Lately, I’ve run across several women who seem controlled by eating and exercising. I must confess… I have been there, and I have to keep myself in check to make sure I stay balanced. It really is a fine line between exercising enough and becoming obsessive about it to the point of over-exercising. For me, I monitor this by keeping close tabs on both my inner attitude toward my workouts, as well as the physical signs of over-training. Again, I confess that recently I’ve caught myself leaning toward a NEED to exercise and a general anxiety at the thought of missing workouts. This is coming dangerously close to an exercise addiction. Every 12 weeks, I force myself to take a break from weights in order to give my muscles and joints time to rest and recover. I hardly ever take time off from cardio, though. So, I need to be very careful not to allow the desire to exercise to become a need to exercise. It’s such a fine line.
I found a very helpful quiz in a book called Appearance Obsession: Learning to Love the Way You Look by Joni E. Johnston, Psy. D. I’m quoting this verbatim, so I hope I’m not breaking any copyright laws!
When Exercise Takes Control
Who’s in control, you or your exercise routine? The following questions will help you assess the degree to which your exercise may be getting out of control.
Are You at Risk For Overexercise?
Answer True or False to the following questions.
- The way my body looks to me depends on whether I have exercised that day or not.
- I often exercise when I have an injury or don’t feel well.
- For one year or longer, I have exercised five or more times a week for one hour or more.
- I feel depressed and/or irritable if I miss exercising for three days or more.
- I find myself continually adding newer and stricter goals to my exercise routine.
- I will dramatically alter my schedule in order to work out.
- I feel anxious if I miss even one workout.
- At times I have used exercise to avoid dealing with work or relationship problems.
- I often feel like I hate my exercise routine, but feel unable to stop it.
- I exercise primarily for weight control and muscle tone.
- I keep detailed records or logs of my workout sessions.
- It would be very difficult for me to change my exercise. (For example, if you are a runner, you would be unwilling to switch or alternate with aerobic dance or bicycling.)
- I frequently find myself thinking about exercising in between workouts.
- While I am exercising, I often find myself daydreaming about the possibility of a “new, improved” physique.
Scoring: Give yourself one point for every true response. Add up your total points and see where you fall on the exercise continuum as follows.
0-3: You are normally in control of your exercise schedule. Like many of us, you may at times have mixed feelings about your exercise schedule – sometimes enjoying it, sometimes not. It may be helpful to assess your exercise motivation to see how “looking good” fits in. However, your answers suggest that you are not presently at risk for overexercising.
4-6: You are in the borderline range of overexercise. It will be important to assess your exercise behavior to see how it may be affecting other areas of your life. Even if it is not, your pattern of responses suggests that you are not getting a lot of enjoyment out of your current exercise pattern.
7 or more: You are likely to depend on exercise for a sense of self-worth. This dependency may cause problems in other areas of your life, or you may be feeling like exercise is controlling you rather than the other way around.
If you found that you are over-exercising, she gives helpful suggestions in her book in order to help you have a healthier mental outlook regarding your exercise routine. Remember, life is not about exercise, eating, or your appearance! You want to take care of yourself physically through proper nutrition and exercise so that you can maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to accomplish whatever it is you were put on this earth to do. I have to remind myself of this all the time!