phase 5: (Where I think I am now) Exercising regularly, eating reasonable portions, and eating clean a LOT more

The one thing that has been consistent is my exercises, but not losing weight goes to show that without eating properly, all my hours at the gym didn't make a difference at all.

People are different. D exercises 3 times a week for an hour, he has cleaned up his eating a lot, but he'll still have a small dessert after dinner each night; he'll eat some bread and some cheese; he'll enjoy some pasta once in a while -- and he continues to lose weight consistently each week.

That doesn't work for me. It's a fact. No need to complain. I just need to accept it and move on.

What's more is that I know I need a combination of exercise & eating healthy. There are some people I know who can cut calories and drop weight without ever stepping into the gym. That does not work for me.

As I said, people are different.

I think some concern has come up because of me being cranky when I don't get to go to the gym and because I'm working out even though I'm not feeling well at all.

Yes, this could be the signs of an addict, but I'm not addicted, and here's where the difference lies.

  • If I'm tired, I will rest. 
  • If I'm really ill, I won't workout.
  • I don't workout with the same intensity at every single workout. Sometimes my workout will be a 1/2 hour walk, whereas other times it will be 20 minutes of HIIT, or 2 hours of cardio and weight lifting ... it depends on how much time I have and how much energy I have. 
  • I don't exercise solely to burn calories; I exercise because it makes me feel healthy, strong, and confident
  • I don't exercise to balance out my food; I exercise and I eat. I don't compare the calories between the two. If I'm doing both right, then I am being healthy (and I think the weight loss will occur naturally)

There are a few things that may not be 'normal' for everyone, but these things have become part of who I am right now:

  • Not getting to the gym does make me cranky - not because I have an irrational fear that I will gain weight because I missed 1 or 2 workouts. I get cranky because I didn't get my way ;) If I wanted to go to the gym but something came up, that would irritate me - but I won't skip something important because I had to go to the gym. By exercising regularly, I know that missing  a few workouts won't be the end of the world.
  • I do schedule a lot of things, particularly social events, around my gym schedule. First I have my work schedule, then I have my gym schedule. Then comes everything else. I don't socialize as much as I did before, but I still see my friends. I do arrange our meetings around my workouts, not because they're not important, but because right now, working out and reaching a healthy weight is a top priority. I have to make certain sacrifices. 
  • Sometimes exercising when I'm not feeling well -- I think I've improved in this area. When I'm tired, I'll modify my workout. If I'm sick (like my bronchitis in January), I won't workout (I took 12 days off!!). If I'm injured, I won't workout - or at least I won't stress the injured part of my body. However, there are times, like now when I have the sniffles, when I'll push through. I don't feel like I'm unwell enough to not workout. I'm not feeling 100% but I can still workout ... and since I can do it, why miss it? 

My exercise routine right now is quite packed. I try to hit the gym in the mornings at least 3 times a week, and I try to get in an evening workout 5-6 times a week. While this looks like I'm working out 9 times a week, I should make it clear that I do different types of workouts at different times. I workout the way I do because this is what suits my schedule and my interests at the moment. I want to do MMA training - those classes are in the evening. I want to do weight training, but if I'm doing MMA in the evening, then I have to hit the gym in the mornings. You get the picture.

The bottom line:

I love to exercise. Exercising makes me happy, healthy, and confident -- how can you not do something that has such positive results?


  1. You sound pretty normal to me... :)

    I would be curious from what type of people are you getting these messages from? Family? Friends? Blog readers?

    I also just love exercising. If my life allowed me to dedicate 2 + hours of training every day I would be the happiest girl in the world.

    1. Messages were from all of the above Jenn - a few blog readers, some family & friends. This has been happening over the past few months. Thought I'd address the 'concerns' now.
      I'm right there with you when it comes to loving exercise :)

  2. Hi PlumPetals. I find you motivating nearly always. I need to do more and know I can do more. But my butt is addicted to the couch:( It's like there is a magnetic force pulling me down and then lifting up my feet and putting them on the coffee table. Which I understand is terribly offensive to have the bottoms of your feet elevated in many middle eastern cultures. Especially if the bottoms of the feet are facing another person in particular. (sigh)

    1. I put my feet up on the coffee table :)

  3. Hi Dr. PlumPetals! You found out you were awesome in the gym and you are spending quality time exploring that. I don't think people understand this, but I really learned a lot about myself in the gym, and I bet you did too. The urge to exercise is not all about getting more fit, it is about self-exploration in a broader sense. We're still not certain what we are capable of, and we want to find out.

    You are in a good weight range, eating healthy food. So people should shut up about that too.

    You don't shirk any of your professional responsibility. So you aren't harming anyone by spending time exercising each day.

    That's my 2 cents. You are incredibly happy and healthy, so I don't get their concerns.

    :-) Marion

    1. I totally agree Marion :)

  4. Isn't that annoying feeling you need to explain yourself to people when you know you are doing well? I am inspired by you and your love of exercise. I just wish I loved it.

    I used to get similar comments from people when I was losing weight. Mostly I think unsolicited comments insinuating I have a problem, but offering no solution, are just a nuisance and safe to ignore. That's my two cents and we all know how much that is worth. Ha ha

    1. It is annoying! I do just ignore them, but sometimes it's frustrating that the most support I sometimes get is virtually - instead of in reality!

  5. Not everybody understands the happiness you get after working out(a few years back even I would have been one of those people) but now I actually enjoy my workout and gym time....I don't know why or how (it's no longer about losing weight)but it still makes me feel happy, more in control, stronger..If I'm stressed going to the gym helps clear my head, if I have a headache/cold jogging or walking helps me..
    I'm glad you are sticking to your plan as long as you know what's good for your body and you are healthy..who cares!!!

    1. Exercise definitely makes me feel better too. I guess some people just don't understand the passion for it - doing it for enjoyment vs. being forced to do it for one reason or another.

  6. It's people reacting to change or not understanding why you want to do something. I had an extended family member tell me that once I start exercising I'll have to do it forever. I guess this person didn't get that it's ok with me and that was my plan.......

    1. I do think a lot of it is that they don't understand it or it's not something that they want as part of their lifestyle.

  7. You like to work out multiple hours a day, doing several different classes - I train for triathlon - multiple hours, multiple disciplines. Maybe I'm an addict too? ;)

    I think your attitude towards exercise is pretty healthy - you enjoy it, you rest when you need to, you listen to your body. More people should have a similar attitude!

  8. Love this, love you. You do what you damn well please.


Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! I can use all the support I can get :)