What Is Healthy Exercise?
Eating Disorders and Exercise Addiction
Many women with eating disorders are also compulsive exercisers, and newcomers may be shocked to learn that residential treatment also means letting go of the exercise addiction.
"The exercise addiction gets a lot of positive feedback because it makes them look better and feel more in control of their lives," notes Mirasol Executive Director Diane Ryan. "But eventually it takes on a compulsive quality and becomes just another way of restricting calories."
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To break the cycle, all Mirasol clients refrain from exercising for the first week of treatment. After the first week, based on their BMI and overall progress, they can participate in a carefully monitored program that may include yoga, dance/movement therapy, kickboxing, weights, gentle cardio and morning walks in the desert. All activities are accompanied by plenty of group and individual processing.
Mirasol's Family Program also includes an exercise component.
"It's not uncommon to find that the daughter has partnered with the parents in an exercise addiction," says Ryan, "so we provide training on healthy exercise, how to recognize compulsive exercise and how to assess participation in individual and group sports as its relates to eating disorder recovery."
As clients progress through their treatment program at Mirasol, they may participate in wilderness experiences including hiking, camping, caving and even backpacking. EEG brain maps and standard psychological tests administered before and after wilderness experiences have demonstrated significant decreases in symptoms of anxiety and depression. Mirasol offers multi-day camping trips about six times per year.
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