How body movement can help heal binge eating and food addiction

Physical activity has been co- opted by the diet industry just as food has—in other words, used only in the service of trying to get you to lose weight. No wonder just thinking about exercise may send you into a fit of resistance or may make you feel guilty that you’re not doing enough or not doing the right kind—at least according to all the experts.

Turn your inner skeptic loose on the field of exercise and all its attendant "expert" advice.

You may be lucky enough to enjoy exercise To you, I say: "Keep up the good work!"
if you have food and body image issues, you may struggle with exercise. To you, I say: "Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water." What I mean by that is don’t let the voices of ex-coaches, parents, peers who teased you, or anyone else who robbed you of the joy of being in motion take away the pleasure inherent in moving your body.  Here's a story of one of my patients:

Carol is a bubbly thirty-year-old woman from a large Italian family. As a child, Carol loved to play soccer.  At age eleven, at the end of the soccer season, her coach took her aside and let her know she wouldn’t be able to be on the team anymore because of her weight. She was crushed and was never enthusiastic about body movement after this.

Just as you can learn to eat with joy, you can also reclaim your right to move your body with joy.

Moving your body is a natural desire that you have, or at least had when you were younger.   Body movement doesn’t need to be painful or make you unhappy! Just as depriving yourself of foods you enjoy leads to overeating or bingeing, forcing yourself to do exercises you think you should do rather than ones you love leads to high dropout rates and increasing resistance to moving your body at all.

The bottom line is that the only "should" you need pay attention to is the importance of finding an activity you love.

If you are still not feeling motivated to exercise your right to natural and joyful body movement, you may be like Carol in that you’ve had some exercise-related trauma, embarrassment, or past experience that has left you with an emotional block to moving your body. In Carol’s case, she had not linked what happened with her soccer coach to her adult resistance to physical exercise. Becoming more aware of this enabled her to challenge the subconscious belief that she couldn’t be athletic because of her size.

Remember that moving your body is not something you have to do, so don’t take the "marine drill sergeant" approach by forcing yourself to do some- thing you don’t want to do. Instead, see if you can tap into an inner feeling that draws you to a form of moving your body.    Follow your feeling, and stay open and curious and you will find your way back to what's natural for you.

Homework: Journal about your experiences and insights to the questions below.

  1. See if you can imagine the feeling of being in movement when you were a child, and describe that feeling.  
  2. Now ask yourself what made moving your body feel the way you described as a child.
  3. List three things you can do to reclaim your desire to move your body. If you are ready and willing, the act of actually doing some physical activity will help you heal emotional blocks to moving your body.

Hope this was helpful.  All the best,

Dr. Carolyn

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