A Glitch in the Matrix

*Note:  There are a few responses from my previous post that haven’t made it out of moderation, because I want to address them individually.  Please bear with me.

 

I’ve been going to Tai Chi for three weeks now.  It’s been good for me.  My body feels stronger.  I feel more relaxed when I’m done with my lessons.   I’m developing better balance (even though I did stumble last Saturday morning).  My stamina is improving.   All of these are wonderful things, and all things I wanted to have happen.

The problem is how the act of exercising is triggering some of my old dysfunctional behavior.

I tried to talk about it to my husband last weekend.  I told him how I was having difficulty with this.  Not with the exercising, but in keeping the exercise balanced.  I am having trouble just doing my Tai Chi. 

For the last two weeks, my thoughts stray to more exercise.  After all, my body loves exercise.  It responds quickly (in added strength, et al) to even a minimum amount of exercise.  So if a little bit is good, then more is better, right?

Yes, I’m going back into old thought patterns.

When I was a child, besides feeding me a subsistence diet (because of how “fat” I was), my parents also insisted I do a lot of exercise.  Even when my stamina ran out, I had to do more exercise.  Even though I didn’t have the muscle ability (due to not having enough protein, fat, carbohydrates, or calories to support muscle growth), I still had to do exercise.  And when I didn’t do enough, or didn’t “improve” fast enough, I was ridiculed.

As a teenager and young adult, I did incredible amounts of exercise, though nobody ever believed me (because by that time I really was fat).  In high school I walked 2 miles round trip to school, did high impact aerobics during P.E. every day, and then did two hours of high impact aerobics at home every night.  During summer vacation, I’d get up at 5am so I could walk 4 miles a day (or more).

In the past couple of weeks, I keep catching myself making plans to wake up at 6am to take the dog for a two mile walk.  The plans continue with doing yoga once the dog is sleeping (after being wore out from the long walk), and then riding the exercise bike for a while (starting at 1/2 hour and working up to 1 or even 2 hours a day).  All the while keeping up with my Tai Chi.

Can you see how this isn’t right?

Conall was concerned because I might be pushing it too much on the exercise, but he didn’t see how the compulsion was building.  Somehow, I couldn’t put into words that it was a compulsion. 

It wasn’t until talking to my psychologist today that I figured it out.  Exercise was always something that was done as a punishment for me being “fat” and “ugly”.  As a child, my parents told me I was so fat they had to starve me, and I had to work out endlessly to work the fat off.  As a teenager I had completely bought into the “I’m too fat thought” and punished myself for being so “bad”.

As much as I have been working on accepting myself where I am, it seems there’s still some of that old programming in existence.

At this point, I don’t know what I’m going to do to counter this.  I love Tai Chi.  I love the strength and balance it’s giving me.  I don’t want to give it up.  But I also see the compulsion that’s starting back up.  I don’t want to go back there.   If I exercise, I want to exercise because I love it, not because I’m punishing myself.

I really thought I was over all this stuff.  Guess I get to work on another layer of that onion.

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8 Responses

  1. I think that’s along the same lines as addiction to food.. you have to eat live and be healthy. You have to find a balance, and even though just cutting out going at all might be easier, it probably wouldn’t be the best for you. I hope you can find a balance that keeps you happy and healthy

  2. Congratulations on noticing the compulsion as being a compulsion.

  3. Old thought patterns are really hard to break through. You are not alone.

  4. I empathize so much with where you are, since I have been active all my life & all my life I have fought the urge to push myself too hard, something I am no longer able…pushing 60, with arthritis & cerebral palsy…to manage. For most of my life, I have worked out 1 to 2 hours every day, with at least four separate periods in my life lasting 3 to 4 years each where I exercised intensely at least 3 to 4 hours every day. It takes a lot of work & constant vigilance to remind myself that they can only find any real health benefits for 20-30 minutes of moderate walking per day & that exercise is also governed by the law of diminishing returns, so that, after a certain point, the less good it does you & the more harm your body sustains. I know that I have hastened the rate at which my body has been breaking down because of how much I have pushed myself.

    I send you good thoughts & positive vibes for finding a good, comfortable balance in your life. Take care.

  5. I think it shows how far you’ve come that you recognize the compulsion for what it is and where it comes from, and are taking steps to counter it; by talking to your husband and therapist you’ve put what you’re feeling out in the open where you can handle it and get help with it. You may have another layer of the onion to go but you’re much deeper into your onion than some.

  6. I can so relate to this. Part of it, for me, is that I honestly love to exercise, and it’s a huge stress reliever and anxiety reducer for me. But, because of that, I can come to use it as my ONLY coping mechanism, and to beat myself up for not doing as much as I think I should, neither of which is healthy.

    I’m actually exercising quite a bit, in terms of time, right now, just because I’ve had to really take the intensity of my workouts down since I’ve been pregnant, and I’ve added in prenatal yoga to my usual aerobics. But, like I said, I’ve taken the intensity WAY down. So, even though I’m doing 25 minutes of walking and 20 minutes of yoga in the morning and at night, I find myself feeling like I should be doing more. Maybe I should add a 2-mile walk in the afternoon. Maybe I should wear my pedometer again and make sure I’m getting at least 10,000 steps. Somehow it just feels like I’m not doing enough, and it’s very easy to feel like I should/must do more.

    I’m just trying to stay rational, and am basically not allowing myself to add in more exercise. A walk for fun around the neighborhood or walking to take an errand or running around with my son is obviously fine, but adding in any additional exercise for the sake of exercise isn’t. Because I know myself, and the first day I add in one more walk for exercise mid-day, I’ll start feeling like a failure every day I don’t do it afterwards. I tend not to get very compulsive or obsessive about food and dieting, but I absolutely can get that way about exercise, and for me having schedules and setting limits is what I need to do.

  7. I can so relate to this. Part of it, for me, is that I honestly love to exercise, and it’s a huge stress reliever and anxiety reducer for me. But, because of that, I can come to use it as my ONLY coping mechanism, and to beat myself up for not doing as much as I think I should, neither of which is healthy.

    I’m actually exercising quite a bit, in terms of time, right now, just because I’ve had to really take the intensity of my workouts down since I’ve been pregnant, and I’ve added in prenatal yoga to my usual aerobics. But, like I said, I’ve taken the intensity WAY down. So, even though I’m doing 25 minutes of walking and 20 minutes of yoga in the morning and at night, I find myself feeling like I should be doing more. Maybe I should add a 2-mile walk in the afternoon. Maybe I should wear my pedometer again and make sure I’m getting at least 10,000 steps. Somehow it just feels like I’m not doing enough, and it’s very easy to feel like I should/must do more.

    I’m just trying to stay rational, and am basically not allowing myself to add in more exercise. A walk for fun around the neighborhood or walking to take an errand or running around with my son is obviously fine, but adding in any additional exercise for the sake of exercise isn’t. Because I know myself, and the first day I add in one more walk for exercise mid-day, I’ll start feeling like a failure every day I don’t do it afterwards. I tend not to get very compulsive or obsessive about food and dieting, but I absolutely can get that way about exercise, and for me having schedules and setting limits is what I need to do.
    Forgot to mention excellent post. Can’t wait to seeing your next one!

  8. I’m hopeful that by recognizing and acknowledging the compulsion, you will be able to work through it more easily.

    I did not start packing on the pounds until my early twenties, so I did not have the same experience with my parents. However, I still carry the “goal” of clearing my plate, something I was encouraged to do as a child. As a result I just ignore any signs of being full.

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