Yes…it’s possible! The word “addiction” give us images of people in dark rooms, listening to bad music and sticking needles in their arms, but many addicts can be found in the gym or on the local school track, getting just as addictive a fix. In fact, the positive nature of the word “healthy” makes health and fitness addiction all the more alluring. Despite the positive media, health addicts have done as much damage to their families and lives as any other kind of addict. In this article, we’ll look under the surface of health and fitness addiction and find a path to recovery.
How Can Something So Good Be Bad? In our modern Western culture, those willing to pay the price for fitness are to be applauded. There are just so many temptations to do otherwise. Exercise is mostly boring, painful and smelly, so those who endure it for about an hour, 3-5 days a week, have achieved a level of discipline most only dream of.
Health and fitness addiction is not about health or fitness…it’s about a compulsion to use healthy activities to fill a void we see in ourselves. Addicts are compelled, not disciplined. The addictive chemicals involved in exercise are much the same as those in sex and porn addiction. This may explain why many people suffer from both sexual addictions and health addictions.
Types Of Health And Fitness Addiction: These are addictions to the activities of health and fitness, as opposed to the TV, Internet and shopping addictions which could involve health themes. Health and fitness addictions are compulsions to engage in “healthy” activities, like exercise, dieting, etc. In fact, anorexia and bulimia nervosa have both been described as severe health and fitness addictions. Two key symptoms of these mental disorders are exercise and dietary control to a compulsive and excessive extreme. The specific exercise or diet plan doesn’t matter. It’s an addiction when you feel compelled to do it.
How Do I Know I’m Addicted? We addicts don’t often recognize addiction because a common symptom of addiction is denial, which is even easier to have about health. That’s why it’s easier to find out from a friend or loved one if you have a problem in this area. For health addiction involving eating, see Anorexia Nervosa Quiz. Here are some things to watch out for concerning fitness exercise addiction:
1. Do you regularly spend more than 8 hours a week exercising and is the time you spend increasing?
2. Does your exercise schedule interfere with normal family activities, home or work responsibilities?
3. Do friends or family members complain about the time or money you spend on fitness?
4. Have you wondered if you’re being too compulsive about your fitness program?
5. Have you lied to your family, friends, or employers about the time you spend in fitness activities?
6. Do you often see fitness as a way to gain acceptance or praise from others?
7. Have you ever pushed so hard in your fitness program you hurt yourself?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should consider yourself at risk of addiction. If you answered yes to 3 or more, you’re probably addicted.
How Do I Recover From Health And Fitness Addiction? This is caused by a negative self-image, like any other addiction. Instead of alcohol, you use exercise to fill a void you feel in yourself. Since the relief produced by exercise is only temporary and you become conditioned, you need regular increases in the activity to produce the same relief. Unlike alcohol, a certain amount of fitness activity is required for health, so, you can’t just quit. Instead, we have to hold ourselves to no more than an hour a day, 3-5 days a week.
Spend the rest of the time you used to exercise going to AA or other addiction meetings and engaging in self-development activities. You could read, go back to school, join a volunteer group. You could take up a hobby, like gardening or building model airplanes. To help in building yourself up, avoid negative mental inputs, like the news, drama, negative, insulting friends. Replace those with good music or reading or other activities that build you up. Push all the negative, self-defeating, limiting thoughts out of your mind with positive, uplifting, encouraging thoughts.
Because there are risks that health and fitness addiction could develop into full-blown anorexia, if you try and fail to get a handle on your addiction, please see a doctor. Sometimes medical and psychological therapy can prevent a more serious condition from developing, and allow you the mental energies you need to get control of yourself.
Health and fitness addiction can be just as severe as any other addiction. It can imprison us into destructive, compulsive activities. We can place our families, our careers, even, ironically, our health at risk through addiction to exercise and other fitness activities. The good news is, there is hope for anyone willing to live in and work on recovery.
Glen Williams is Webmaster at Health Fitness and Addiction Help and Founder of E-Home Fellowship (EHF), Co. He has helped people with health, addiction and other on life situations since 1987. You can comment on his articles at E-Health-Fitness Community Forums.