At two years sober, I was miserable: 300 pounds, depressed, and I hated my body. I couldn’t bear to look in the mirror. I had zero energy and my life revolved around meetings, work, and carb binges. That wasn’t the recovery I signed up for. Today, exercising is a crucial element of my recovery—without it, I am not looking after my whole-self and my sobriety is affected.

I didn’t really understand the concept of holistic wellness, or a holistic approach to recovery, until I faced the hatred I felt toward my body. I was looking after my spiritual health in AA, but I was binge eating every day, and was exhausted all the time. Holistic means:

holisticI very quickly realised that to continue to eat and feel this way wasn’t an option for my recovery. I asked for help and began working one-to-one with a coach who helped me step-by-step.

When I started looking at how to address my weight with her I didn’t anticipate that I’d be revolutionising my relationship with my body, learning how to intuitively eat and how to fuel my body properly. She enabled me to find a means to energise myself naturally—through food and exercise. I never thought for a minute that my physical health would affect my recovery.

Easy Ways To Start Exercising

Exercise was a catalyst for not only learning to love my body and realizing its strength, but also enhancing my recovery. The way I approached exercise was simple:

  1. Begin walking 10,000 steps a day.
  2. Find physical activities that I enjoy, like weight lifting, martial arts, hiking, and walking.
  3. Build exercise into my life: I bought a bike, so I had to cycle everywhere; if I got the bus, I got off two or three stops early; when friends asked to meet up I suggested a hike; I asked friends with dogs if I could come on a walk with them; and I took a break from work by walking around the block or to my favourite tea shop.

The options are endless. I think what’s key is to pick things that work for you. Don’t do anything that you don’t enjoy because you’ll get resentful and you’re unlikely to stick to it in the long-run.

Physical health is an important and interconnected part of my recovery, just as spiritual and mental health are too. By making these small and incremental changes, I slowly began connecting the dots to facilitate a holistic approach to recovery. From that place, I:

  • Lost weight (60 pounds)
  • Reorganized my relationship with food, and
  • Developed a much healthier relationship with my body

Best of all, I was able to look in the mirror, and I felt whole for the first time in my life.


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Olivia Pennelle
Olivia Pennelle (Liv) is a freelance writer and the creator and managing editor of Liv's Recovery Kitchen: a website focused on the journey toward health and wellness for those in recovery.

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