In my pursuit for thinness and continual weight loss, exercise became a significant part to my compulsivity. As a competitive athlete, exercise was an imminent part of the daily grind. Between both individual and team weightlifting, conditioning, and practice, it seemed as though I was always training. But, my mentality had shifted. The fine line between exercising to be fit and strong, and exercising to be thin, had been crossed.
In the typical college soccer season, the training schedule revolved around games. Therefore, as competition neared, training tapered in intensity and time. Tuesdays were known as the “toughest” and most grueling day of training as it followed a day off and was the furthest from the next game. I always felt ambivalent about Tuesdays. On one hand, I was thrilled to be pushed beyond my limits, train for at least two hours, and sweat profusely to where my shirt changed colors. Without a doubt, I had not only reached my minimum daily exercise requirements, but I had surpassed them, which only contributed to my main focus of shedding calories and losing weight. However, I had become so weak and lethargic, while surviving on such little food intake, that I questioned how I would physically make it through the session. Needless to say, when Tuesdays practices were over, I felt a tremendous amount of relief and accomplishment.
Wednesdays also sufficed, most of the time, as training was typically less intense than Tuesdays, but nevertheless, provided a fulfilling workout. But, Thursdays became unacceptable to my exercise standards. Obviously, it was a day to prepare for the next day’s game, and was a chance to rejuvenate muscles to enable peak performance the following day. Thursdays light days were not enough to avoid weight gain and maintain my declining number on the scale. So, I took it upon myself to stay after practice and run loops around the complex until I felt I met my daily requirement. This behavior and mentality in itself indicated I had a psychological dilemma. I was no longer following the schedule of a competitive athlete, but I was training for calorie loss instead.
In one of my first appointments with my psychiatrist, I remember expressing concern to him regarding an early morning workout. By the end of the day, I felt like it had been negated since it had been so many hours since I had actually exercised. I felt as though it faded and I needed to do a second workout as the day went on since so many hours had passed. Again, these were extremely invalid and debilitating thoughts.
As I endured intensive psychotherapy throughout the season, I began agreeing to attempt to make positive changes. However, exercise played a negative role and interfered with the start of recovery. Food I vowed to try or consume in my diet became added minutes to my workout. It became a game of chasing my tail. I wanted to improve, but there were too many psychological factors preventing me from making any progress.
In an article, Excessive Exercise and Eating Disorders, Dr. Elisha Carcieri explains, “People with anorexia nervosa often report that increased physical activity preceded eating disorder symptoms, but describe their levels of physical activity becoming increasingly compulsive and seemingly out of their control as their eating disorder progresses.” This summed up my addiction to food restriction and my exercise regimen during the time I battled anorexia.