Too Much of a Good Thing: Compulsive Exercise and Eating Disorders

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Exercise is an important part of keeping your body and mind healthy. But, as the saying goes, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

People struggling with body image issues or eating disorders often push themselves to try to attain a “perfect body” or compensate for guilt or shame from eating. When this happens, it can become an unhealthy obsession that puts a person at great risk for severe health issues.

While some turn to compulsive exercising without also living with or developing an eating disorder, the two frequently go hand in hand – though not always for the same reason.

You might think that compulsive exercising is used as just another way to get skinny or achieve a certain type of body. However, many people struggling with eating disorders turn to compulsive exercise not necessarily as a weight-control method, but as a mask to hide their eating disorder under. They may be less likely to face questions from their peers or family about their steadily diminishing weight when their peers know they are spending hours on the track each week or in a gym.

In some cases, compulsive exercise may even be a coping mechanism to help deal with other mental health issues that are often associated with eating disorders like anxiety or depression. Workouts can make them feel like they are pursuing healthy activities and relieve fears, even when dealing with dangerous eating habits.

This type of compulsive exercising can make a person feel better temporarily, but it is typically just a way to manage the shame and guilt caused by unhealthy and dangerous behaviors. It also comes with numerous health consequences including increased risk of injury, heart problems, osteoporosis, and even reproductive issues.

The biggest issue is knowing where the line between healthy and over exercising is. It can hard to tell the difference between someone who takes maintaining a healthy body seriously and someone who is overdoing it to try to achieve unhealthy or unattainable body goals. The most useful signs to watch for is when exercising or eating behaviors become more important than social or professional goals.

If daily workouts and strict dieting or eating behaviors start to feel like they have taken over your life or a friend’s life, it may be time to ask for help. Call us at 888-298-4673. We can answer any questions you have and see if treatment is the right choice for you.

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