4 Ways to Cope When You Aren’t Allowed to Exercise

exercise - Image of figure of woman gazing downward, blurred orange smoke covers most of her body

Prior to my eating disorder, I lived a very active, exercise filled life.

I had a stable workout schedule with my roommate, went on hikes and adventures on weekends with friends, and did fun runs with my mom. I loved being active. While I never overexercised, I was still put on a strict no exercise plan during the re-feeding process.

And I didn’t like it at all.

It took me awhile to become weight restored. Throughout the entire process, I didn’t exercise at all. I had to learn how to adjust to this new, less active lifestyle while also trusting that it was the best decision for my body.

It wasn’t easy, but it did help me discover that there’s a lot more to life than exercise. There were 4 major things that helped me through this time, and I want to share them with you.

4 ways to cope with exercise restriction during recovery:

1. Discover/revisit other hobbies

I hated the question, “what can you do to fill the time that you usually spend working out?”

To me, being inside reading or watching tv was not going to fill the void. So, I really started exploring my interests and found new passions.

For example, I discovered I LOVE calligraphy and writing. By adding these hobbies to my existing ones (cooking and reading), I now have a wide variety of things I can do during my free time.

2. Find new things to do with your workout buddies

One of the hardest parts of exercise restriction was seeing my old workout partners still being active while I sat around.

Rather than being upset and isolating, I decided to find new things I could do with them. My friends and I started going shopping, having movie nights, and just socializing around town. Having new things to do with these people helped me cope with not being able to go to the gym with them.

3. Get outside

I’ve always loved the outdoors. However, I always associated the outdoor with physical activities I enjoy like morning walks, weekend hikes and kayaking.

But just because you can’t be active outdoors doesn’t mean you have to stay inside all day. You just have to be a little more creative. 

Simple things like going outside on my balcony to call my mom, reading at outdoor picnic tables on campus, and spending weekends sitting by the pool were great mood boosters.

Being in fresh air gave me the energy burst I was missing from being physically active.

4. Trust the process

A huge part of the recovery process is trusting your treatment team. It took weeks of being frustrated with my dietitian before I realized she truly did have my well being in mind.

Remember, this will pass. Recovery is hard and sometimes what you’re asked to do (or not do) feels awful in the moment.

Just remember that at the end of the day, recovery is the most important thing you can do for yourself. And your body is thanking you for it.

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