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Exercise bulimia

Exercise bulimia is a subset of the psychological disorder called bulimia in which a person is compelled to exercise in an effort aimed at burning the calories of food energy and fat reserves to an excessive level that negatively affects their health. The damage normally occurs through not giving the body adequate rest for athletic recovery compared to their exercise levels, leading to increasing levels of disrepair. If the person eats a normally healthy and adequate diet but exercises in levels they know require higher levels of nutrition, this can also be seen as a form of anorexia.



Exercise bulimia is classified as a non-purging form of bulimia - that is to say, the sufferer does not regularly engage in self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics or enemas to rid themselves of the food ingested, but only uses exercise as a method of compensation. Exercise bulimia is especially common in those who find it difficult to purge (i.e. vomit/use laxatives), and in men with eating disorders. It is often seen as a 'healthy' method of compensation. However, the effects of excessive exercise (both psychologically and physically) should not be underestimated, and excessive exercise should not be seen as a safe alternative to vomiting/fasting in those tackling eating issues. Eating disorders are varied and complex, and it is common for more than one disorder to be diagnosed (although, medically speaking, anorexia nervosa takes precedence over a diagnosis of bulimia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa over a diagnosis of binge eating disorder). Most sufferers present a wide variety of symptoms, and it is not unheard of for people to suffer the full range of symptoms of all three disorders at different stages in their lives, or at the same time (e.g. an anorexic may fast, vomit, exercise obsessively, and occasionally binge). It is therefore also possible, although rare, for an eating disorder to be unclassifiable (i.e. containing a variety of contradictory symptoms) and in these cases it can be harder to see the damaging effects of exercise, especially if someone is seen to be eating a 'healthy' diet containing all food types, and exercising often.


Compulsive exercisers will often schedule their lives around exercise just as those with eating disorders schedule their lives around eating (or not eating). Other indications of compulsive exercise are:

  • Missing work, parties or other appointments in order to work out
  • Working out with an injury or while sick
  • Becoming unusually depressed if unable to exercise
  • Working out for hours at a time each day
  • Not taking any rest or recovery days
  • Striving to achieve and master ever more difficult challenges. Forgets that physical activity can be fun.
  • Defining self-worth in terms of performance
  • Justifies excessive behavior by defining self as a "special" elite athlete

Medical Consequences

Exercising too much can cause a multitude of problems including:

  • Injuries such as stress fractures, strains and sprains
  • Low body fat - low to the point where it can cause some serious health problems.
  • Fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Osteoporosis
  • Arthritis
  • Reproductive problems
  • Heart problems
  • Death


  • ANRED The Less-Well-Known Eating Disorders
  • Exercise & Eating Disorders
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Exercise_bulimia". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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