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I always start working out with the best intentions to be strong, feel good in my body, and improve my mood.

Once I get a routine going and weight starts coming off, it's really hard for me to maintain focused on my original goals. I start thinking about my body constantly and start fantasizing about being skinnier and people finding me more attractive. I then spiral into hating my current body, wanting to diet, and using exercise as primarily a weight loss tool. It sucks and doesn't feel nice, so then I stop working out again.

It seems as though I can either have a good relationship to my self image but poor physical health habits, or good physical health habits but a poor self image.

I love the orientation to fitness that the women in the thread from two months ago shared: Why is fitness a feminist issue for you?. But I don't know how to get from where I'm at now to a more healthy outlook that lasts longer than a couple months.

Has anyone dealt with this and have any advice for practical steps to developing a healthier relationship with my body?

(I am in therapy for general mental health support, by the way, but I haven't found therapy to be a magic bullet for removing all the diet/thinness baggage.)

I always start working out with the best intentions to be strong, feel good in my body, and improve my mood. Once I get a routine going and weight starts coming off, it's really hard for me to maintain focused on my original goals. I start thinking about my body constantly and start fantasizing about being skinnier and people finding me more attractive. I then spiral into hating my current body, wanting to diet, and using exercise as primarily a weight loss tool. It sucks and doesn't feel nice, so then I stop working out again. It seems as though I can either have a good relationship to my self image but poor physical health habits, or good physical health habits but a poor self image. I love the orientation to fitness that the women in the thread from two months ago shared: [Why is fitness a feminist issue for you?](https://ovarit.com/o/Fitness/5841). But I don't know how to get from where I'm at now to a more healthy outlook that lasts longer than a couple months. Has anyone dealt with this and have any advice for practical steps to developing a healthier relationship with my body? (I am in therapy for general mental health support, by the way, but I haven't found therapy to be a magic bullet for removing all the diet/thinness baggage.)

9 comments

I can only speak for myself, but when I began powerlifting, I experienced a shift in mindset. Powerlifters measure their success by the weight on the bar. 500kg deadlift good, 501kg deadlift better. Success is not closely tied to thinness. And hitting new records is exciting in itself. You need to get excited, committed, devoted to a metric other than thinness. Endurance, strength, skill... you have to aim for something that's intrinsic to the sport itself. I guess it's a bit trickier with cardio because endurance can always be a sneaky substitute metric for how many minutes/how many calories you burned. On the other hand, when runners really want to be successful, they fuel themselves adequately (with carbs. lots of carbs). So I guess you have to find something you really care about succeeding or progressing at. What kind of sporting skill or achievement do you think you could get excited about? For example, it could be learning awesome dance or acrobatic moves, achieving the most advanced yoga poses, squatting your weight in iron, or hitting the target/goal/net every time...

was about to say this! switching to powerlifting/a strength and muscle building focus workout helped so much! and honestly, the muscle you gain helps so much with confidence (being able to open jars, carry all your heavy stuff, etc)! im now the jar opener of whatever house I walk into! (well. when it's not corona times)

Yea focusing on a metric is very good advice. Also remember that an exercise routine is not the only way to be physically active.

Gardeners, dog owners, and campers can get quite a bit of exercise without thinking of it as exercise. Or if you're social and the covid situation allows, maybe some of your friends would like to get together weekly at the pool or to explore the city/backwoods/haunted ruins by your house.

Depending on your situation, you might want a formal exercise routine as well. But even so, physical hobbies can really help you think of your body as an awesome tool for you rather than a decoration for other people.

It seems as though I can either have a good relationship to my self image but poor physical health habits, or good physical health habits but a poor self image.

cant tell you how much i relate to this!!! i had a pretty bad ED in my teens and i exercised compulsively. I definitely wouldn't call myself recovered but it's not as bad as it used to be. still, any attempt to exercise is like a fail proof immediate trigger for severe body dysmorphia. like, even getting into workout clothes can trigger this before the exercise even begins. and it sucks because I wanted to start exercising since Covid has resulted in me not moving very much, but also, the mental torture that I go through just isn't worth it tbh. I don't like being a motionless sloth all day but I also don't like having mental breakdowns over my body, soo.. lesser of two evils??

I wish I had more advice but I just wanted to let you that you're definitely not alone in this. and also, you don't have to exercise tbh. yes it's obviously good for you and has more benefits than downsides, but a big part of eating disorders and their rationale is framing food and exercise as a question of morality, a.k.a eating healthy/working out somehow makes you a better person or reflects on your worth. it doesn't! and it doesn't necessarily make you unhealthy, either. I would recommend seeking therapy and working on making your mind healthier before your body.

Yes, me. I have been through anorexia&bulimia. Now I get from time to time a "maybe I could be thinner?", but it's more like 10% of the times I look in the mirror. I would say I like my body, but in truth, I... don't care that much anymore? I'm at a healthy weight and I'm fine with it.

After ED I started living health with vegetables and going to the gym and stuff like that, but in the end it was boring as hell. My advise for you as for everyone is this: find your sport.

Your sport will not only keep you healthy, it will reorganize everything in your brain around the fact that you need to be healthy. You'll need to eat, because if not you'll get hungry and trust me, it sucks getting hungry while doing something you love. Fitness will come in months or weeks.

In my case it was weeks, since it was a very high impact fighting style and a lot of days during the week. But if it's something like trekking or dance, maybe it takes a bit more.

The other thing that helps is the social part. The sport won't suck anymore because you will meet people and make friends, and when you know eachother they will be happy to see you and viceversa.

And the best part... you will not need to set time to exercise ever again anymore, because your hobby is a sport.

So, pick your sport. Swimming, dancing, tennis, muay thai, surfing... Suddently you'll see yourself more healthy physically and mentally.

I've experienced something similar where I wanted to get to the destination sooner and not enjoying the journey. I think what worked for me was to stop thinking about how it impacted the way my body looked just the feeling of getting stronger or knowing I was capable on a daily basis to committing to work out. I did have a trainer which is probably the main reason I stuck to it, but I used an app before having a trainer that logged my daily workouts and it felt good to see that. Being thinner wasn't a focus for me and losing weight does happen naturally/gradually the more you workout especially when it becomes less of a focus. I keep my mind focused on being like "hell yeah I'm getting stronger" and really congratulate myself daily when I am finished with a workout. I don't always feel up for it, but I do feel rewarded after just for sticking to it.

I would also recommend intuitive eating as opposed to some sort of diet. I have changed my language around food as well. If I am eating something like candy or junk food which I typically don't eat - I allow myself grace by not labeling it as a "bad" food but just a moment of indulgence which is not going to throw all my work out the window.

Do you like to cook? I think it has been a fun one for me to get creative and try veggies in different ways and stuff like that.

I work at an eating disorder facility. The book all the clients have to read is this one, and I 100% recommend it. Based on what you are saying, it speaks to exactly your concerns.

https://www.amazon.com/Intuitive-Eating-4th-Anti-Diet-Revolutionary/dp/1250255198

It’s funny, I never considered diet and exercise together. For me, exercise doesn’t change the number on the scale. It does 50!other amazing things for me, but I don’t lose weight.

Can you work to separate them too?

Can you commit to a goal like a calendar with an “I exercised 3 xa week marked?”

I am sometimes a very fit person. When I fall off that I have to start with small goals. Consistency is the important word. I’ve done great with a rule that I have to do minimum 10 minutes for a minimum of 3 x a week. That keeps me going. I usually do more but on the days/weeks I can’t, that rule carries the consistency through to when I can.

The food is a separate issue really and I get into the cycle you are talking about.

The exercise is pure positive