I went to the gas station and got too much gas, so I'm going to drive around for a few hours until I use up all that extra fuel.Said no one ever:
I'm going to go on a cross-country trip, but I don't need to put gas in the tank. I'll run on fumes.Cause that would be crazy.... right? Sadly, there are people doing this right now, but not to their cars, but to their bodies. For National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I want to talk about a disorder that doesn't seem to get a as much press as anorexia or bulimia: Exercise Bulimia (also known as compulsive exercising, anorexia athletica, hypergymnasia, or exercise addiction).
- Inflexibility as to time of day and mode of exercise
- Exercise even when sick or injured
- Intense fear at states of rest
- Intense guilt when forced to stray from exercise routine
But a couple of years after the program, I decided I want to eat [she was anorexic and bulimic]. I didn’t want to be anorexic again and I didn’t want to be bulimic. The only thing I could think to do was to exercise -- that would then give me permission to eat. And that’s when the exercise addiction sort of replaced my eating addiction. In my late 20s and early 30s I became addicted to exercise. It was something I was doing three, four, sometimes five hours a day, doing it for a couple of hours before work and then spending three hours after work at the gym. I realize there are professional athletes and people who absolutely love to exercise. I am so impressed with the fact that they can do this. But I hate exercising because I take it to such an extreme. My body hurts, but I’m not listening to my body -- I keep pushing it and pushing it and pushing it.This breaks New Rule #2: I will do no harm to my body.
But this requires you (or someone that loves you) realizing that you're doing harm to your body.
And nobody said that realizing you have a problem is easy.
I think the important thing to realize is that much like a food addiction, exercise addiction works on our emotions. It plays with our sense of balance and overall wellness. It helps us mask what is really going on. Exercise addiction about control, not balance.
Many of us have a history of viewing food emotionally (as pleasure, reward, or as something one needs to earn) and viewing exercise as the punishment/consequence for eating. Food is fuel and medicine for our body. It is a necessary and proper part of our life and should not be used to soothe emotional needs, nor do you need to "earn" it (it is a basic human right -- see The U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25).
Exercise is one of the physical ways we manifest the love we have for our own body. Exercise addiction is a manifestation of loathing, not loving. We can get frustrated while working out, or feel tired/sore when doing it, but exercise should always be in the range of joyful and loving, planned and deliberate, and with purpose.
I don't really have any solutions here, just a few thoughts (such as food logging to make sure you eat enough calories to support the amount that you're exercising/not having more than a 1000 calorie deficit on any day), I just wanted to start a dialogue.
- Do you know how much is too much exercise? How do you know?
- Do you think the culture of diet/weight loss bloggers encourages/promotes/enables unhealthy habits with regards to exercise?
- If you thought you had a friend with exercise addiction, would you try to intervene?