Confessions of an Exercise-a-holic

Hello. My name is Sharon. I’m an addict. Yes, I freely admit it, I’m addicted to exercise.

What? You don’t think that’s a REAL addiction? And why is that? Because exercise is supposed to be good for you and that means you can’t be addicted to it?

Vegetables are good for you, and there are people addicted to those too. Okay. Maybe I’m making that up, but I’m not making up the exercise addiction.

If you scroll back a couple weeks to my post on the Health and Happiness Society, you’d notice that in the third book of the series Rachelle was addicted to exercise, too. In her case, she was addicted to running, and it stemmed from her idea that if she competed in a marathon, she would finally have conquered her demon of being the food-addicted fat girl.

That’s not my demon at all.

But I did grow up thinking I was always on the verge of being fat. That if I ate too many servings of anything I loved, I would be fat. That once I went “fat” I’d never get back to being the opposite of fat. Which isn’t skinny in my play book. I’ve never been skinny.

In fact, I’m not sure I ever wanted to be skinny. The body type that appeals most to me has curves and sculpted muscle. An athletic body type that has curves (read: boobs, hips, and butt) and is therefore not in the single digits of body fat (or even in the teens).

My Aversion to Dieting

Since I grew up being told that cookie would make me fat, I developed a love-hate relationship with food. I loved to eat it. I hated the way my mind belittled me after I ate it.

I’ll talk more about how I am definitely in the percentage of people who “live to eat” rather than in the more healthy “eat to live” populace. Food tastes good. I savor it. It brings enjoyment to my life. Many of my happiest memories involve food.

And, yes, that’s truly NOT a healthy thing. But I’m learning how to adapt my mindset. More on that next week.

Dieting says to me, “Sorry. You can NOT have that.”

I don’t deal well with being told I can’t eat a cookie, brownie, ice cream, pizza or nachos. I just don’t. I immediately think, “What is the point of life if I can’t eat the food I enjoy?”

Yes, I go right to that extreme. If I can’t enjoy what I’m eating, why eat? Well, let’s see, you will die if you don’t eat.

Fine. I’d rather die than NOT be able to eat pizza and nachos and a Reese’s Blizzard from Dairy Queen.

So, dieting plays head games with me. I’ve managed to skirt these issues by rewarding my dieting goals with a bit of unhealthy food. I know, food rewards are bad! They have made America fat.

The other alternative for me has always been to exercise more.

The Genesis of My Addiction

I started exercising regularly shortly after I got married. I knew we were going to have kids and my body would be warped and misshapen, so I wanted to look good until that happened.

Yes, my childhood altered any chance I would have a healthy body image. Or so I thought. You can retrain your brain and form new neural pathways. Even as an “old dog” regardless of what some adage says about old dogs and new tricks.

After my first son was born, I went back to exercising in the mornings. Cindy Crawford was my workout buddy in those days, and I made it back into my pre-pregnancy clothes in a couple months. HURRAY FOR ME!

Not quite so easy after the second baby. In fact, those clothes all had to disappear because both my hips and waistline were bigger and have never seen that size again.

I was okay with it. I might have worn what people in modeling consider a “fat girl” size, but us normal people understand that’s ridiculous. Zero should not be a size in anyone’s world. As long as I wasn’t in the double digits, I’d be okay.

Then I went to the double digits. That was a precursor to my diagnosis of clinical depression. (Not that a size ten made me depressed, but I was gaining weight as a symptom of my mental state. Again, that was ME and is not meant to be a statement about weight gain for anyone else.)

I fought going on medication, and that’s when I became an exercise-a-holic. It’s my doctor’s fault. She gave me a list of ten things to do daily, and item number one was to exercise for 15-30 minutes (even if it was just going for a walk).

Did you know that you get an endorphin rush when you exercise? For me, it often happens when I’m finished. I flush with energy and happiness and a sense of accomplishment.

Yep, exercise-induced-endorphins are my drug of choice. (Although I did require depression medication, too. It wasn’t enough to stave off the deep depression I faced, so this is NOT me saying you can fight depression with exercise.)

Why You Might Want to Get Addicted

There are a ton of benefits of daily exercise. I’m sure you can list these along with me, but here are my top five:

  1. Energizes me mentally, physically and emotionally
  2. Strengthens me to do what I enjoy
  3. Helps maintain weight (until menopause)
  4. Improves overall physical health
  5. Fights depression

Any one of those should be reason enough to get moving.

I know people who think I’m crazy because I like to exercise. I say to them, “You just haven’t found something you enjoy yet.” And I believe that.

I don’t understand why people wouldn’t enjoy a walk around the neighborhood on a lovely sunny day. I completely get why they might refuse the same stroll if it was pouring rain or even drizzling. Ugh. Walking in the rain is NOT my jam but some people enjoy it.

I’m more the indoor exercise type during the long rainy season. And it is LONG in Oregon. That’s why I subscribe to Beachbody on Demand. Of course, I have quite a library of exercise videos and DVDs, too. I could probably do a different one every day for two months without a repeat.

But I have to enjoy the workout, or I won’t get up for it. What? Miss my endorphin injection? There’s always the treadmill.

Are you an addict? Do you think any addiction is bad? Let’s talk about the battle of the bulge in the comments.

3 thoughts on “Confessions of an Exercise-a-holic”

  1. I wrote a blog post some years back (https://deborah.makarios.nz/am-i-an-addict-in-which-i-try-some-amateur-psychological-self-diagnosis/) about whether I was addicted to reading, inspired by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s investigation into whether she was addicted to knitting. The post included a quote from Gail Carriger: “it may be like the difference between a drinker and an alcoholic; the one merely reads books, the other needs books to make it through the day.”
    I guess the same could go for food: happy memories around food are a normal part of being human, in my opinion. Not being able to form happy memories unless food is involved could be more problematic.

    I have heard of some people who are addicted to exercise as part of an eating disorder – eating less and less and exercising more and more in order to force their body to dwindle away to a skeletal frame. I’m glad that isn’t you!
    I could probably do with more exercise – most of what I get is going up and down the stairs ten times a day, gardening, and walking to anywhere that’s within a ten minute walk or thereabouts. So that’s some, but not perhaps as much as would be good for me.

    1. I think addictions can be scaled, too. If I don’t exercise, I get grumpy and lethargic. Like some people get if they don’t have their morning coffee – usually that’s accompanied with a headache. I don’t know as though that’s full-on withdrawal symptoms, but I think it’s close.
      So do I need exercise to make it through the day? To make it through with the right attitude and not collapsing from mind fatigue by 6 PM, yes. Thanks for the comment and the post link. I may have overstated the addiction…but isn’t hyperbole expected from a fiction writer.

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