Red Flags Your Fitness Obsession is Killing Your Happiness

I was praised for my willpower, but truthfully it was really easy to get up at 6am and run or push through a bootcamp class after a long day because I didn’t see another option.⁠ My mentality of deserving rest, and earning extra calories started to chip away at how I experienced life.⁠ 

There’s this gray area that an insane number of people – stereotypically women – fall into, just like I did. Eating too much to be considered an eating disorder, but not enough to meet their bodies needs. Obsessing over getting workouts in, but not exercising enough for anyone to be concerned. Often being thin, but not thin enough to look unhealthy. 

On the outside, this looks like dedication. It looks like someone who eats healthfully and enjoys working out. But, on the inside, there’s very often an unhealthy mindset that includes restrictive eating and a fear of gaining weight. 

Is your mentality of deserving rest, and earning extra calories chipping away at how you experience life? Here are 5 red flags your mindset around fitness is killing your happiness.

Here are 5 red flags that your mindset around fitness is killing your happiness:

Basing how much you eat, on how much you worked out

Honestly, I spent years, YEARS, correlating my calories to my workouts.⁠ I felt fine going out to eat and having drinks on long run days, but would feel guilty having a drink if my workout “wasn’t very hard”.⁠

It’s an easy trap to fall into, but it is insanely easier once you untie your daily activity with your daily calories.⁠

We can eat so much more than diet culture tells us, and lower calories shouldn’t be the hallmark of a “good” food. It amazes me how much I learned by eating what I need, and letting go of a rigid workout schedule. It allowed my body to find the weight it likes to be without extra effort on my part.

Think of exercise as icing on the cake (there’s a pun in there I’m pretty sure). The vast majority of calories we burn are just from living. Think how hungry you are on a mentally exhausting day. That’s because your brain uses energy and needs calories. You burn a ton of calories simply having organs that function properly, so if you “only” did yoga, your body still needs a solid amount of food to simply get through the day. 

Packing your rest days with activity, and intense guilt taking unplanned rest days

We need a break from the mental stress of worrying about pushing ourselves enough. Feeling guilty for taking a rest day, even a planned rest day, is not healthy. It’s actually a big red flag your fitness habit has turned into more of an obsession.

Honestly, and be really honest here, do rest days make you feel lazy? Are you afraid you’ll gain weight if you don’t hit your 10K steps?⁠

⁠When I finally gave in and actually rested, life got much easier. I’ll go on a hike if that’s our plan, but I’m also comfortable reading on the couch. I like to move so I’ll stretch, but calories and steps are not on my radar.⁠

Read This: My Fitness Drastically Decreased

Your body is repairing from the damage of working out when you rest. Insufficient rest means more injuries and less muscle. Plus, looking at the first red flag, if you eat less on rest or easy days, what will your body repair and build muscles with?

Let’s get real, your body will not drastically change when you take a vacation, in fact, it will thank you for the time to rest and repair.⁠ One week of working out won’t make you fit, and one week (or more!) of fully enjoying your time off, guilt free, won’t undo anything.⁠

Your fitness goals come from a negative place

At their best, a fitness goal can motivate and empower you like nothing else. ⁠At their worst, they can make you obsessive and suck the fun out of living.⁠

Here are two questions I want you to ask yourself, I mean really get introspective about it, before you set a wellness goal. 

Who is this goal for?

Before you say, “me, duh.” Stop and think about it for reals, because I know a lot of people who have a bad breakup and want to lose weight to make him “see what he’s missing”. That’s not a goal for you. 

Read This: Essential Questions When Setting Your Fitness Goals

Then there are the many many runners I met who signed up for a marathon because their friends were doing one. If you don’t love running, please do not sign up for a marathon, you will hate life!

An easy way to determine this is to think , if no one knew you had set this goal, if no one would see your progress, would you still care if you hit it?

How will I feel if I don’t hit my goal?

Picture what you’ll feel like if you don’t fully reach your goal. Will you be able to recognize and be proud of what you did accomplish, or is it all-or-nothing, hit the goal or nothing counts?

Being able to see the whole journey of working towards a goal as a success is crucial for exercise freedom, because if you can’t do that, you’re highly susceptible to becoming obsessed.

Your social media #fitspo has turned to a comparison trap

It seems motivational to follow tons of fitness accounts. Ones where you’re seeing fit bodies and daily reminders of ways to get more exercise into each day. Don’t forget to push as hard as you can, and OMG never miss a Monday!!

What I see happen, though, is this motivation turns into a guilt ridden comparison trap. 

How do you feel after a quick scroll through IG? How many of the pins you save are dripping with diet culture propaganda of spot reducing, fat phobia, and low calorie swaps?

Bombarding your eyes with image after image of thin, fit people and reminders of all the ways you could be “healthier” skews what healthy really is.

Maybe they served you at first, but when you feel worse about your body, defeated by your choices, it’s time for a social detox and an unfollow rampage. Trust me on this!

Your identity is wrapped in your fit lifestyle

It’s easy to get tied to the fit identity. Maybe you see yourself as:

  • The fit one
  • The runner
  • The healthy eater
  • The skinny one
  • The Vegan

With that identity comes the idea – conscious or subconscious – that if we change; if we don’t sign up for races and run shorter distances, we order french toast for breakfast instead of the egg white omelette, gain a few pounds…who will we be? What will others say about us?

This is a hard one, but what I see as the most fulfilling and powerful one to dismantle. Start by asking yourself some deep questions:

  1. Who are you outside of health and fitness?
  2. Which qualities makes you an amazing friend, partner, child, mom…
  3. What excites you? What do you look forward to?

There is so much more to you than being good at sticking to your workouts and turning down snacks. Trust me, no one wants to hear about your training plan for more than 30 seconds!

If you are reading this and see yourself in these red flags, I guarantee you found it for a reason. I invite you to join my private FB group where you’ll find YOUR people!


  1. Shane K McLean

    Really like this post coach. I’ve been there with a few of those

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