Is Physical Exercise, Too, an Addiction?
In her book “Women, Food and God” Geneen Roth points out “It’s not about the weight but it’s not not about the weight”. I can replace the word “weight” with quite a few others that challenge me to contemplate cause and effect. While my efforts at recovery over the years (mostly from food, though alcohol, nicotine and other substances had their share) has resulted in replacing less healthy behaviors with healthier ones, there is always a new layer that is up for evaluation. I slowly try and peel (and peel, and peel) what is blocking me from allowing complete vulnerability in the part of the world that I feel threatened by. Just when my EGO thinks I am close, my inner voice whispers “but wait, there’s more”. I try and give that inner voice kudos because at least it is no longer shouting at me in some foreign dialect that has always resulted in me feeling completely alienated and drawn to induce anything that will aid the numbing process. Sometimes I still want to silence any voice that suggests more effort. At least I can be gentler with it now. Presently, I have chosen to practice a lifestyle of exercise and clean eating. When I don’t live up to my expectations I can let it go for a day or so, though I feel some failure begin to seep in when I don’t accomplish at least some form of physical discipline. Like a drug, when I come down, it results in a deflation of sorts.
I am contemplating, today, how healthy behaviors sometimes resemble the addiction that unhealthy ones have had on me. I wonder if I have truly addressed and improved the mental part of my disease or just replaced it? I want proof that I am making mental progress. Today when missing my 2nd day of working out it led me to unhealthier eating; loss of desire and increased irritability. I am prone to investigate whether or not I am still covering up. If walking myself through the feelings means giving up what makes me feel good, whether it be a few shots of tequila, a pint of Talenti gelato or the Crossfit WOD, regardless that one is obviously more beneficial, then I am urged to examine the dependency aspect of it. (Another f’n layer!) The invitation has me exploring the behavioral similarities. As much as I love what my workouts bring to me, I don’t want to need an escape to avoid what is happening beneath what I am trying to peel. I almost don’t even want to put it out there for examination because I do not want there to be any truth to the notion that something that I believe is so good for me physically, mentally and spiritually can also be an obstacle to my vulnerability and truth. So in all of my pondering the thought that keeps popping into my head is “It’s not about the exercise, but it’s not not about the exercise.” I let the thoughts fester and come up with a few observations. When I get into the pool, or on my bike or take a run through the trails or a visiting city I am not really avoiding what is taking place internally. I am coping. And yes, I am surviving. All 3 of these activities, however, offer me a better perspective from which to accept my circumstances and address my day from a more aligned place. Because I am often in nature while working my heart rate, I am also more connected to the Universe. This gives me a better understanding from a place of knowing and it is easier for me to trust the Guidence being offered.
During Crossfit, Yoga or other organized exercise where I am often completely absorbed in the activity at hand, there too, is a benefit. Yoga and Crossfit (though very different experiences) teach me how to be present. I am aware that I am capable of using these outlets as escapes and the awareness may be enough for now. I still believe there is something to be worked out in me (and even when I get there I will find new things to be worked out in me) because my irritability and self-criticism multiply when I am unmotivated to carry out my physical routine. However, I believe it has to do more with my acceptance of being okay with a missed routine than the actual reality that I didn’t get it done. Trading in my workout for a lounge on the couch to watch a mindless show while stuffing is not about the exercise, but it’s not not about the exercise. The drug-inducing-effect that exercise provides me certainly enhances the motivation, connection and ability to focus more clearly. That in turn helps me obtain a greater willingness to take a look at what it is I am actually able to control or change in order to get me closer to the best version of myself I can be. The core of it, however, simply has to do with finding the emotional refuge that I am seeking whether the physical execution has happened or not. So it’s not really about the exercise and eating healthy even though both of these choices provide a more secure and stable foundation on which to build from.