Maybe you started a new diet or fitness routine because you truly needed to lose weight for your health, but now it’s spiraled into an addiction that actually threatens your life. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a proper fitness program and a dangerous fitness disorder. But there are some signs. For example, if everyone says you’re looking great, but you constantly feel that you won’t be happy until you have lost another five pounds (or is it ten?) you might have a fitness disorder. It’s just so easy for a healthy choice to turn into a destructive one. If you’re not sure which it is, keep an eye out for signs of these disorders and let your doctor or mental health professional know if you feel out of the normal range.
If you’re struggling with self-image and think you might have a fitness disorder, get some helpful hints here: On Body Positivity and Self-Acceptance
If eating healthy is a concern that is constantly on your mind to the point of obsession, you might have orthorexia nervosa. This is a compulsion to eat only nutritious food. In fact, it’s fairly common among people working in the nutrition industry, since they’re frequently thinking about it anyway. The following are some signs and symptoms of orthorexia nervosa:
- Your self esteem increases when you eat healthy food
- You feel guilty or hate yourself when you cheat on your diet
- You try to avoid eating around other people
- You try to avoid eating outside the home because you might eat unhealthy food
If these sound familiar, consider reevaluating the amount of emphasis you place on healthy eating, and check in with your mental health. It may be time to talk to a doctor for some perspective (and a treatment plan) if necessary.
Yes, there is such a thing as “too much exercise.” People who exercise excessively aren’t as healthy as they think. Instead, they’re fighting a fitness disorder they might not even know they have. It’s one thing to hit the gym a few times a week; it’s quite another to go every day and get mad at yourself if you miss one workout, even when you’re sick, injured, or supposed to be at another event. So if you find yourself skipping important work or social functions to exercise instead, and if working out is the first thing on your mind most days, you might have a fitness disorder.
Instead of berating yourself for not working out today, learn to love yourself with these tips: 7 Ways to Practice Self-Care
Another disorder that affects both your physical and mental health is anorexia nervosa. Essentially you starve yourself in order to achieve a goal weight that is typically far below a healthy weight for your height. You’ll do anything it takes to lose pounds, even if it’s unhealthy or downright dangerous for your body. Often anorexics try to lose weight by severely restricting calories, exercising obsessively, or taking diet pills. If you’ve tried any of these due to an extreme fear of gaining weight, and you’re at a low body weight for your height, you might be suffering from anorexia nervosa.
People who have bulimia nervosa tend to binge on food and then purge, through vomiting or laxative abuse. Either way, it’s not a healthy method of weight loss. So if you’re constantly thinking about losing weight or even fear weight gain, and if you’ve gotten into the habit of binging and purging, you might have bulimia nervosa. Note that you don’t have to be underweight to qualify as having this disorder, as many people who have it are at or above a healthy weight.
If you recognize the symptoms described above, you might have a fitness disorder. You should see a mental health professional to get a diagnosis and treatment plan to get back on track. After all, staying healthy involves your body and your spirit. You need to take care of both for best results!
If you need to practice some self-love, get started with these tips: 40 Ways to Empowerment and Well-Being
More sources on fitness disorders:
Why Are Eating Disorders Like Anorexia and Orthorexia More Common Among Nutrition Students?