Strength Training in Eating Disorder Recovery

November 3, 2020 Hollay Ghadery

I've already written about exercise in eating disorder recovery, but what I have not written about, specifically, is the role of strength training in eating disorder recovery. Everyone's road to recovery is different, but for me, taking the emphasis off weight loss through cardiovascular training and putting it on becoming stronger through resistance training was life-changing. 

Switching from Cardio to Strength Training in Eating Disorder Recovery

Like many people suffering from eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, I was a cardio queen. The only reason I exercised was to lose fat. I wanted to be skinny. I had little to no interest in what my body could do: I mostly cared about how it could look.

The catch, of course, is that those of us with eating disorders are never happy with the way we look. As a result, all this sweating it out on treadmills and trails and in spin classes is for nothing. 

How Strength Training Supported My Eating Disorder Recovery

By the time I was actively trying to recover from my long battle with eating disorders, I was sick to death of cardio equipment. I would look at treadmills, bikes, and ellipticals and feel defeated and ashamed. 

It was around this time I started writing for a client who had created what turned out to be the world's first home fitness app. All the workouts were strength training, and while they might include short cardio intervals, the goal was to lift weights. 

Over the months I wrote for this client, I saw how the people using this app were constantly talking about how good they felt. They looked great, too, and showed some incredible physical transformations, but the emphasis was not on thinness. It was on power and personal strength.

I started doing the workouts while slowly collecting my home gym equipment: dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and resistance bands. Within a couple of weeks, I started noticing that I felt more physically empowered. I felt functionally robust, and over time, I noticed I was gaining more muscle mass. 

I did not, however, lose a single pound. The good news is that it didn't matter to me anymore since when I started focusing on strength, my weight ceased to matter. I saw it as the arbitrary number that it is.

I encourage any cardio queen or king in eating disorder recovery to give strength training a try. To quote tennis professional Arthur Ashe:

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can."

Do you use strength training as part of your eating disorder recovery? Tell me about it in the comments.

APA Reference
Ghadery, H. (2020, November 3). Strength Training in Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Author: Hollay Ghadery

Hollay Ghadery is a writer and editor living in Ontario, Canada. She has a book of non-fiction set to be published by Guernica Editions in 2021. The work dives into the documented prevalence of mental health issues in biracial women. Connect with Hollay on her website, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Lizanne Corbit
November, 3 2020 at 6:08 pm

I think this is such an empowering concept for so many reasons! I can see how strength training would actually be particularly beneficial for those in ED recovery. For anyone, strength training can be a major boost to self-esteem and confidence and making us feel truly STRONG and capable in ways we wouldn't have thought of beforehand. Thank you for sharing your experience!

November, 5 2020 at 10:34 am

Thank you for replying, Lizanne. It was definitely a difficult concept for me to wrap my head around in the beginning, but really, focusing on what my body can do rather than what I think it should look like was immensely liberating.

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