We are always being told we’re a fat society and that we need to exercise more. Yet for females with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, exercise can be deadly. In many cases, due to the obsessive nature of eating disorders, healthy exercise becomes compulsive exercise.
In some bulimia nervosa cases, a bulimic binges but does not purge or use laxatives. Also in some anorexia nervosa cases, the anorexic restricts her calories but does not purge or use laxatives. Both use compulsive exercise as a means to remain thin. It’s all about guilt and burning calories with both disorders
The victim of anorexia feels guilty about the few calories she allows herself to eat and is compelled to burn them off through exercise. The victim of bulimia feels guilty about her binging and tries to burn all those calories up through exercise.
Even if you don’t have an eating disorder, compulsive exercise alone can seriously damage your health. The Eating Disorder Treatment Centers list the host of health problems that compulsive exercising can cause, they write “… stress fractures, dehydration, depression, osteoporosis, degenerative arthritis, musculoskeletal problems, reproductive problems, amenorrhea [loss of period] and heart problems.”
And Something Fishy, an online eating disorder website, describes the grave results of combining an eating disorder with compulsive exercise. They write that “Combining restriction…or binging…with Compulsive Exercise can quickly lead to a great number of serious physical dangers (kidney failure and heart attack) and death.” Yes, death.
The anorexic or bulimic who is combining her disorder with compulsive exercise should not only be seeing a psychologist but also a medical doctor. She needs to be tested to determine how seriously this combination has damaged her body.
The symptoms of compulsive exercise with bulimia or anorexia vary. One is exercising before or after every meal and irritability if she can’t workout. If you come home and all the curtains are drawn, she may have been sneaking in an extra workout, running through the house, up and down the stairs. The closed bedroom door may indicate she’s running in place. Open the door. Overly vigorous cleaning and vacuuming, is another sign. Any excuse for movement to burn those calories. Don’t just open the door. Open your eyes.
Family members and friends of these women and girls, the signs must not be ignored. Seek treatment for your family member and help your friend. Tell them about the danger they’re in and offer to go with them for their first appointment. It’s the greatest gift you can give.