Theodore E. Weltzin, MD, FAAP, Medical Director of Rogers’ Eating Disorder Services, recently discussed excessive exercise for those with eating disorders at the Annual Midwest Eating Disorders Conference in Oakbrook, IL. Sponsored by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), this year’s conference drew about 250 attendees from all over the country, including New York and California. Rogers Memorial Hospital hosted a pre-conference dessert reception, with Dr. Weltzin and staff on hand. Dr. Tracey Cornella-Carlson, Medical Director of Child & Adolescent Eating Disorder Services, also attended the event.
During the conference, Dr. Weltzin addressed clinicians, educators and families regarding “Too Much of a Good Thing Can Be a Bad: Excessive Exercise in Eating Disorders.” The workshop reviewed the importance of understanding excessive exercise as a symptom of eating disorders and discussed different models of excessive exercise relative to addiction, compulsions and lifestyle choices. Dr. Weltzin presented strategies for treating excessive exercise for both men and women. He defined compulsive exercise (a.k.a., obligatory exercise or anorexia athletic) as an exercise addict’s frame of mind, no longer choosing to exercise but feeling compelled to do so and struggling with guilt and anxiety when not completing a workout. Simply put, exercise takes over the compulsive exerciser’s life completely. Dr. Weltzin referenced a number of warning signs, including never wanting to skip a workout even if tired, sick or injured; feeling anxious or guilty when missing even one workout; exercising even longer when a workout is missed; being constantly preoccupied with weight and exercise routine; avoids leisure activities and other responsibilities to make time for exercise; basing self-worth on the number of workouts completed and efforts put into training; and more. If the duration, frequency or intensity of exercise is no longer contributing to physical health – but is instead causing a risk of physical injury – the exercise is considered excessive.
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