What do exercise bulimia and diabetics have in common? A dangerous balancing act! Some individuals with diabetes tweak their daily insulin dosages to counteract slips in diet, or indulging in unhealthy portions or food choices. This practice is dangerous for the health of the individual. Unfortunately, in the area of eating disorders, another dangerous balancing act is taking place: exercise bulimia.
Research has shown an upswing in the number of individuals who are using exercise as a way to “purge” calories. This isn’t being done in a general way, but through very specific and careful calculations, keeping track of the calories, and then heading to the gym or out on the bike trails to pound out hour after hour, mile after mile of exercise. The goal: negative caloric intake.
Most of us have occasionally given in to the reward of a burger or a slice of cheesecake after a good workout or day of exercise. Here and there it isn’t an issue. But over activity, including exercise bulimia, can take a physical, mental and emotional toll on anyone, of any age, when it is taken to extreme.
Exercise bulimia is similar to other types of bulimia, but with a particular focus on the intentional use of extreme activity and exercise to “purge” calories. This can be dangerous, because over exercise can lead to significant issues such as:
- Impaired immune system
- Chronic headaches
- Dangerous breakdown of muscle fibers that can affect the kidneys
- Bone loss
- Feelings of guilt and depression when workouts are missed
- Stress fractures and chronic injuries from over exercise
Exercise bulimia becomes a way for a person to eat and drink as much as they want, without gaining weight. It isn’t about becoming healthier, or feeling stronger or better. Both men and women suffer from exercise bulimia. Often they justify bingeing because they “work out” or “I burn it off”. Many people with exercise bulimia have lost the joy and pride that comes in have a body that is healthy. And at some point, it may become impossible to stop the dangerous cycle of trying to balance bingeing with activity. Exercise becomes an addiction and an obsession, and professional help may be necessary to break the cycle.