Exercise Resistance Syndrome

Exercise Resistance Syndrome

I recently had the privilege of interviewing Francie White about Exercise Resistance Syndrome.  Below you will find the transcription of the interview itself.

I would love to hear what you think, share a comment below!




Dr. Anita Johnston: Hello. Dr. Anita Johnston here and I'm in California with Francie White. Francie White is the founder of Central Coast Treatment Centers. Her background is in dietetics, nutrition, exercise, movement, women's issues. She's basically one of the big thought leaders in the field that has to do with women and movement and nutrition. I wanted to speak with you today about a concept that you came up with called exercise resistance or exercise avoidance. Can you tell us a little bit about what that is and why it's so important?

Francie White: Exercise resistance syndrome, for no better name at this point, is something that I realized was actually a syndrome, a complex of symptoms and issues that, when put together, added up to more than just, “I'm lazy” or having a bad habit of not being as active, or thinking one's not athletic. It's actually a syndrome — and many, many have it — of just repeatedly quitting what is actually a very natural, instinctive part of being female: and that is physical activity.  It's either a pattern of fighting oneself, quitting and getting very, very inactive, getting anxiety with exercise, or actually flat out giving up and not exercising, just refusing to.

I know some people have physical disabilities and cannot exercise, and obviously, that is not the population I'm speaking to. It's more the kind of throw in the towel attitude toward physical activity, and the point here is that it is a “curse” for very good reason.  There are often unconscious, less conscious, hidden reasons that actually eclipse what we're calling a birthright toward movement and being alive in one's body.  So treatment is about recovering what is essentially ours as women (and certainly men as well) but here we’re just talking about women's exercise resistance, and it's fascinating to see what it is that sets it off. A lot of the diet, exercise, and fitness movement has actually backfired and caused a very important rebellion in women.

Dr. Anita Johnston: What I love about this is it's really taking the idea that your struggles with eating and weight are not just about food and your body, but there's something way bigger going on, way more complex, and in my mind, way more interesting. And understanding this is really the path out.  So, what you are saying is that — if you're wanting to move your body, and then you sit down and instead grab the remote for the TV — there's a reason for this..

Francie White: Absolutely.

Dr. Anita Johnston: And a very good reason.

Francie White: An excellent reason. There's so much going on inside of what we call it the feminine soul: the underneath parts, underneath the ocean of our being. So we can tell ourselves on one hand, “I really should exercise. I should go work out.” It's healthy. It's logical, rational, but there's a part of us that doesn't really connect so much through logic and rationale and goal-setting.

Dr. Anita Johnston: How about the “should”?

Francie White: Right. It's the power of the feminine soul, the unconscious factions, the collective consciousness within women that is in an uproar right now with regard to diet and exercise and body image, because we can think we want one thing on the outside, and it's what the culture tells us is right and good, and then we find ourselves headlong into either rebellious overeating or somehow just being cut off from our very natural, instinctive drive to move our bodies.

Dr. Anita Johnston: How about this, the idea that there's nothing wrong with you? You're not damaged or broken in some way if you can't stick to your exercise regime, but that there are other forces at work in your psyche that are worth finding out about.

Francie White: Yes.

Dr. Anita Johnston: That's where it gets really exciting and actually even fun.

Francie White: Yep, and going inside through the process of the transformation from exercise resistance to an embodied relationship to movement is an exciting, incredibly worthwhile journey that people can do in the privacy of their own homes, in groups, in support groups, in workshops, with therapists, you know, indefinitely. That's what we're going to be talking more about.

Dr. Anita Johnston: So join us at the Light of the Moon Café, where we go even deeper into understanding what this is and what's underneath that resistance or that avoidance of claiming your birthright, which is to move your body in joy. Thank you, Francie, for joining us, and we hope to see you next time.



  • I’ve been experiencing this issue in varying degrees since I had my daughter over two years ago. It’s been extremely bad lately. I’ve been having a sense that there’s something I need to climb over or let go of in order to have healthy movement again, but it’s on the tip of my tongue or just below the surface. I’ve also gotten to a point where I have almost zero ability to say “no” to a food, or to make a compromise with myself and say “but I can have this better option instead.” Nope. I sadly just give in every time. Both of these issues are very frustrating and burdensome. And hard to discuss with others withor feeling ashamed. I’m very grateful for y’all and look forward to hearing more about exercise resistance syndrome.

  • I’m a bit confused by this. It seems like one should always be exercising and that by saying no that they need to work on that to change it to yes?

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