Blogging in Moderation: A Lesson for Life
January is BlogHer's Month of Little Steps to Health & Fitness, and we want you to share your favorite easy health tip! Click here to see how to play along. And check out all the tips so far in the Month of Little Steps to Health & Fitness series.
Wearing a gold 80's leotard. Climbing a piece of silk 100 feet in the air. Punching until my knuckles bled. Eating beans that could have killed me. I've done a lot of stupid things in the name of health. I got into fitness for the dubious reason of dealing with a past sexual assault and the ensuing court case (nothing like actual running to help you run away from your problems!) so I suppose it only makes sense that my journey to health had a few seriously unhealthy pit stops.
Some of them, like my battle with orthorexia (an obsession with eating so healthy that you become unhealthy), I was very public about. I even went on TV (twice!) to talk about it. But there was a stronger force, an emotional rip tide, that was pulling me under right before everyone's eyes and yet I still tried to hide it. I had a dangerous addiction to exercise.
I'll wait while you finish giggling. It's okay, compulsive over-exercise is officially the mental disorder that everyone "wishes" they had. Despite its apparent benignity, it can - and did for me - have serious consequences. I suffered everything from stress fractures to amenorrhea to depression to the final indignity of having to go to eating disorder therapy.
I haven't ever 'fessed up to this in public yet but my addiction was the reason I started my fitness blog. I needed an outlet for all the crazy. I read dozens of articles, books, studies, websites and, of course, blogs weekly and I needed a place to consolidate it all. I never thought anyone would read it. But they did! And it was a rush like no other. I lived for every comment, e-mail sign up, backlink and page view (stat crack!).
Best of all, I found people who were just like me! People who were just as interested in the same arcane studies I was! People who also lived for the feeling of pushing yourself until you see stars, your hearing is deafened and there isn't a single inch of you not drenched in sweat. Most of them were not exercise addicts. But I was. And blogging about fitness was like putting a meth addict in a cement garage with cases of Sudafed.
Eventually I had to come out on my blog. The health consequences had gotten too severe and even I couldn't deny anymore that I had a problem. The support I got was amazing, and I sat at my computer and cried all day. But every time someone - I have many an astute reader and friend - questioned me about the sanity of keeping up my fitness blog while undergoing treatment for compulsive over-exercise, I ignored them. My therapist told me I had to give up my blog, especially once I became pregnant - my health and the baby's health were too important to mess around with, she said. I thought about quitting. But then my therapist left private practice for the prison system (is that not the saddest sentence ever?) and rather than find a new doctor, I quit therapy.
Unbridled, I exercised with such intensity that around my 8th month of pregnancy I found myself crying in the gym bathroom. There was blood everywhere. I tried not to panic. Had I felt my baby kick recently? I couldn't remember. Huddled under the stairwell I called my doctor and confessed. The Gym Buddies tried to reassure me that it was all going to be okay - and in the end they were right. All the blood was from damage done to my urethra from the weight of my uterus bouncing off of it. Yes, I was peeing blood, but that was good news because it meant I hadn't hurt my baby or the placenta or anything else vital. It shook me up bad enough that I took a break from high-intensity exercise until the baby was born. (Healthy, gorgeous, every bit a miracle she is!)
The crazy, unfortunately, did not stop with the baby's birth. Now, I didn't have to worry about hurting her and I worried a lot about losing the weight. There were copious tears, arguments with my husband and lengthy conversations with my sister, but I'll cut to the chase: I quit blogging June 28, 2010. It was my 32nd birthday and I finally realized that I wasn't going to be able to work through my mental issues and blog about fitness at the same time.
Clearly that didn't last (or you wouldn't be reading this!) but when I did it, I meant it. I barely touched a computer for a month and instead spent that time teaching myself to "eat intuitively" and by extension to "exercise intuitively." I played with my children without trying to somehow turn it into a workout. I went on dates with my husband where we'd just sit. But after a month I had a realization: as much as I had needed to quit blogging, now I needed to blog again. This time, though, it wasn't out of a desire to fuel an unhealthy obsession. This time it was because I deeply missed all my readers and blog friends who had become true friends. It was because I wanted to share my passion for health and fitness. It was because I love to write almost more than I love to breathe. And partly, it was so I could warn others about falling into the same trap I did.
As bloggers, we're very passionate about what we do - we wouldn't do it otherwise, considering all the work that goes into it - but with that passion comes a danger of being consumed by what we love. Whether it's exercise like me, or cooking, or even blogging about our kids there comes a line where you realize you're blogging about your life more than living it. So that is the last little step I'd like to leave you with this month - we've talked about sitting down to eat, lifting weights, finding a healthy support team, meditation and even how to get a great workout for free - so now I'd like you to find that healthy blog-life balance, wherever it is for you. Take a moment to turn off the computer, leave your phone in the car and just disconnect and remember what it is in you that you love. And then come back and share it with us!
Have you ever been sucked in to an unhealthy obsession? How do you balance your online life with your real life? Anyone else ever have to make a big confession on their blog?
Written with love by Charlotte Hilton Andersen for The Great Fitness Experiment (c) 2011. If you enjoyed this, please check out my new book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything for more of my crazy antics and uncomfortable over-shares!