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Exercise Addiction in Relation to Eating Disorders and Low Self-Esteem

By HERWriter
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With a focus on the supposed obesity epidemic, it seems rare to get a word in about those who are overly fit or underweight. However, there is still some part of the population that is perhaps a bit too enthusiastic about dropping those pounds by hitting the gym multiple times during the week.

When watching Psych Week at the end of April, under one episode of “Strange Addictions,” I watched a man who devoted his life to running, and it ended up ruining his relationship with his girlfriend and possibly his health.

Although it’s not an official diagnosis, exercise addiction (and addiction to anything in general) is real. It is loosely defined by obsession with exercise, where everything else is second, even including overall well-being of the addict. Family, friends and work can be pushed aside to the detriment of the addict. The person with exercise addiction may even sustain physical injuries along the way.

Some say an increase in the feel-good endorphins contributes to the desire to work out excessively, but not everyone feels the need to hurt their bodies and lives. Therefore, it might be due to underlying psychological problems, like depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, according to www.womenfitness.net.

Exercise addiction could, in some cases, be fueled by eating disorders, depending on the motivation, symptoms and psychological process behind the actions. Anorexia nervosa tends to be linked to excessive exercise and dieting, as well as fear of obesity. There are 10 million females in the United States who have eating disorders, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.

There are plenty of resources and books devoted to eating disorders, but there weren’t many devoted specifically to exercise addiction. However, I found “Diary of an Exercise Addict,” by Peach Friedman, which focuses on the “exercise bulimia” the author had. Bulimia is when a person eats abnormal amounts of food, usually junk food, followed by an activity to remove the calories from the body (vomiting, laxatives, exercise, etc.) It seems like the author has more of anorexia nervosa than bulimia, due to restricting her caloric intake, but either way she had an eating disorder and a compulsion to exercise.

With so many women having general discomfort with their bodies, being scrutinized daily and being compared with the abnormally thin women in magazines, it is no wonder that eating disorders affect such a significant portion of the population. Many women feel the need to be thin, have low self-esteem when it comes to their bodies and beat themselves up over not being able to have the “ideal body type.”

In fact, the problem doesn’t stop at eating disorders — there are many women who psychologically obsess about their weight and bodies to the point where it could be considered some type of body-related disorder, though it is also so common that it’s a normal part of many women’s lives.

Having a normal concern for health and appropriate exercise and body weight is commendable, but there needs to be a focus on self-love and not on what others want your body to look like (or even what you want to look like compared to others, especially if it is not physically possible or healthy).

Abnormal Psychology: An Integrative Approach by David Barlow and V. Mark Durand

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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