16 Jun Recognizing Exercise Bulimia
Throughout college, I had many friends who were avid gym attendees. They were determined to not gain the dreaded freshman 15. But one of those friends ended up taking things too far. Once during his third workout of the day, he passed out while running on the treadmill. While he had bruises on his face and ego, we all were more concerned with the “why” behind the event.
Months later, that friend finally accepted that he had a problem and scaled his workouts back, but he never gave it a name until recently. Exercise Bulimia.
Most people are familiar with bulimia (bulimia nervosa), an eating disorder that causes people to binge eat then purge their meal to lose weight or maintain a certain appearance. Similarly, people who suffer from exercise bulimia, a form of bulimia nervosa, are obsessed with exercise, and often binge by taking in large amounts of food. Rather than purging the food ingested, they exercise excessively to burn the calories, lose the weight, and relieve the guilt associated with the binge.
While it isn’t unusual to splurge on dessert one night and run an extra half mile the next day or even train hard for a specific event, exercise bulimics need to exercise compulsively, and when they cannot, they experience depression, guilt, or even anger. It is often hard to recognize this eating disorder due to the positive connotations surrounding exercise, but the signs and symptoms are there. Here is what to look for:
- Missing important events to exercise, like school, family events, or social gatherings
- Exercising for several hours
- Exercising to the point of exhaustion
- Never taking recovery days between workouts
- Exercising when sick, injured or exhausted
- Feeling severe emotions like depression or anger when missing a workout
- Isolating themselves from others
- Overly focused on appearance
- Experiencing health issues like amenorrhea (woman’s menstrual cycle stops), dehydration, exhaustion, and injury.
- Obsession with calories taken in and calories burned
As we stated early, we love exercise. It is a necessary part of a healthy life. Prolonged eating disorders can cause severe health issues like osteoporosis, arthritis, peptic ulcers, and even infertility. If you know a friend who exhibits these symptoms or if you recognize them in yourself, you should see a doctor immediately.