Have you seen the motivational post floating around on social media that says, “Obsessed is a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated”? I admit many people give me the “obsessed” label too.
As a fitness professional, people may be under the impression that I live to workout. Ironically, people who really know me are very aware I’m not even really fond of exercise. I’m only fond of the results. I am not obsessed. Like the infamous quote, I’m simply dedicated to healthy living.
Dedication takes work and work is something people like to question. People don’t like to work. They really don’t even like seeing other people work because it reminds them of what they could be doing. This tends to make people feel guilty so they begin to “Dr. Phil” their fit friend in hopes of discovering that their friend is the one with the real problem. People often would rather put a label on someone else than accept that we are the ones who need to change.
We live in a society where people like labels. We like to know there is a logical explanation for why we are different (i.e., lazy and out of shape) or why someone else is an overachiever (i.e., disciplined and dedicated). Ironically, we are almost relieved when a doctor gives us a diagnosis like ADD or some other mental or physical condition. Why? Because now we have an excuse to fail.
Since the fit lifestyle is more than what you do in a gym, it tends to get a lot of bad press because of how it encompasses your whole life. If you spend an hour in the gym everyday, you are going to be more protective over how you live the other 23 hours a day. Fitness is an investment.
This is a very foreign concept to people who haven’t “crossed over” to the fit side yet. As a result, people look at you like an alien and wonder if you are some kind of fitness fanatic who’s obsessed either with fitness or your body–or worse, that you are an exercise addict.
While exercise addiction is very real, many people do struggle with maintaining a healthy balance. Most people who seem a bit obsessed are probably not as obsessed or addicted to fitness you’d think, but they may have life out of balance a bit. This is common in the beginning stages of fitness when all the excitement and learning begins. However, it is good to check your healthy lifestyle and make sure it is not doing you more harm than good.
Here are a few warning signs your fitness routine may actually be bad for you.
Strong In The Gym, Weak In The Kitchen
Think of the workaholic: Some people are literally slaves to work, but it’s usually not because they love working so much. It’s because they are slaves to their debt. So, they get as much overtime as they can, take odd jobs and work like crazy, simply to balance out all their overspending.
I’ve learned most people aren’t afraid of work. They are afraid of missing out during their playtime. They don’t want to part with the luxuries in life–the cars, clothes, dining out, going out on the town, etc. So they work hard to maintain those things, even if those things (or the work required to keep those things) are killing them.
In many ways, we do the same thing in the gym. We work way harder than we need to in the gym because we aren’t willing to give up our rich taste.
If this sounds familiar, maybe you need to stop eating like a pig so you don’t have to work like a dog. Yes, it’s harsh, but it’s honest. It’s not healthy to rely on exercise to keep getting you out of trouble because of your lack of discipline in the kitchen. It’s time you truly address the real problem: eating. It’s time to cut back, because what you are missing out on now is much more valuable than your favorite food.
Controlled Weight, Out Of Control Life
Another common issue that can turn a healthy fitness routine into an unhealthy obsession is when your workouts are the only thing going well in your life. I have been guilty of this myself in the past. When I was young and single, I hated my job, I had no boyfriend, and I was in debt up to my eyeballs. Essentially, my life was completely out of control. The only thing I could control was my waistline.
I dove into fitness because it made me feel successful at a time in my life when I was failing in every other way. While it is great to build your confidence and have something you succeed in, it is unhealthy to run from all your problems.
Exercise became my drink of choice and the gym was my bar. I wasn’t putting the energy I needed to put in to improve my circumstances. I was getting on the treadmill and literally running from my problems. Unfortunately, my bank account didn’t care that I was improving my body.
If you find yourself looking forward to going to the gym more than you do going home, maybe your home life needs the real workout. Though you shouldn’t neglect your health, your fitness shouldn’t come before fixing relationships or other important life issues.
All Or Nothing
Some people have great intentions when they start a workout program, but their “all or nothing” personality type can get them in trouble. This type of person (and I’m not ashamed to say I’m one of them) can go from completely out of shape to super fit fast, but at what expense?
This is something I really have to keep an eye on. I can easily get so focused on whatever project I’m working on (even my own body) that other things can quickly fall out of balance.
If you find you are putting your workouts above important obligations or relationships, this may be a sign your life is getting out of whack.
If balance is in question, your life will not magically balance itself back out again. Balance takes work. You must sit down, analyze your lifestyle, and re-prioritize. A life out of balance is simply a life with priorities out of order. Write down all your priorities and put them back into the proper order on paper. Then, work daily to keep them in that order.
Selfish Or Plain Addicted?
Whether you are battling selfishness or addiction, they both can be equally damaging. And whether your addiction is to food (fueling your addiction to exercise) or you are truly addicted to exercise itself, the result can still be the same: too much time in a pool of sweat.
After doing some research, I found a checklist on Active.com for possible symptoms of exercise addiction. Check yourself by answering these questions honestly below.
1. Have you missed important social obligations and family events in order to exercise?
2. Have you given up other interests or friends to make more time to work out?
3. Does missing a workout make you irritable and depressed?
4. Do you only feel content when you exercise?
5. Do you like exercise better than sex, good food, or a movie?
6. Do you work out even if you are sick, injured, or exhausted?
7. In addition to your regular schedule, do you exercise more if you find extra time?
8. Have family and friends complained, saying you are too involved in exercise?
9. Do you have a history (or a family history) of anxiety or depression?
Although some of these feelings are natural, and even healthy, there’s a problem if you answered “yes” to most of these questions. Even though feeling good because of exercise is a good thing, feeling good at the expense of harming relationships or your body is very harmful. (Read Know the signs of unhealthy exercise addiction to learn more.)
Whether your life is just a little out of balance, you are in a selfish stage in your life, or you are actually addicted to exercise, change is necessary. If you can be honest with yourself, you’ll prevent unhealthy fitness obsession and take your fitness to a whole new healthy level.