A new piece of work is in the world on a topic that is very near and dear to my heart, and it’s one that shares my story! Katherine Schreiber and Heather A. Hasuenblas teamed up to write “The Truth About Exercise Addiction: Understanding the Dark Side of Thinspiration”
While my story about exercise addiction (yes, it’s a thing that exists, and no, you don’t want to get one) has been shared in a number of different ways, having Katherine interview me and really “getting” my journey was so validating. Speaking with her on the phone last spring felt like warm sunshine thawing me out after a cold winter. You see, this thing called an exercise addiction is wholly foreign and very difficult for most people to understand. But Katherine’s summary of our talk for the book proved that she got it.
I remember on one of my first visits to Sheena’s Place (a support centre for those with eating disorders and body image issues), I asked timidly whether there were any books in the library that described my experience. That was 10 years ago (in 2005) and the answer was “no”. In fact, there didn’t even seem to be a name for what exercise had become for me – a safety net, an escape, an obsession.
This is among one of the many reasons I am so thrilled to be part of this book. Even now, 10 years later, when I have (mostly) figured out how to live in my body in a healthy way, I was so, so moved simply to read the definition of exercise addiction:
Exercise addiction is a pattern of physical activity that exceeds what most fitness and medical professionals consider “normal,” causes immense psychological anguish (either during, following or in anticipation of exercise), engulfs and exercise addicts personal, professional, and social life, and is experienced by the addict as difficult to control or reduce in frequency – even in the face of illness or injury.
Having a name for this *thing* that I went through all those years ago really legitimizes my experience. It’s the same sense of “I-can-finally-let-my-shoulders-relax” I had when I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. As much as labels shouldn’t matter, the clarity and objectivity that having these labels brought be made me feel heard and understood.
I am learning more about myself and what I’ve been through in reading about this deeply familiar and yet confusing topic. In addition to sharing the history, origins, signs & symptoms of exercise addiction, I’m connecting with others who, like me, have struggled with using exercise in unhealthy ways.
If you’re interested in picking up a copy of this book, or sharing it with someone else, here’s a handy link.