Hello and welcome to my first blog for Elite Sports Medicine! My name is Dr. Al Nikroo and as a board certified chiropractor, I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with several demographics. On my time off, I enjoy outdoor activities and cooking, and as such, I think it best for my first blog to mirror my favorite topic. Everyone agrees that fitness is good. It boosts your health, brightens your soul, calms your mind, and allows you to do more with your life. But at what point does exercise become an obsession?
Through my office, I had encountered a patient with a peculiar complaint. She complained of back aches, exhaustion, and interestingly, loss of height. On examination, her mid-back hunched over and she looked extremely tired. Fortunately, a digital X-ray allowed me to see severe General Osteopenia- a condition that occurs when the body doesn’t make new bone as quickly as it reabsorbs old bone. This is typical of a geriatric patient, however this patient is 26. It was no secret that she partook in something she called “Two-A-Days” (the patient went to the gym and/or Cross-Fit twice per day). She also meal-prepped every meal and kept her total dietary intake for the day to 1000 Calories as she claimed “Summer bodies start in the winter!” Excessive or compulsive exercise combined with undereating. Not a good equation.
The obvious culprit here was exercise bulimia- 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 such an excessive level that it negatively affects their health. For this patient, exercise was literally killing her. I’ve never had to tell anyone this, but my recommendations: “Stop working out, enjoy a cheeseburger from time to time, and a referral to a psychologist for exercise bulimia treatment.”
The fine line between healthy exercise and excessive or compulsive exercise is obsession. If you’re not having fun with it, you’re doing it all wrong! You should give your body time to heal after a good workout so that your body is ready for the next routine. Giving yourself cheat days for food is absolutely okay! Enjoy life, enjoy food, and enjoy activity!