“I used to work out to the point of injury or fatigue – here’s how I overcame it”

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Trigger warning: Evonne Englezos struggled with an exercise addiction and Bulimia for 14 years. Here, she writes about the realisations and decisions that helped her overcome them. 

1. I listened to my body

When I had an eating disorder, I demanded things of my body. I would overfeed it,  then restrict food to a minimum over several days or weeks . I used to work out to the point of injury or fatigue and still I did not listen to the messages my body gave me. When it needed nourishment and rest, I pushed through it. I was an overachiever in life and I pushed myself hard when working out. I even became a personal trainer, which is not uncommon for people struggling with disordered eating.

To overcome the eating disorder and the exercise addiction, I began eating mindfully. I learned that exercise was not a daily three hour task. I started wondering what I actually enjoyed doing, rather than what would burn the most calories.

2. I stopped denying the problem.

The distress the Bulimia was causing me was not obvious to others, however the behaviours were out of control and I was not coping well at all. I needed to be truthful with myself about what my eating behaviour and exercise addiction was actually doing to me. There are severe consequences of having an eating disorder; the impact on someone’s body can be irreversible. It was not a healthy way of living. But I know I could have kept on going. I’m not alone in this – disorders such as bulimia often go undiagnosed and unnoticed.

Consequently, women who do not present with extreme weight loss, as with Anorexia, struggle for years with a hidden illness and face barriers to seeking appropriate help. Being truthful about the seriousness of my eating disorder and the impact on my life was key to recovering.

how to beat exercise addiction
"I used to work out to the point of injury or fatigue."

3. I realised it was a deeper issue than just my relationship with food

It was not just the relationship with food I had to assess, it was my relationship with everything in my life that contributed to how I was relating to food and exercise.

I had to start asking the questions: 'What in my life am I trying to purge? Why can I not get enough? What underlying dissatisfaction or hole and I feeling that needs to be filled?'

4. I accepted that my body is fine the way it is

I finally came to forgive myself for what I was doing to my body. I started to practise gratitude for what my body could do, such as walk, digest food, that I could feel my fingers and toes. I then started to feel comfortable with my entire body - this included my size and body shape. I stopped focusing on getting to an ideal weight, and finally saw through the struggle with my behaviours then let them go.

I realised that for years, I had used my body as a way to communicate, but as I recovered, I learnt to do this using words.

When a person with an eating disorder does not understand their emotional life this often leads them to spend a lifetime trying to balance their emotions through food and obsessions with their body. They resort to the eating disorder behaviours to try to find this balance. Once I came to understanding and communicating what I wanted and needed, I started to feel comfortable with being me.

Have you ever struggled with an exercise addiction or an eating disorder? What helped you overcome them?

The new book by Evonne Englezos and Sue Paton, “To Eat or Not to Eat - a woman’s guide to overcoming disordered eating”, costs $29.95 and is available at leading bookstores and www.eatfed.com.au

For support, help and further information about eating disorders please contact The Butterfly Foundation on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or visit their website.

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