Exercise and nutrition are the pillars of good health, but when taken to extremes, these healthy habits can transform into dangerous obsessions.
Compulsive exercising or working out to the extreme — often as a need to compensate for regular eating habits or to “purge” calories consumed — can quickly spiral into a disorder known as “exercise bulimia.”
What Is Exercise Bulimia?
Exercise is almost always associated with good health. However, people suffering from exercise bulimia take exercise to unhealthy, obsessive limits.
Exercising obsessively, so much so that you skip social invitations, work, classes and appointments for the sake of exercising, is not only mentally straining, but takes a physical toll on the body. Individuals who suffer from exercise bulimia may work out several times a day, and become wracked with guilty over missing a workout, often overcompensating with more gruelling workouts to make up for it.
Differentiating between being an otherwise healthy workout fanatic and an exercise bulimic can be rather tricky. However, the differences are very important, as the latter is extreme, pathological, and interferes in one’s daily life.
Exercise Bulimia Symptoms
Just as those with eating disorders revolve their lives around food, those with the disorder of exercise bulimia schedule their lives tightly around exercise. The most prominent and visible symptoms of exercise bulimia are as follows:
- Excessive and compulsive exercise, spending several hours per day exercising
- Workout out even when sick or injured
- Defensiveness and anger if someone suggests he/she works out too much
- Excessive guilt or anger over missing a workout
- Obsessively tracking how many calories burnt while working out
- Amenorrhea, or loss of the menstrual cycle in women
- Bone loss
- Drop in protein levels
- Spending several hours per day exercising, and working out even when sick or injured
- Often accompanied by a codependent disorder, such as an anxiety disorder, anorexia nervosa or classic bulimia nervosa
- Depression and anxiety
Exercise Bulimia Effects
Exercise bulimia or over excessive working out can have a detrimental impact on an individual’s health. Exercise bulimia may lead to the following:
- Reproductive problems
- Depression and anxiety
- Injuries such as that of stress fractures, strains and sprains.
Exercise Bulimia Treatment
Exercise bulimia is a psychologically driven disorder. Sufferers first and foremost need to recognize that they have a problem, and seek out psychologists, therapists and doctors who can help these individuals gain a more positive self-image. Most of these individuals turn to obsessively exercising because they believe they need to do so, when their body raises no such demand.
Sufferers of exercise bulimia should also consult with dieticians and fitness experts to help them schedule an appropriate workout routine, a healthy diet and help them achieve normal weight. It is also very important that people suffering from exercise bulimia visit a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist may be able to help these individuals reach the root cause for having this obsession. A psychiatrist may also help the patients overcome the anxiety or depression that they are most likely to face when seeking treatment to quit.
The chances of relapsing from exercise bulimia are high. In order to prevent relapse, it is extremely important to practice certain self-care strategies and it is advisable to continue seeing heath care providers for some time after overcoming the disorder. Exercise bulimia is not the answer to any image related insecurities. It is just a menace destroying self-confidence. Consulting an expert is the best line of treatment for exercise bulimia.
Choosing moderation over extreme forms of activity is key to living a happy, healthy life. If you or someone you love appears to be suffering from exercise bulimia, don’t be afraid to communicate. Speak to your doctor about treatment options.