Is your diet and exercise routine really healthy?
Whilst reading this you might be in the midst of: carb cycling, quitting sugar, no carbs, clean eating, HIIT training, Cross-Fit, Bodypump or one of the many other promised routes to a better body.
Congratulations you are motivated and committed to a healthy lifestyle. You have created good habits, ensuring you stick to your routines which in turn leads to you reaching your goals.
What happens though if those habits are not so good after all and have quietly turned into unhealthy obsessions. Your healthy habits have started to intrude more and more into your day and are actually now starting to interfere with how you live your life. Your habits are now mentally, emotionally or physically holding you prisoner and you can't go a day without your habit being part of it. You now have an obsession.
Hobby/Habit/Obsession - Surely they are all the same thing?
Well yes you could say they are, but to varying degrees, it's very easy to disguise an unhealthy obsession as a healthy habit. The difference lies in if we feel anxious or maybe even angry if we fail to make the habit part of our day.
Hobby: something we do for pleasure in our spare time which is not detrimental to our wellbeing.
Habit: something we do on a regular basis with very little conscious thought, like brushing your teeth or locking the front door. Good or bad habits are made through repetition of a task, they take a while to form and can take equally as long to break.
Obsession: A pressure to carry out a habit that might not necessarily be good for us, but with no way to stop yourself from carrying on, often leading to anger or anxiety if the habit cannot be acted upon.
So has your healthy habit turned into an unhealthy obsession, it can be hard to recognise when it's cloaked in being good for you. The difference between the two is how easy it is to stop or skip the habit. Some of the signs that could indicate your healthy habit is getting out of control:
You constantly cancel social time with friends just to fit in gym sessions.
You get stressed if you can't fit in a certain amount of weekly workouts.
You have to burn a certain number of calories before you leave the gym.
You take your trainers on every holiday and you use them.
You become agitated if you can't see the healthy option on the menu.
Constantly weighing yourself.
The number on the scales can ruin your day.
You started eating a clean diet, but now have limited yourself so much that you have to eat the same things day after day.
This list is by no means exhaustive and is actually based on some of my past personal obsessions. I have stepped over the line myself and know how out of hand what seems like a healthy habit can become.
My unhealthy obsession with food and exercise began at a young age with a throwaway comment that led to me thinking I needed to lose some weight. It all started well and I liked the results that it was having on my body, I'm not even sure when it became an obsession. I began to worry more and more that I would put on weight, to avoid this I severely restricted my food intake.
I was at a dangerously low weight, it was a very worrying time for my parents who tried everything to convince me to eat. I would become angry and defensive every time food was mentioned. Luckily in my late teens life suddenly became more interesting than my unhealthy obsession and I began to develop a normal eating pattern.
You would think I had learned my lesson, but no unfortunately I hadn't. I then discovered the gym, it quickly became my new obsession, to the extent I was working out seven days a week and sometimes twice a day, with no rest. This was exhausting and took over my life to such an extent that I started to become ill physically and mentally.
The toll it took on my body was immense, rather than creating a healthy toned body I now had a body that was letting me down. Ultimatley something that was supposed to be doing me good was having the opposite effect.
This vicious circle stopped when I met my husband, I didn't have the time or inclination to carry on with my obsession. I honestly can't tell you if my obsessions were a coping mechanism, linked to my turbulent teenage years or if it's just the way I am made.
If you have realised that maybe you are in the grips of an obsession there is no easy answer to break the cycle. I did manage it on my own, for others it takes the help of professionals. I now look back with regret at the hours wasted in the gym trying to maintain a rididculous exercise regime.
Some of the things I wish I had known
There is so much misinformation surrounding diets and exercise that it's no wonder people get sucked into the latest fad, especially if it offers a quick fix.
Sadly a quick fix doesn't always lead to long term results and can start a horrible cycle of looking for the next craze that promises miracles.
This can create all sorts of problems, setting you up with an unhealthy mindset of believing you need to be following hard, possibly damaging routines to maintain your size and shape.
Lack of food and extreme exercise did not result in me having a better body, what has helped is gaining knowledge about how to eat well and exercise efficiently without it taking over my life.