Exercise and Recovery can coexist

Tisha Cerioni-Zafferano has done the hard work of treatment and is now living in recovery. She loves a strong beat and blends her love of music with exercise. The focus is not on “exercise” but about having a good time, enjoying your body and how it moves. Get to know Tisha and her journey.

Exercise can often become hijacked by an eating disorder as another method of control. Tell me a little about how exercise became a part of your disorder.

Back in college there wasn’t a day that went by without going to the gym to workout. I remember feeling guilty if I felt too tired to go. Fast forward 10+ years…my workout schedule was very balanced working out 4 -5 days a week and no guilt if I didn’t work out. BUT I had transferred my false sense of control to food and restricting to only eating “Healthy Foods” …whatever that means! Although working out was not a major part of my disorder when I surrendered and went to treatment, I look back now and see working out was a vice I used to provide a false sense of control with my body and life a

t one point. Reflecting on my year in treatment, it completely makes sense to me now why I was asked to discontinue working out during treatment. ED’s can manifest in multiple ways and at different times.

In treatment patients are asked to stop all aspects of their disorders including working out. However, working out can be and is a healthy part of life if kept in balance. When you were allowed to add it back into your life did you have an interest in doing so?

Shockingly, no. I was released to do yoga after 6 months and remained in treatment for another 2+ months. I felt excited at first with the thought of working out again, but I was not motivated at that point. Motivation might be the wrong word…. I just wasn’t sure where to start. It almost felt foreign… foreign in the sense that most workout environments are weight loss driven. This is not a bad thing for most, but at the time I knew I just need to move for my overall mental and physical health.

IMG_1907What is your philosophy on exercise and how/why people can find benefit from it?
I love group fitness and doing something that makes me feel good from the inside out! Group fitness provides a great sense of community, support and accountability!

Tell me about the community you have found in High Fitness.

High fitness is the most unique fitness community I have ever been introduced too! I found HIGH two years after treatment and it was exactly what I needed. Beyond the workout, the HIGH fitness culture embodies a lifestyle of empowering people to maximize their health and be the best version of themselves. HIGH allows me to be myself and allows my personality to explode! I have been instructing for a year now and I always leave feeling better than when I walked in! It is an amazing community!

There has been a big community formed around body positivity which promotes loving your body no matter your size or shape. Do you feel like you have found body positivity within yourself?

Yes. It is freeing! I would wake up every day and let the scale define me and dictate my happiness. There are always going to be days when my ED tries to present itself and negative thoughts creep in, but these times are few and far between. I recognize them as “irrational” and I have the clarity and tools to dismiss them. Sometimes I just have to say to my husband… I know this doesn’t make sense, but I am feeling ____! Whatever the feeling may be, talking about it and getting it out of my body and thoughts helps. There is a quote I love… “The more authentic you learn to become, the more magnetic you will be”. Learning to be authentic means ditching masks and fake outer shells that make it seem like we have it all together and embracing self-love, self-acceptance and body positivity.

Eating disorders survive on secrets. Are you able to maintain transparency and share your ED story?
Yes, most definitely. Being transparent during treatment was a huge part of my recovery and it allowed me to accept what was, move on and grow. Those that loved and supported me didn’t bat an eye when I shared my story. Transparency continues to be a part of my daily walk. Letting go of any shame, fear of being judged and the fear of people thinking I didn’t have “it all together”. Being transparent and sharing my story reminds me that I am no longer a prisoner in my own body, its empowering and helps me continue on the path of being my most authentic self. We all have trials, we all have our stuff and we are all faced with uncomfortable and challenging times. Sharing my story helps others if they can relate in one way or another and it reminds me of all the work I did and that we are not alone on this journey through life!

We cannot make this journey alone. How has your partner supported you in this journey?
I honestly couldn’t ask for a better partner. When I decided I needed help, I felt embarrassed and scared and the thought crossed my mind that he was going to run. A crucial part of my treatment was weekly family therapy sessions and group therapy sessions. He was there every week, twice a week…once for family therapy sessions with my mom, dad and brother and a second for a large group therapy setting with multiple families and their loved ones. These sessions were painful, emotional, draining and uncomfortable at times and I knew it was the last place he wanted to be. He always showed up to support me with unconditional love and faith that a healthier version of me was right around the corner. A healthier me meant a stronger us! I can’t thank him enough for the constant support, weekly notes of encouragement, holding me accountable and delivering Taco Bell to me for lunch when I had to face my fear of fast food. Forever grateful!

The eating disorder is always looking for ways to take advantage. How do you keep your ED in check?
Staying present, being aware, looking for patterns that lead to old habits, recognizing triggers, setting new boundaries and continuing with therapy as needed. It was hard when I finished my initial intensive therapy. I did not want to go back to where I was and was scared I was going to fail. The therapist that I went to a year ago helped me see the light! She helped me understand that my experience with Intensive therapy may have been black and white because that’s what I needed at the time. However, life is not always black and white, life is full of seasons, its full of color and its always changing! Reminding myself to be proud of all my personal growth, looking forward….not back and accepting the changing seasons that life sends my way.

I want to get back into exercise just so my body can be moving, but I don’t have the motivation. What kind of advice would you give people like me that doesn’t necessarily involve weight loss as a selling point?
Start with committing to exercise one day a week and ask a friend to meet you for accountability purposes. Start with a walk, make it a habit and then don’t be afraid to try something outside of your comfort zone. Find that one thing that makes you feel good from the inside out, makes you feel empowered and helps you become the best version of yourself. Once you start moving, the mental benefits and the energy you will feel will be nothing but positive!

*Follow Tisha on instagram at @tishazhighfitness

*Photos taken by Amanda Rogers @amandarogers_photo