Your Relationship with Diet and Exercise

Alan Web

Alan Sivell, Nutritionist Blogger

Valentine’s day is all about relationships.

I’ve had a few relationships. Some longer than others.

Just about the longest relationships I’ve had, besides baseball and predating my marriage, is with food and exercise.

Some of this might be that I was born this way. My mom said when I was little, I ran everywhere. And I was a very slow, picky eater. Still today, I sometimes break into a trot heading to the car and I pay attention to what I eat.

This long relationship, however, began in earnest when I turned 14. That’s when I was diagnosed with a blood disorder at the end of 8th grade. The doctor’s orders for my summer vacation were no direct sunlight, no physical activity and a prescription for steroids (not the muscle building kind).

During that summer, I read a lot of books (and comic books), went to a lot of movies and played a lot of records. But I was also bored by the lack of physical activity. So I ate. A lot.

By the end of the summer, I had gained 45 pounds, going from 120 on a 5’ 6” boy’s frame to 165. I also had gained stretch marks, something my mom, a mother of four, had to identify for me. I headed back to school with a round face and the body of a middle-aged man who had spent 20 years drinking beer in his easy chair.

I did not love how I looked or how I felt.

So, continuing with my reading habit, I consumed books on dieting and memorized the calorie counts of every food I might encounter. I threw myself into every sport my grades and abilities would allow me to play. I ran every lap and did every drill the coaches demanded. And when told to take it easy on the weekend, I wouldn’t. Within a few months, I felt much better about my appearance and my health.

And thus my “obsession” began. And it’s been that way for nearly 60 years. Some might say that I’m obsessed with going to the gym or riding my bike. An analyst might say I’m running from that summer I endured as a 14-year-old boy.

I just say I love to move, I love to sweat and I am a much happier and nicer person (IMHO) the rest of the day when I get a workout in.

I get that there is such a thing as going too far and there is a term for it: anorexia athletica. It is characterized by the desire to exercise above all else.

  • You shouldn’t be skipping important family events to get a workout in.

  • You shouldn’t keep training for a race or event by pushing through pain. You have to listen to your body with your head, not your heart.

  • You shouldn’t have unrealistic goals. 

My relationship with fitness and calorie counting is ongoing. Like with all relationships, I will continue to work on it. And strive to not make it obsessive.