la.craig

Correlation between overcoming eating disorders and weight lifting

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I read an article the other day online that identified a correlation between overcoming various eating disorders, incl. binge eating, and strength training for hypertrophy.  After googling this topic further, I discovered testimonials from both men and women who struggle with ED and say that their urges to not eat, purge or overeat significantly reduced or go away entirely.  If I understand it right, this success stems from visible muscles. This provides real motivation that a person can look defined. Aside from motivation to keep going, and the decrease in ED behaviors, there are also testaments of lifting depression, thinking more clearly, sleeping better, etc..

Strength training was at the core. People became inspired by bulging muscles and definition. Most people with ED presume that we have to create a sizable calorie deficit through strict eating habits and lots of cardio. The author of one of these articles claimed that focus on the calorie deficit perpetuates ED behaviors. She/He said that people with eating disorders need to turn their focus onto gaining strength - building muscle will follow -  and that will reduce (or eliminate) our ocd about calories. 

I will be starting a strength training program soon at Anytime Fitness.  I'm going to start back on the protein.  I forgot how full I feel when I've actually eaten meat. Protein drinks too.  I remember all that has to come first now. 

Hope everyone is doing well. 

 

Craig

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I think these people might just have changed obsession. You don't know how it looks inside their minds.

Do they feel nervous when missing a training? Do they build their lives around training instead of the other way around? Do they obsess over "muscle definition" and "low body fat" rather than "weight" now? Over "macros" instead of "calories"? How often do they think about eating/nutrition?

Strength training is a good thing to do but I'm getting suspicious about "testimonials about curing an ED with strength training". Sounds a lot like the raw vegan or keto or paleo or whatever you tubers who "healed" their eating disorder with veganism and/or being "all raw" or "paleo" etc.

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4 hours ago, summerset said:

I think these people might just have changed obsession. You don't know how it looks inside their minds.

No doubt there are a whole set of replacement obsessions that keep us fit, and at an healthy weight. Certainly people who run or jog come to be 'addicted' to the exercise, and we view that as healthy. Speaking for myself, I had never thought of weight lifting in this way. @la.craig's post has me re-examining my beliefs: what is the harm to an form of exercise (good) that builds muscle mass (good) and self-esteem (good) while participating or joining a fitness group (e.g. social support, another good)? If so, by having big muscles I maintain my healthy weight and other healthy activities, why shouldn't I see this as good?

Last summer and fall I was rowing every day at a very high level. I became vain about my arm muscles. (This may be the only place I will admit this, since TTF is anonymous, and as a child I was taught that vanity is a sin). Until I developed some tendonitis in my shoulder, I was obsessional about going to the gym every day to row. 

@summerset

You bring up an interesting point: for a number of years I've thought about the creation of (healthy) habits as a primary goal. When is an obsession just an habit? It could be that we categorize things as an healthy habit (eating kale, for instance) or obsessional (vegan and paleo diet, again eating kale) based on the lens (approving, disapproving, or indifference) through which we see the behavior. At the end of the day one is still eating kale! For me the issue is when an healthy activity rests on a delusional basis, and it is actually not healthy. 

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There is a whole newer Eating Disorder term for this called Orthorexia. It's been around since the late 90's but I think it has really exploded with all the "information" on the internet.  People who obsess over "Healthy Eating" to the point where they cut out entire food groups or label certain foods as "good" and "bad", not only for themselves but proclaim the whole world should eat that way.  This is extreme obsession to the extent that they don't travel anywhere without packing their own food because they are greatly distressed if they are somewhere that might not have something suitable for them to eat.  This isn't because of a specific medical reason, like an actual allergy, but a self-determined course of action.  It is not specifically identified in the DSM yet but is talked about some in ED circles.  It often is overlooked because it usually doesn't come with the extreme body dysmorphia that some others do, and the person may just be perceived as odd.  Sometimes they are even looked up to for their dedication to their health, which of course fuels their obsession.  It's interesting, and likely a form of OCD.  When does it cross the line?  When the need to eat certain foods and to "eat healthy" takes over the whole life...days spent reading food blogs, preparing foods, etc instead of interacting with other humans and there is no other life.  When it creates so much anxiety that functioning outside of the controlled environment becomes next to impossible. 

As to the original topic (sorry I drifted off a little there), I have not seen any scholarly works on this but then I haven't looked for them either.  I (like summerset) am highly skeptical of anything's worth being based on testimonials alone, but a little strength training is good for all of us, whether the eating disorder premise is accurate or not.  We certainly know there are other benefits. 

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3 hours ago, BurgundyBoy said:

 

@summerset

You bring up an interesting point: for a number of years I've thought about the creation of (healthy) habits as a primary goal. When is an obsession just an habit? It could be that we categorize things as an healthy habit (eating kale, for instance) or obsessional (vegan and paleo diet, again eating kale) based on the lens (approving, disapproving, or indifference) through which we see the behavior. At the end of the day one is still eating kale! For me the issue is when an healthy activity rests on a delusional basis, and it is actually not healthy. 

I think it can be a very fine line between "habit" and "obsession" or "something healthy becoming unhealthy".

I'd say exercise has become something unhealthy when people are actually exercising even when sick with a cold or suffering from overuse injures because they get so nervous about "slacking" or "not burning calories" that they exercise anyway or when exercise gets the number one priority in life because you're so damn afraid of losing your gainz, no matter what.

Same with "healthy eating". If you're out having a romantic dinner with your wife/husband and all you can think about is the menu and if it will fit your special needs - then I'd say there might be a problem going on.

However, even that is only personal opinion.

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Craig, I know you are struggling.  If this is the boost you need as well as changing your diet, I don’t think it’s bad.  If it takes over your life and it’s the only thing you can think about or it becomes compulsive then it would be time to examine.  I think when we were losing it was a high to see the scale move downwards.  We wanted to see results!  I think seeing muscle definition is basically the same.  Just my thoughts.  

Hope you can get back on track.  Sometimes, we just need to find what works for individual needs.  

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Cheesehad-very inspirational statement. Supportive too!

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