Exercise Addiction

Good morning!

Whew! Vacation is fun (!!!), but playing catch-up is hard work. 😉 Especially on little sleep. But I am not complaining! I am grateful for all I have, that is for sure.


For my newer readers, I was once addicted to exercise. I was also anorexic. And then as I ‘tried’ to recover by myself, I was even more addicted to exercise as I went though binge eating, emotional eating, and other disordered eating episodes in order to counteract those experiences. {That is the very short version.}

Exercise Addiction 

Years of time were wasted forcing myself to pedal away until the machine said a certain amount of calories. Or until I felt like I burnt off everything I should not have eaten.

Or until I met my quota.

I had an exercise addiction and I denied it. To everyone.

I exercised because I felt I HAD to. I did it to make up for the eating, overeating, and crazy eating I was doing. It is a complex thing to explain, though, because I love to dance and to move (which are forms of exercise). Ultimately I convinced myself that it was all okay-I was supposedly doing something good.

Here are some things I exhibited when I had said exercise addiction.

Exercise Addiction Warning Signs (as told by me)

  • I planned my days, events, and study time around gym time.
  • I watched the machine’s mileage, steps, and calorie counts like a hawk.
  • I kept amazing track of which days I did not stay the allotted time at the gym (if I ‘missed’ my normal gym time).
  • I did the same things over and over and over at the gym<–because that is what I knew burned a certain amount of calories.
  • I was scared to try anything new in the realm of exercise.
  • I skipped out on lots of fun things because it collided with my gym time.
  • I exercised more to ‘punish’ myself after bad days of eating or not eating.
  • I got nervous, anxious, and angry when someone or something made me miss or skip or go late to my gym time.
  • My time at the gym was something I did, not something I enjoyed. I didn’t necessarily look forward to it.
  • I thought rest days were horrible and they gave me anxiety.

{There are others such as injuries and other physiological breakdowns, but that covers the main exhibitions of an exercise addiction. If you suffer from these, please seek guidance, help, or coaching (email me, or if it’s really serious talk to your doctor).}

You might think:

Umm, well Miss Annette fitness-guru healthy person with lots of titles (haha, I just laughed out loud), What about now? You spend LOTS of time at the gym every week. Explain how now is different?

Here is the key, I go to the gym now because I LOVE what I can do there. I love pushing my limits. I love exercising my body and mind. I do not feel a slave to it at all. I go there because I CAN and because I WANT to be there.


Because I seriously love the feeling of accomplishment when I train hard, dance with my whole body –heart and soul, and run faster than ever. I am dedicated and passionate about fitness now!

(I now hardly glance at the calorie counters and machine displays anymore. Besides, most of them are quite inaccurate anyways!)

This is very different from before when I felt like I HAD to be there. And had to hop on certain machines (because they spit out the best calorie counts for me). And could only do certain moves because it would result in the best mileage and calorie counts. Oh, and I never set foot in the group exercise room for that reason (thanks to my younger sister, I finally did and it changed my life<–more on that later).

Then: I felt like a slave to the gym and ‘gym time.’

Now: I feel free, ALIVE, and completely happy when I’m at the gym.

Oh, and you can’t beat the fact that it’s my job to help others achieve success in their fitness journeys :)


So you can only imagine that, when reading a few weeks ago about an interview Jillian Michaels gave on what an exercise addiction means, I almost called up Jillian right away! Here is what she said:

Uhhh. I beg to differ, Jillian.

I was on fire after reading that comment because it is SO totally wrong. You do not have an exercise addiction just because you spend 6+ hours per week in the gym! It is much, much deeper than that. Her comment basically ignored all those who truly do suffer from an exercise addiction when it was put so simply (and so falsely).

{I am not bashing her. I just do not agree one bit with her statement.}

How is it to NOT have an Exercise Addiction 

It is about where you’re motivation is at. It is about where your mind, heart, and soul are. It is about listening to YOUR body.

Some only want to train or workout for 4 or 5 hours per week. Others want to do 7 or 8 or 9 (for personal goals, races, or, like me, it’s their job!) Each person is different, but recognize those signs of an exercise addiction if you think you or a friend might be headed that way!

By the way, getting in a healthy exercise amount is less than you might think, as recommended from the U.S. government, but, going over that amount does not necessarily mean you have an exercise addiction.

Learn from my past and learn from my exercise addiction. Life is more than just about the gym!

However, when you do find SOME thing that you love to do that gets your body moving, your heart pumping (faster), and your soul soaring, you might have found that physical activity that will occupy a chunk of your time and help you feel ALIVE. Use it wisely– not all people have that gift of movement!

I am thankful for my passion for fitness and for helping motivate others. It is something that came the hard way, but boy am I grateful I could beat it and end up on the healthy side 😉

Happy Thursday!

Thankful Thursday

  1. I am grateful for a good friend who picked me up from the airport crazy late!
  2. I am super thankful for my pillow. I miss it when I travel :(
  3. I am thankful for birds chirping, beautiful flowers, and other signs of Spring!

I am off to teach some Zumba (because I want to and there’s that fringe benefit of $$$ too 😉 )

What are some other signs of an exercise addiction that YOU might have noticed or heard of?? What do YOU think: How does one know the difference between an exercise addiction and a passion and dedication for fitness?? What are YOU thankful for today??!

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  1. I have to disagree with Jillian as well. An exercise addiction has NOTHING to do with time – it is ALL psychological!

  2. love that pic of you!! so cool! i think it depends also on how/if you are fueling yourself properly… but i agree with you in that it should be something that you WANT to do… not HAVE to do! if i had time i would spend all day in the gym… lol i love it!

  3. I love you- and I love this post. And I agree with you 100% about NOT agreeing with Jillian. That is absurd! I relate to SO much of what you posted, because I’ve been there- seriously, everything you said. I was OBSESSED with numbers, to a ridiculous degree. I severely screwed by body up and started gaining weight because of all the stress (which I’m still trying to recover from and balance out). Though I’m not 100% “recovered” – I’m about 90%. I had to quit wearing my Heart Rate monitor cold turkey last fall because of my number obsession. I have a post about it (not trying to promote myself here, but just want to share): http://oatmealafterspinning.com/2011/09/09/getting-real-about-slowing-down/

    Thank you Annette- I love when I read posts like this that hit home with me so much!

  4. been there, done that with the whole exercise addiction thing… it wasn’t pretty! or fun! i’m SO glad that’s all over with! i have to agree with YOU and disagree with jillian michaels’ comment about exercise addiction as well.

    today i’m thankful for the beautiful weather we’ve been having this week! i love sunny skies and warmer temps! :)

  5. i also suffered from the same thing…and i think a lot of it is mental. i spend alot more time working out now then before, but thats because of my running goals. I dont beat myself up if i miss a workout, I’m not guilting myself into anything…i dont workout to counteract a bad day of eating. I missed out on so many things because of my exercise addiction…now, family, friends, LIFE is more important then being a slave to the gym.

    you are really an inspiration…its so great to see how far you’ve come. i relate to your posts and experiences so much!

  6. Teddy says:

    Is Jillian joking? I’m positive that she spends more than 6 hours a week working out. Many instructors spend that much time just teaching classes, which doesn’t even include personal workouts. I spend 10-12 hours a week working out, which averages at about 2 hours a day with a rest day on Sunday. The gym I go to has fantastic group classes! Then I’ll usually throw in my own hour of swimming or cycling to introduce my body to new workouts. I’m guilty of some of the symptoms of exercise addiction, including the planning my days, events, and study time around gym time. But it’s because I’m always happier when I workout! I come away from the gym sweaty, exhausted, and energized. Plus, I’ve made tons of new friends there, so the fitness community and my social life are now sort of intertwined, which I love!

  7. Where you playing with Picasa? I just discovered it and haven’t figured out how to put my pics in WordPress!

    In all seriousness, I’m going to print this out and put it in Ben’s office. I struggled with overexcercising, but now I work out b/c I love it. Everyone tells me I work out too long and do to much, but I argue there’s a difference. Our bodies are meant to move. We should dance, swim, walk, run. I don’t believe in going balls to the wall for an hour than sitting for 16 hours a day. On the same hand, I don’t believe in going balls to the wall 6 hours a day and scared to rest or miss a class if tired or sore. It’s a balance, different for everyone. And you’re one of the best examples I’ve seen of a healthy balance!

    • Picasa is definitely cool :) Just tag pics you want and then export them to your hard drive and upload them to WP from there!

      I like what you had to say about this–thanks girl!

  8. I also disagree with Jillian, just because I spend a little over an hour in the gym 6 days a week (or running outside) does not mean I’m addicted! Time has nothing to do with it! I do think though that I had an exercise addiction when I was trying to lose weight last year. I’d go to the gym because I felt like I had to and I made a rule that I couldn’t leave unless I burned a certain number of calories. I was obsessed with cardio and hated days where I did strength training (I knew it was a “necessary evil”) because I didn’t burn as many calories! Now I only go to the gym when I WANT to and because I love it. I also found running which is such a great stress relief and I LOVE strength training. Haha and I don’t count calories either, those machines have no idea what I actually did!

  9. Oof, a topic I relate to completely. When I first began my weight loss journey, I became SO addicted to the gym it wasn’t even funny. I’m talking a ditching friends, crying when I missed a workout kind of addiction. Bad stuff.

    The thing that worked for me though WAS cutting back on time. I’m not saying that being at the gym a lot is always a bad thing at all, but for me personally it was not a healthy relationship until I discovered that I could do shorter, effective workouts too. But gah, GREAT post, Annette!

  10. Thank you for talking about this! And I can’t believe Jillian Michaels said that…I have a hard time believing that she only exercises 6 hours a week anyway! For me, one of the big signs of an exercise addiction would be when your entire life revolves around and depends on your workouts. It impacts everything and doesn’t allow you to actually live fully!

  11. Dedication vs. Addiction- To me dedication is working towards a goal, working towards that figure competition or that flat stomach for summer- dedication is working your butt off doing something that you love to do to achieve something.

    Addiction is doing it to do because you feel like you have to & you may or may not enjoy it. An addiction takes over your life, like you said, you start planning everything around it.

    We all workout for a reason, hopefully it’s because we are dedicated and have a passion for it! :)

  12. Thank you do much for posting this article. So many people think exercise addiction is funny because how can something healthy be bad for you? Any addiction is harmful though when it interferes with life, work, other important aspects of your world. And no 6+ hours isn’t an issue. What if you’re training for something? What if it’s just for fun? I’d spend like 2 hours at the gym every day when in grad school. It was my “me” time.

  13. great picture of you!

  14. Wow…I am so glad I found this post! I unfortunately think I am going through what you went through. I have some of those signs of exercise addiction and I also have an unhealthy relationship with food too. I hope to over come this.Thanks for sharing!

  15. Bridgitt says:

    I think it depends. If you want to train for a race-half marathon, walk race, triathlon, swm race, etc, etc., as long as your fueling your body with the right things, eating the right amount of do to give you energy, etc. Take a rest day once in a while. Or you may want to b athletic and to try a new sport, and that becomes your workout, but calling someone an addict who does under 90 minutes a day and maybe does it 3-6 times a week, is sad. I like working out b/w 1 and 2 hrs. 3-5 times a week, and it makes me feel really good. I have overweight people in my family, don’t want to be like them, don’t want to be 80lbs , but don’t want to be 240 either. I like working out by myself, as well as part of a group. It stinks having people put you down for wanting to try new things and new activities, and who want you to overeat, smoke, have an alcohol problem, complain, etc, etc, because they do it. I also want to be a group fitness instructor/ trainer and teach an aquatics class, and possibly a spin class, kick box class, and/or step or weight class and that’s it. If I can teach those classes, that will be my workout, and I’ll probably cut back in some other area to compensate. Might mean I run or bike or play racquetball or do martial arts less, but it doesn’t mean I can’t do it at all period.


  1. […] It used to be, of course (my life was planned around gym time/work out time. How sad is that???), and then if I didn’t end up going, I’d beat myself up about it & swear I gained 15 pounds that one day. […]



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