Exercise in eating disorder recovery is a hotly disputed topic. What type of activity is positive? When does activity become disordered? Is there a place for intense exercise in recovery? The Emily Program’s Director of Nutrition, Shena Washburn, joins Peace Meal to answer these questions and more.
Episode show notes:
Shena Washburn is the Director of Nutrition at The Emily Program, where she oversees nutrition and food services programming. Shena is a former dance instructor and is passionate about helping those in recovery find food and body peace.
We start this episode by discussing what types of exercise can be a risk factor for the development of eating disorders—key sports being gymnastics and cross country. Shena explains her preference for using the word movement over exercise because exercise implies control. Movement, on the other hand, can include any type of activity where your body is moving and it is a fluid term with little constraint.
When understanding if exercise is excessive, one can ask certain themselves questions. Why am I playing this sport? What am I hoping to gain? Am I nourishing my body? How would I feel if I wasn’t able to do the activity one day? Do I feel pressure to look one way? By reflecting on the answers to these questions, individuals can learn about their food-body relationship and understand if it is negative and disordered.
In addition to excessive exercise, there is also exercise avoidance. Individuals who are exercise-resistant often avoid exercise due to a dislike of movement, discomfort with their appearance or the social setting, and/or body trauma. For these individuals, eating disorder treatment and tailored therapy can be particularly helpful at addressing the root causes and behaviors.
Shena wraps up the podcast by discussing how individuals can find a proper level of activity and what she recommends to those in recovery. Shena recommends that those struggling from food, body, or exercise issues should seek specialized care and be very aware of the intentions behind their activities. Shena believes the purpose of movement should be joy and purpose.
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