Weight Loss and Maintenance by Al Coon

"If you feel that you have fallen into the pit of too much exercise, get help. Don't fool yourself into thinking that you have found a healthy alternative to moderate eating and moderate exercise."


Most of us don't get enough exercise, and that is a bad thing. The human body wasn't meant to be sedentary all the time, and to function well it needs to move. The heart works best when it is put through its healthy paces regularly. A well-conditioned athlete will usually have a very slow resting heart rate, because the heart is efficiently moving the blood around the body with minimal effort in its very fit state. The vast majority of Americans don't get all the exercise that they need, and that is why most of the emphasis from doctors is upon going out and moving your body more. If you are one of us who need to get out more, this discussion will be mostly academic for you.

A problem that has been talked about more these days is something called "Exercise Bulimia" and it is a potentially deadly disorder, where something very positive is turned into a possible killer: exercise.

One of the symptoms of this disorder is where an athlete "forgets" to rest.

What is a well-conditioned athlete supposed to do after a running a marathon? Take some time off!


"Some experts suggest resting one day for every mile you run in the marathon, thus 26 days of no hard running or racing! Others suggest one day for every kilometer, thus 42 days rest."
He goes on to lay out a 4-week recovery plan to follow, and he has one not only for the novice, and the intermediate runner, but the advanced runner as well! Everyone needs to rest after doing a marathon, not turn around and run another one the next week.

Also from Hal Higdon—

" TIP OF THE WEEK: In many respects, the base period (when you run easy without worrying about pace or distance) is an extension of the rest period. Usually within a week after finishing a marathon, muscle soreness will almost completely disappear and you can begin running comfortably again. But you need time to stabilize your training. Don't rush immediately into all-out training for your next goal. If you do, you're liable to crash some weeks or months later." [emphasis mine]

When you exercise without taking that rest time afterwards, you are walking on dangerous ground. And that is even if you don't have an eating disorder. But if you have "Exercise Bulimia" you are running similar risks that other sufferers of eating disorders have. You use exercise to "purge yourself" of calories consumed rather than using the more commonly known forms of purging (vomit/laxatives). You may or may not binge, but you do over exercise and can't stop.

Here are some symptoms that experts point out as warning signs—compulsive exercisers will often:

  • Schedule their lives around exercise just as those with eating disorders schedule their lives around eating (or not eating).
  • Miss work, parties or other appointments in order to work out.
  • Work out with an injury or while sick.
  • Become unusually depressed if unable to exercise.
  • Work out for hours at a time each day.
  • Not take rest or recovery days.
  • Strive to achieve and master ever more difficult challenges, often forgetting that physical activity can be fun.
  • Define their self-worth in terms of performance.
  • Justify their excessive behavior by defining themselves as "special" elite athletes.
What harm can all this do? There are many problems that can come from doing too much exercise, with too little rest such as:
  • Various injuries such as stress fractures, strains and sprains
  • Unhealthily low body fat, which can cause some serious health problems.
  • Fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Osteoporosis
  • Arthritis
  • Reproductive problems
  • Heart problems
  • Death
If you feel that you have fallen into the pit of too much exercise, get help. Don't fool yourself into thinking that you have found a healthy alternative to moderate eating and moderate exercise. Most of us who have a weight problem have many issues to deal with, and it is a lifelong struggle to win the battle and to remain at goal. There are unfortunately a myriad of unhealthy coping mechanisms that we can develop, and far too many of them have very scary side effects. I look at the final item on the list of possible problems for "Exercise Bulimia" and it looks very grim indeed: DEATH. I don't want you to die, or suffer any of the ill effects of this disorder, and that is why I am writing this.

Please, don't fool yourself into thinking you have a healthy lifestyle if you are killing yourself with exercise. Back up, slow down, and get help. Exercise is good, but too much exercise is very bad. Moderation in all things is the only healthy choice.

CNN: Exercise bulimia: Too much of a good thing—http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/9605/20/exercise.bulimia/index.html
Wikipedia: Exercise bulimia—http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exercise_bulimia
Medicine.net: Exercise Excess?—http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=50963

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