Many of us admire those who are dedicated to go to the gym. They always seem to be there, even if there is a storm just outside the window. They always appear to be in good shape. Thin, healthy, and motivated. But maybe not. Looks can be very deceiving.
Rather than being fitness and health people, they may have crossed the line into fanaticism. They will continue to run lift and bike, always ignoring the torn ligaments, fractured bones, loss of menstrual period, and other health problems.
We all worry about weight gain and will diet or wish we were a little thinner. We may exercise occasionally to keep ourselves fit and in shape. We may exercise so we can eat a little more and maintain our weight. We consider these workouts to be important, but we don't feel a compulsive need to complete them.
When we are compulsive- when our life is centered around food, weight, and exercise and our self worth depends on what the scale says, or on how much exercise you can fit in one day- an eating disorder may exist.
Exercise doesn't always correlate with an eating disorder, but vigorous exercise to prevent weight gain is one of the diagnostic criteria for the disease bulimia nervosa.
Bulimic and Anorexic exercisers are hard to identify. When a person uses exercise as a way of purging, they may also get a lot of positive reinforcement. People are usually very impressed with how disciplined they are; most even wish they could keep their own fitness program going. A person who exercises to keep their body weight down, or to purge themselves don't need to keep this strategy a secret. They even usually brag about doing it.
Exercise can relieve the stress of a hard work day,the pain of a lost love, and even a great embarrassment of the day. This is okay, if the feelings are dealt with in an effective way. But this is not always the case. Exercise can be used to distract feelings and ease depression, while the issues that need to be talked about are pushed down, repressed. For an exercise bulimic or anorectic, the thought of missing a work out can cause great anxiety. To physically stop working out will cause withdrawal symptoms such as confusion, irritability, anxiety, depression, and lack of energy as well as decreased self-confidence and self-esteem. Some people with eating disorders will continue to exercise while they are injured, they will even organize their schedule around their exercise. Their significant decisions are based on how much exercise they can fit in. Their family, friends and even their careers will get ignored. They will get to the point that they will not be able to function from day to day.
Some professionals believe that all people who exercise regularly are addicted to some degree. One theory, as yet unproven, is that compulsive exercisers become hooked on hormones called endorphins. These natural pain killers are released into the blood stream during strenuous activities and have been thought to cause the feelings of well-being which are often accompanied by excessive exercise. Since no one has actually proven that endorphins to be psychologically addictive, it may be that this "runner's high" is caused by the release of stress and tension built up during the day.
Resource: "Obsessed With Exercise" By Karin Kratina M.A., R.D., L.D.
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