Most of us struggle to keep our New Year fitness resolutions, but there are some who need no goading to exercise. They work out every day. Every single day of the year; often twice or thrice a day. When they can’t, they are miserable about it. They don’t holiday in places where they can’t exercise.You wish you could be like them, but there you are asking for trouble. Your role model is a likely case of an eating disorder called `exercise bulimia’.
Bulimia generally means gorging on food and throwing up immediately afterwards, but an exercise bulimic obsesses about burning off the calories all the time. “The difference is, instead of vomiting or abusing laxatives, a person will use compulsive exercise as a form of purging.Exercise bulimia manifests itself in different ways–from excessive exercise to compensate for calories consumed, to starving one self but continuing to exercise, to an all-consuming obsession with exercise to the point of serious self-harm,” explains an article in Esquire.
Like any other eating disorder, exercise bulimia has anxiety, depression or other mental health issues at its root. “Bingeing, whether in the traditional sense or through exercise, can be a way to distract yourself from other problems, or to try to exert control over things that seem out of hand.” As the writer, a self confessed exercise bulimic, says, “I don’t know much about what’s going to happen in the world today, but I do know what my routine at the gym will be.”
Toned bodies idealised by movies and magazines are also to blame, says Arnold Andersen, a leading researcher on eating disorders. “Male form in the action films of the 1980s and 1990s and on the covers of magazines altered our cultural expectations of how men are supposed to look…As women have known for much longer, that sort of thing can f#@k you up, particularly in your teens and early twenties.” Despite working out so much, exercise bulimics suffer from a poor self-image: “What I see when I look in the mirror doesn’t correspond with reality. I see a fat piece of s@#t, and then I think to myself that it’s time to punish my body for letting me down.