Exercising Too Much Can Be Type of Eating Disorder

An Esquire writer details his personal, painful battle with exercise bulimia.

June 5, 2017 5:00 am

Believe it or not, a fitness obsession doesn’t always turn out to be healthy.

One of the lesser known eating disorders, exercise bulimia may not present noticeable warning signs. Instead of purging, the sufferer will turn each meal into an equation and compulsively exercise to burn off the calories of whatever it was they ate.

Those afflicted with the disorder don’t necessarily have to look like fitness models, nor do they look particularly unhealthy. It affects people in a variety of ways that are often mischaracterized as healthy qualities by others.

That’s why Esquire writer Luke O’Neil felt compelled to detail his own painful struggle.

In the powerful first-person account, O’Neil makes light of his disorder with an anecdote of working out at a high school gym before getting lost running in the Scottish Highlands instead enjoying his vacation. But, the eating disorder is a mental illness. O’Neil highlights the hidden struggle that males with exercise bulimia face given the social norms that equate muscle and masculinity.

“Men are often praised for spending more time at the gym, but you would never praise an alcoholic for sitting at the bar,” a psychotherapist and eating disorder specialist told O’Neil.

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