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Challenging Fitness Rules with the EDIT™ Method

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

Eating disorders thrive on black-and-white rules: do/don’t, good/bad, should/shouldn’t. While many of these rules may revolve around food, EDs rarely spare exercise, either! In fact, there is even a subtype type of eating disorder – anorexia athletica – characterized primarily by excessive exercise.

For someone who is either unaffected by an eating disorder or is solidly recovered, moderate exercise can be important for physical and mental health.[1] However, our ED voices often corrupt our relationship with fitness. EDs can reduce the life-enhancing benefits of joyful movement to a series of strict dogma.

Clinicians often recommend you avoid exercise during the early stages of eating disorder recovery, especially if weight restoration is one of your treatment goals. But eventually, you may find yourself wanting to return to movement with a renewed attitude toward health and fitness… and before you do, you’ll need to be prepared to challenge your ED voice and its rigid rules around exercise.

Here’s how!

Exercising Safely in Eating Disorder Recovery

It’s worth noting that exercise is not recommended for every individual in eating disorder recovery. A prolonged rest period is often recommended, especially during the early stages of weight restoration and ED recovery. You should always consult with your doctor and other members of your care team before beginning a new fitness routine. Certain medical complications associated with eating disorders can make exercise dangerous, including low body weight and amenorrhea.

Challenging Fitness Rules with Your Intuitive Therapist (IT) Voice

If you’re ready to begin exploring your relationship with exercise, here’s how to get started with identifying and challenging fitness rules using the EDITMethod:

1. Identify Limiting Beliefs

The first step in challenging fitness rules is acknowledging they exist. There are some keywords that can help you identify limiting beliefs around exercise. Keywords like “have to,” “never/always,” or “should/shouldn’t” might clue you into patterns of black-and-white thinking. Some examples of common limiting beliefs about fitness include:

● “I have to exercise every day, regardless of how my body feels.”

● “I can’t miss a workout, even for family or friends.”

● “If I eat more than a certain amount, I have to work it off.”

● “Only certain activities ‘count’ as exercise.”

● “‘Overweight’ people are ‘overweight’ because they do not exercise.”

2. Spot the Thinking Traps

The next step is to notice exactly what is holding you back from a balanced relationship with exercise. When considering your limiting beliefs, what stands out as extreme, unhealthy, or unrealistic?

According to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), many unhelpful beliefs fall into categories of similar thoughts called “thinking traps.” Some examples of these thinking traps include:

All-or-nothing thinking: A synonym for black-and-white thinking, including extreme statements such as always/never and good/bad.

Over-generalizing: When you ignore the nuances of a situation and apply grand, sweeping statements to everyone.

Tunnel vision: Over-emphasizing the less significant details of a situation, while discounting the more important aspects.

3. Restructure Your Beliefs

Lastly, consider your limiting beliefs about exercise. Taking into account all of the evidence, including everything you’ve learned from the EDITMethod, what would a more realistic, accurate version of this thought look like?

For example, say your limiting belief around exercise is that you have to do it every day, no matter how you’re feeling. You might remind yourself that the purpose of exercise is to benefit your health – and if you are not feeling well, physically or mentally, pushing yourself beyond your limits may actually be harmful to your health. A new version of this thought might be, “It’s okay not to exercise if I don’t feel up to it.”

This step can be the hardest. Often, it feels silly or inauthentic at first. But with time and repetition, you may find that your restructured thoughts come to you more automatically. An EDIT-certified recovery coach can help support you through this process – reach out to me today at to learn more!

[1] This article does not constitute medical advice. Please consult with your doctor before beginning any type of exercise program, especially if you are recovering from an eating disorder.

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