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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Identifying and Treating Exercise Bulimia

The 21st century’s obsession with superficial “perfection” - great muscle tone and low body fat has taken a dark turn. Eating disorder bulimia nervosa is an attempt to bodily “purge” food content by vomiting or using other means to expel this food, such as using laxatives. In comparison, Exercise Bulimia takes to what appears like a healthier approach to weight loss - aggressive exercise.

Identifying Exercise Bulimia

As said, Exercise Bulimia may appear to simply be a fiercely aggressive attitude to fitness and working. Athletes and weightlifters often "overtrain" to push their potential and force their bodies to adapt to more pressure and weight. However, this is a highly regulated and monitored workout regime with specific goals, duration and prescribed rest period to allow the body to heal and therefore become stronger.

An exercise bulimic only has one goal - to burn more calories than have been consumed. It can therefore be considered "compulsive exercising".


Exercise Bulimia is therefore not simply about wanting to exercise regularly. An exercise bulimic will display unrest and agitation if he doesn't get to overstrain himself or herself by exercising. Patients have reported missing work, family events, and often center their entire lifestyle around exercising. Workouts are therefore often not a happy, satisfying experience, but a rigid, forced and uncompromising task.

Obviously, attitudes to food are also affected. Exercise bulimics will schedule their eating around workouts to burn off calories consumed

The Dangers of Exercise Bulimia

Its short term symptoms are also tell-tale signs that you can use to identify it. Exercise bulimics engage in grueling workouts day after day. The workout sessions are designed to have them expend more calories than consumed, and be completely worn out. In the short-term, results are manifested in physical exhaustion. Exercise bulimics will often exhibit physiological signs of muscle pains, and even injuries due to worn out muscles.

While the eating disorder bulimia nervosa is more common among women than men, exercise bulimia affects both men and women equally. As the disorder strips away body fat, regular menstruation is affected, due to "exercise amenorrhea". Amenorrhea can also lead to infertility, and cardiological risks , among other health issues.

Recovering from Exercise Bulimia

Patients view exercise as an empowering activity to "purge" the body from calories and maintain a certain body image. As they have designed a lifestyle around exercise and burning calories, it is unwise to assume that simply pointing out exercise bulimia and supplying relevant medical literature can suddenly change someone.

What is required is a gentle, caring approach that allows the bulimic to open up about his deep-rooted reasons to over-exercise. Many severe cases may even require consultation with a counselor or psychologist and a fitness expert.

A few major changes in perspectives include -
  • Viewing exercise bulimia as a means to improve health, fitness and overall well being, and not to simply burn calories.
  • Addressing deep-rooted self esteem and body issues, as well as triggers for this behavior
  • Addressing specific causes of anxiety that are indirectly fueling such behavior


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