What My Anxiety Tells Me When I Exercise


Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

My anxiety likes to tell me I can’t better myself. It likes to tell me I’m incapable of change. This, combined with the binge eating disorder I developed as a coping mechanism for my anxiety, has seen my weight fluctuate across a 60-pound range since I hit puberty. Having a body type that is not society’s definition of beautiful or healthy only encouraged my anxiety in lowering my self-image.

Since I began treatment for my anxiety a few months ago, I have been pushing myself emotionally and I’m making great strides. I decided to start trying to make some changes anxiety has kept me from in the past. As I gained some control over my binge eating, I thought adding regular exercise into my routine could have multiple benefits. The stress relief, the outlet for physical anxiety symptoms and happy brain chemicals being created would all benefit me with my anxiety. What I didn’t expect was what my anxiety would tell me while I exercised.

What my anxiety told me:

1. “You are weak.”
2. “You can’t do this.”
3. “Who do you think you are?”
4. “You aren’t capable of being better.”
5. “You’re just a fat, lazy slob — you can’t be anything else.”
6. “Why are you even doing this if you’re just going to binge it away tomorrow?”
7. “You could never have enough strength to see this through.”
8. “If you’re not going to see this through, why even start?”
9. “Why are you even trying?”
10. “You’re not going to get anywhere.”
11. “There are grandmas who could do this better than you.”
12. “What makes you think you are worth the effort?”
13. “You probably look like an idiot.”
14. “If anyone saw this they would laugh at you.”
15. “This effort is laughable.”
16. “If you’re not going to give it your all, why are you even trying?”
17. “That’s not your all! You should have done better!”
18. “If you’re so weak that you can’t do better, then you should give up right now.”
19. “You are weak.”
20. “You’ll never be strong.”

This is what I said back to my anxiety:
1. You can do this.
2. You just did this two days ago.
3. Just push a little more.
4. You got this.
5. You. Can. Do. This.

Multiple tears fell down my face as I pushed through different portions of my workout. My anxiety got louder and louder the longer I went, so I screamed back at it in my mind. I did not quit, but I was too exhausted at the end to claim any sort of victory. The next time someone tells you exercise is more of a mental battle for them than a physical one, I’d like you to think of this before you judge them as unmotivated. It is literally a battle in the mind for some people. It’s a battle that, even when won, is met with disdain in my mind because I had to fight it at all.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via ArthurHidden

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