Treadmill Addiction: A Guide to Healthy Fitness
Recognizing that you have an exercise addiction may be difficult to accept. The benefits of exercise can become an obsession. People who are prone to addiction are more likely to endure another struggle to obtain perfection, an eating disorder. Anorexia, bulimia and exercise addictions are like any other addiction—they tend to sneak up on you and not let you go. And the consequences can include a significant loss of quality of life, and even lead to death. Anytime that you place value on something that excludes all other aspects of your life, you have a problem. But once you are in the midst of an addiction, you often cannot see it. And when you cannot see it, you need help in recognizing it and in doing something about it.
Exercise addiction is a growing concern among teenagers in the United States. More teens have eating disorders than ever before and eating disorders tend to create the need to compulsively exercise, although not necessarily dependently linked. Those who compulsively exercise without also having an eating disorder tend to be overachieving athletes under personal, peer, coach, or family pressure to achieve in their selected sports. If this is not the case, the addiction is another manifestation of the need to attain external perfection. Either way, living for exercise and not exercising to live is detrimental to your well-being, your quality of life, and your emotional and physical health.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders-IV (DSM-IV, 1994) has no set criteria to diagnose exercise dependence (addiction), but instead relies on a set of behaviors that are considered to be maladaptive or dangerous. These sets of impulse behaviors are similar to any type of substance abuse and include:
• Developing a tolerance for exercise—needing more exercise with little added effect.
• Having withdrawal symptoms when unable to or stopping exercising.
• Intending to exercise just a little and ending up exercising in large, unintended amounts.
• Inability to control or cut down on exercise.
• Spending exorbitant time in exercise activities/sports/trips.
• Withdrawal from other social activities in order to exercise.
• Continuing to exercise despite the knowledge that it may be harming your body or despite any psychological or physical problem that may have earlier been caused by exercise.
These symptoms represent exercise taken to an extreme. The line between healthy exercise and compulsive exercise does not simply mean overtraining—the line is crossed when the exerciser sees no value in anything else in life but the need to exercise. And if you couple this need with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, or supplementing your exercise program with fitness supplements or drugs, then the problem is elevating in severity.
Anorexia, like all eating disorders, is an emotional disorder. Anorexics have more than a fear of food and gaining weight, they have a terribly distorted body image. People suffering with Anorexia feel that their quest for perfectionism is severely lacking and that love and value is tied into being perfect. Anorexics crave control when they feel they have none in their lives. It starts insidiously, trying to fit in at school, trying to look like and be like actors, actresses, models and sports heroes. In the beginning, it gives you a high from being the center of attention, although that center of attention often causes you to be more secretive about starving yourself and exercising yourself into a stupor. Anorexia, your efforts to control your environment, and your self-esteem, eventually controls you and every aspect of your life. Nothing else has higher value than keeping your weight where you feel that it gives you credence and value as a person and to others. Anorexics often have an extreme desire to please others; especially after emotional upheavals like peer pressure or severe life change such as divorce. Each anorexic has a unique personal makeup, making the disease very complex, very personal, and very dangerous.
Anorexia nervosa affects mostly teens, estimates are as high as three percent, but can affect any age. It can be a chronic life-long disease, but with help, a manageable one. If not treated, anorexia can kill you—and starvation, heart failure, dangerous chemical imbalances and suicide are very unpleasant ways to die.
The symptoms of anorexia can include:
• Severe weight loss
• Exercise addiction
• Thinning hair, dry skin and feeling very cold
• Stomach always upset or bloated
• Loss of menstrual cycle
• Lanugo or soft, downy hair covering your body
• Low blood pressure and other heart problems
• Kidney problems
Behavioral signs include:
• Body Distortion: Not seeing yourself the way others do. You think you’re overweight or even obese even if you are terribly underweight.
• Preoccupied with food: eating it, cutting it, fixing it, refusing to eat it.
• Can’t remember things like you used to.
• Not acknowledging that you’re sick, that you have an illness. Acknowledging it makes you feel that you are giving away your control.
• Depression and guilt.
• Obsessive-compulsive behavior. Routine gives you control.
Are you skipping meals, cutting up your food into small bites and eating just one or two bites, then exercising for hours? Do you refuse to eat in front of others? Do you weigh yourself constantly and exercise even when you are too tired to stand? If you are diagnosed with anorexia, you will work with a doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist and a registered dietician—in or out of a hospital setting—to regain a healthy mindset about food and its role in your life as well as developing healthy eating and exercise habits and an understanding that culture doesn’t dictate your worth and value as a person. There is another way to live.
• Signs of Anorexia Nervosa
• Anorexia Stories
• Diary of an Anorexic Teen
There are a lot of steps that you need to take with being healthy. If you do decide to buy the best treadmill, some of our more popular brands include Proform treadmills and Sole. We also love the Bowflex review as it offers a different kind of a workout that will keep your joints happy. These are great choices to go along with your great healthy lifestyle choices.
Bulimics have a love-hate relationship with food for many, if not for most, of the same reasons anorexics do. Bulimia can often be combined with anorexia (oft-called bulimiarexia). Bulimia is a cycle of binging on extraordinarily large amounts of food and then purging that food by vomiting and using laxatives and diuretics to “get the guilt out” and to regain control of your life. Bulimics often fast for hours, then binge, purge and exercise for long periods of time. Like anorexics, bulimics have distorted body images and extreme concerns with how to control their lives when everything seems out of control.
Bulimia, like anorexia, can have devastating effects on your body: high and low body weight extremes that waver quickly, chemical imbalances that can interfere with brain, digestive, endocrine and reproductive chemistry. The effects on your throat can include constant soreness, irritation, small hemorrhages, and could later lead to cancer. Your heart can become irregular, you can pass out, you can die. When you are young and a teenager, dying often doesn’t seem real. But note this: anything taken to an extreme has the ability to hurt you or lead to death.
Warning signs of bulimia include:
• The binge-purge cycle.
• Missing copious amounts of food.
• Extreme exercise no matter what you feel like, what the weather is, to burn calories that you’ve binged on.
• Body swelling and bloating.
• Tooth enamel weardown due to the stomach acids in vomit.
• Cracked and bruised knuckles and hands.
• Withdrawal from friends, social activities and family.
• Blood in the vomit.
• Irregular bowel movements or bowels that refuse to move without laxative stimulation.
• Gastric and esophageal ruptures.
Bulimia affects less adolescents than anorexia—about one to two percent. Eighty percent of those affected, however; are women. Treatment is much the same as for anorexia using a multi-disciplinary team to holistically treat the disease.
• Bulimia Statistics
• Famous People Who Have Died From an Eating Disorder
Excessive Use of Fitness Supplements and Drugs
Anorexia and bulimia are just two of the manifestations that can also be present when dealing with exercise addiction. Another, is using substances to achieve greater results. Controlling your environment, attempting to attain your personal perception of perfection, striving to be the best, especially in the guise of sports, have all contributed to two other dangerous practices: taking fitness supplements or drugs in order to reach lofty goals imposed on you by yourself or society in regard to sports. Some studies maintain that as many as 40 percent of young athletes take dietary supplements in order to give themselves an edge in competitions. Creatine, caffeine, whey or casein protein and energy bars, pill supplements and even steroids permeate sports on all levels. Teens risk their health by not understanding how to make knowledgeable decisions about what is safe and what is not safe to use. Always refer to a sports nutritionist, your parents, an ethical coach or a sports medicine professional with questions.
Questions to think about:
What is the cost of the supplement to my body?
Is it safe?
What kind of quality supplement am I getting?
Is the substance banned?
Is there another way that I can enhance my performance without using fitness supplements or drugs?
You’ve seen actors and actresses that are so thin that they seem to be starving themselves. They are in the limelight, their futures seem ripe with fame and riches. Popular culture has created a penchant for thin and lean bodies that are difficult, at best, to attain and nearly impossible to maintain. Self-worth and value isn’t wrapped up in what you look like, it is who you are inside. This is a difficult concept for many teenagers and young adults who haven’t been taught from an early age to have a positive self-image. Even some who have been taught can fall into a negative self-image quickly. Exercise addiction is wrapped up in self-image. A negative self image isn’t just about not liking what you see in the mirror. It can be about what you believe others think about you, your physical or academic prowess or in a past filled with physical, emotional or sexual abuse.
Benefits of Healthy Exercise
Healthy exercise and a balanced diet will reap more benefit than going to extremes. Experts agree that an hour or more of strength and aerobic exercise coupled with the proper warm-ups and cool-downs are the best ways to exercise. When you exercise, your body produces endorphins. Endorphins make you feel good, better than any supplement, excessive diet or exercise, or drug can. Endorphins naturally bring peacefulness and happiness to your body, making you feel a natural high. Exercise can help when life gives you the blues; it can increase your self-esteem by making feel and look better. Exercise helps you to maintain a healthy weight and lowers your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure as well as helping you keep your skin and bones healthy. These benefits can only be attained when healthy exercise practices are utilized.
Recommended Exercise Guidelines
Once you hit puberty, around age 14, you can weight train without restriction. Find sports and exercise activities that are fun, that you can do with friends and family suchas hiking, yoga, dance, running, walking, participating in recreational or competitive sports. Aim for 30 minutes a day to start, five to six days a week, but alternate strength and aerobic activity for maximum benefit. Keep your calories around 2200 daily for boys and 1800 for girls and watch your portions. Moderation is the key. Control your exercise and diet life–allowing it to control you will cost you in the long run. Don’t go to extremes, be happy, be healthy and live your best life.