activity anorexia

Activity anorexia is a problematic behavior pattern in which a drastic decrease in eating causes progressively more exercise, which further reduces eating, in a vicious cycle.

When a person has activity anorexia, they value exercise more than they value food. When food intake declines, the person increases their physical activity. Activity anorexia is estimated to occur in 75% of all individuals who have anorexia nervosa.

Many athletes have performed successfully while they had activity anorexia. Seeking a diagnosis and getting treatment should never be based solely on a decrease in performance. Treatment is necessary to combat the complications of activity anorexia.

Symptoms

Some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Compulsive about weight and diet
  • Steals time to exercise from work, school, and relationships
  • Avoiding multiple foods to do self-diagnosed food allergies
  • Chronic gastrointestinal problems
  • Gastrointestinal problems that interfere with pre-exercise eating
  • Unbalanced vegetarian eating styles
  • Defines self-worth in terms of physical performance
  • Secretive eating
  • Obsessive calorie counting
  • Avoiding food-related social situations
  • Rarely or never satisfied with athletic achievements
  • Justifies excessive behavior by defining self as a “special” elite athlete
  • Athletics is used as an excuse not to eat
  • Strong desire to exercise despite medical restrictions

Helping a Person with an Activity Anorexia

Many athletes have performed successfully while they had activity anorexia. Seeking a diagnosis and getting treatment should never be based solely on a decrease in performance. Treatment is necessary to combat the complications.

Treatment can save the life of someone with activity anorexia. Friends, relatives, teachers, and physicians all play an important role in helping the person start and stay with a treatment program. If you suspect that a family member has activity anorexia. Suggest that your family member see an eating disorder expert. Be prepared for denial, resistance, and even anger. A doctor and/or a counselor can help them battle their eating disorder.

Complications

There are many medical risks associated with anorexia. They include: shrunken bones, mineral loss, low body temperature, irregular heartbeat, iron-deficiency anemia, menstrual irregularities, stress fractures, loss of coordination, impaired judgment, permanent failure of normal growth, and development of osteoporosis.

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