Exercise Bulimia - The dangerous 'new' eating disorder
Exercise bulimia is a devastating illness...
You're panting from exhaustion, your legs are shaking and you feel like you're going to pass out. But... you only have 100 more calories to burn. That's about 8 minutes if you keep up at this pace. So you grit your teeth and run your heart out for another 8 minutes on the treadmill...
You're feeling shattered - but triumphant... You burnt more calories today than you consumed. What an achievement.
If this sounds like you, you could be suffering from exercise bulimia. A relatively new eating disorder that is taking our gyms by storm. It's estimated that around 10% of women who visit the gym suffer from this scary disorder.
What is exercise bulimia?
Exercise bulimia is not about being physically fit and healthy. It's all about burning off that chocolate you polished off at lunch time... Or that bag of chips you flattened on the way back from work. The only reason you exercise is to burn off calories.
Bulimics who purge by vomiting get furious and depressed if something stops them throwing up. It's the same if you purge by exercising. You get angry and agitated if you're unable to exercise in an attempt to purge.
OBSESSION is the key similarity between bulimics who throw up and bulimics who over-exercise. Both obsess over purging calories that came from their binge eating.
Exercise bulimics are so obsessed with exercising that they will miss work, family events and socializing - to spend hours slogging it out at the gym.
My experience with Bulimia
I suffered from bulimia for many years. In that time I experienced all forms of the illness. I would throw up , take laxatives and obsessively exercise. Sometimes, I would abuse all 3 ways of purging at once...
I'd overeat at breakfast time and then devour a few chocolates on the way to university. When I got to uni I would throw up what I'd eaten that morning. Then I would exercise like a maniac... This way I'd burn off any calories that I may have digested.
As you can imagine I was exhausted and depressed. University wasn't the fun experience I had hoped for. My life was full of lies and bulimia ruled over me.
Finally at the beginning of my final year at uni - after suffering from bulimia for nearly a decade - I was at my wits end. I was so sick from years of abusing my body and I decided it was time to get help.
My bulimia recovery was an amazing (and difficult!) journey which took me a full year... But I made it :) To read my bulimia recovery tips, click here.
How to Identify an Exercise Bulimic
It's tricky to tell between fitness-enthusiasts and exercise bulimics. But, if you look closely you will notice the tell tale signs...
- Exercise is your priority and it comes above most other things... Including socializing, family get together's, and study or work.
- You exercise for the sole purpose of burning calories that you have consumed.
- You suffer from extreme frustration, anger and agitation if you're unable to exercise.
- You perform excessive exercise even if you're are sick or have an injury.
- Your workouts are rigid and structured. You are not able to compromise when it comes to exercise.
- You turn down food if you can't exercise to burn it off.
the risks of exercise bulimia
When you suffer from exercise bulimia you don't let yourself take days off to recover. You become physically exhausted and often your body can't keep up. Muscle pains, injuries and stress fractures are common.
Another, even scarier side effect of exercise bulimia is Amenorreah. This is when you miss periods because of low body weight. If you miss your periods you will run a higher risk of:
- Being infertile
- Developing Arthritis
- Developing Osteoporosis
- Having a heart attack.
Recovering from Exercise Bulimia
Eating disorders hold a strong grip on their victims. Because of this, counseling or therapy is important to break the cycle. I suffered from bulimia for a decade and managed to recover. To read about how I recovered from bulimia, click here.
Exercise should be a happy, spiritually-beneficial experience. It's a way to promote health in our bodies - and shouldn't be used to purge.
You deserve to enjoy exercise for the healthy benefits that it brings to your body. I hope that you use this site as necessary to work towards your bulimia recovery.
You can do it!
Article by Shaye Boddington
Author of your-bulimia-recovery.com
and creator of The Bulimia Recovery Program and Community