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Rach Louise B-Back in the Gym

This will be my first post in Rach Louise B.Fit so let me know what you think!

I've been unsure about how to approach this section because exercise has been such a controversial thing for me throughout anorexia nervosa and recovery. My last few weeks in the gym have been incredible and I'm so in love with everything it has to offer all of us. It has been my safe space, my comfort and my pride but it has also kept me caged in a fighting match with my body.

I first started going to the gym around about when my negative body image and disordered eating developed into anorexia nervosa. My 100 squat, 100 push up and 100 ab crunch circuit became an essential part of my morning routine. I used my lunch breaks for dance practice or to use the school gym. Between school and evening dance classes, I squeezed in sessions on the treadmill, went to spin classes, and lifted weights. I used the gym as punishment for my body - for the way my body looked, the way it made me feel and the way I was fuelling myself. I felt like going to the gym and pushing my body to do as much physical exercise as possible was the only way I could eventually be acceptable.

By the time I entered full time vocational dance training, I had achieved visible abs and an extremely low body fat percentage. I guess I'd been successful in punishing my body and pushing it to it's limit - I found out not long after that I'd been on the cusp of being hospitalised. I was proud of being the skinniest in the room, and comforted by the number on the scales and the measuring tape telling me my waist was disappearing. But it never really felt like enough. And I guess that's really what it means to have an eating disorder and exercise addiction - you become addicted to the comfort it provides but no amount of change ever resolves the internal struggles and shame that are buried deep down.

Being committed to over 6 hours a day of intense vocational dance training, which I then supplemented with hours of my own exercise programmes, had been my consolation for weight gain during recovery. I'd been terrified of the fat reappearing all over my body and strove to do everything in my power to maximise muscle gain and limit fat gain. But is that really recovery? No, of course not. I may have been gaining weight, and with that my personality and my energy started coming back. But I was still tormented by my need to feel good enough, and of course my body was still crying out for me to let it rest, recover and regain the fat needed to function fully again. It's taken me nearly 5 years of recovery to realise that your relationship with exercise plays such a huge role in finding health and balance.

I've needed the encouragement of my family and friends, the support of my counsellor and recovery coach, and the unconditional love and patience Roo has given me over the last year and a half, to challenge my relationship with exercise. After taking some time out of training and learning that my world wouldn't fall apart if I stopped controlling food and exercise, the gym has stopped being a place where I punish my body - it's a place where I reward my body. In the gym I reward my body with strength and power, with knowledge and understanding of movement, and with the pure exhiliration of connecting mind and body to achieve my goals. I'm finally discovering what moving my body means to me, and learning how to offer my time to the things in life that I truly value. My dream is to help others do the same.

Everyone deserves to connect with their own values and honour them fully. I dream of coaching those of you who also find fulfilment in exercise to achieve your goals while staying free from disordered eating, exercise addiction, and unhealthy body image pressures. This blog is the seed of that dream and I need you to help it grow. Send me a message, share my posts and talk talk talk about your experiences and your thoughts. I can't wait to hear what you have to say.

Love and hugs,

Rachel xxx

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