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November 1, 2018

Support with Exercise in Recovery

Lady Exercising and thinking about Exercise in Eating Disorder recovery

Contributor: Camille Williams, MA, NCC, LCPC, Eating Disorder Program Coordinator at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

Just as our society values and praises thinness, the same holds true for exercise. It seems like more is always better and recent obsessions with tracking steps and apps used to calculate calories burned continue to fuel this belief. For exercise in eating disorder (ED) recovery, this can be very dangerous and a slippery slope, potentially resulting in compromised recovery.

Exercise can also be tricky in recovery because it does help with mood regulation, so it is a healthy way to cope. Obviously, there is a line that can cross in to unhealthy when it becomes an addiction. It is helpful to think about the support needed with exercise in recovery.

One of the first things to consider with exercise when recovering from an ED is the intention behind it. Unhealthy intentions include: because I ate too much yesterday, because I look disgusting today, because I have to, because I want to burn a certain number of calories, because I want to lose weight.

On the other hand, healthy intentions include: because it is fun, because I feel more energized, because it helps me manage anxiety, because I want to take care of my body, because I enjoy doing this type of exercise.

In early recovery, there may be items from each list when exercising – that is normal. Hopefully, with further healing and therapy, the mindset can shift to focus on intentions that are healthier.

Additionally, it is helpful to create a plan ahead of time. This will need to include a commitment to maintain an appropriate amount of exercise. The commitment can include how many days a week, duration, and what types of exercise. The exercise plan is also going to be more effective if accountability is part of it.

It may be helpful to have a workout partner who will help with maintaining the commitment or who will join in on a group class. If workouts are happening alone, plans with others before and/or after a workout may be necessary to prevent possible over exercise. The exercise plan or commitment created will need to be based on individual struggles and needs associated with exercise.

There are so many wonderful ways to exercise and move the body for enjoyment and to maintain health. It is a healing and healthy part of recovery when intention and support are included in the process.


Camille WilliamsAbout the Author: Camille Williams, MA, NCC, LCPC

As the Eating Disorder Program Coordinator, Camille supports the development of curriculum, supervises the eating disorder specialist, and provides group therapy. She also educates and trains all staff on campus and advocates for eating disorder awareness through publications.

Camille started at Timberline Knolls as a Behavioral Health Specialist. She then transitioned into the Eating Disorder Specialist (EDS) role. In this position for nearly five years, she developed her skills and competence in working with the eating disorder population.

Camille received a Bachelor of Arts degree in both psychology and sociology from Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. She then went on to earn a Master of Arts in Clinical Professional Psychology from Roosevelt University, IL.

Camille is a member of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (IAEDP).


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on November 1, 2018.
Reviewed & Approved on November 1, 2018 by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

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