The season finale of the Biggest Loser has sparked considerable discussion. As part of a team who helps people with eating disorders transform to healthier lives, I would like to add my voice to the conversation. The goal of getting healthier is a good one—but every day we see what happens when the drive to get healthier backfires into self-destructive behaviors.
The fact that Rachel lost over 59% of her body weight in seven months isn’t healthy. Exercising to extremes isn’t healthy. And societal pressures to be thin aren’t healthy.
It is one of our goals at Alsana Treatment Center to help people understand the difference between healthy exercise for cardiovascular purposes and exercise which could be potentially harmful.
Over exercising is like other eating disorders in that a person denies themselves adequate nutrition through restrictive eating behaviors. It is a controlling behavior that denies a person’s body the energy and nutrition needed to maintain a healthy weight. The problem with over exercising is that it is often overlooked because the person is perceived to be motivated to stay healthy and fit.
Here are some signs of over exercising:
- Workouts leave you exhausted instead of energized
- You are frequently moody
- You have heavy legs
- Disrupted sleep patterns can lead to insomnia or wanting to sleep all the time
- Your immune system is weakened causing you to be sick often or take a long time to recover
- Sore for days at a time
- You have the blues
- You have feelings of guilt or anxiety if you don’t work out
- You find yourself not participating in events in order to have time to exercise for multiple hours a day
- You experience repeated Injuries resulting from over exercising
- Your thoughts become consumed by exercise or the next opportunity to exercise
Normalization of weight is an important phrase to dietitians. Learning to enjoy food, eat mindfully, and giving one’s body the fuel and nutrients it needs for health isn’t just for someone in recovery: it’s for everyone. Moderation, as dull as it may sound, is the key to both exercise and nutrition. There aren’t bad foods, there aren’t good foods. While there are some dangerous sports, exercise in general improves mental and emotional health.
Later this month is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Perhaps the conversations around the water cooler, and in the school lunchroom, will be a little more reality based, and not reality-show based.