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anorexia athletica: a new way to think of over exercising

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Leigh Raphael

September 29, 2008

Anorexia Athletica

             “The college years are highly influential in shapingadult behaviors... particularly with regard to diet, physical activity, andother lifestyle habits” (Redorbit). Exercising for many is a great lifestyle habit to acquire, because itkeeps a person active and healthy. People across the country, and the world,exercise daily. For most people, exercising is healthy, and they do it becauseit makes them feel better in all aspects. It is unhealthy for those people who exercisein order to punish themselves for eating. Exercise is something to be takenvery seriously, because it can become addictive in some cases, especially amongcollege students. 

            Tomany people, Anorexia Athletica may be a term they might not have heard usedbefore. Also sometimes called “exercise bulimia,” it is “an eating disorderthat doctors named less than a decade ago and that is marked by a purging ofcalories through an obsessive, life-threatening level of exercise” (People). Itis when a person over-exercises to burn off calories, in an abusive way. Forevery bit of food put in their mouth, their body is overworked to the point ofsheer exhaustion. A nutritionist “estimatesthat for the 1 to 3 percent of the population diagnosed with an eating disorder,perhaps as high as 90 to 95 percent of these people are using a fitness center. And college students, she pointsout, are a prime target for eating disorders, given the life changes many are experiencing” (McLean).For many people, being at college is the first time that they have had to liveon their own.

 “Body weight tends to increase during the collegeyears, suggesting that physical activity must also be decreasing during thetransition from high school to college... Anywhere from 20% to 68% of collegestudents do not meet minimum physical activity recommendations” (Redorbit).Coming to a new environment can be stressful for many people, and all thechoices of different foods in the dining halls can be overwhelming for many.Finding a balance so that people don’t gain the famous Freshman Fifteen isusually what new college students are trying to do, but what if it doesn’twork? What if you gain fifteen pounds? What if you lose fifteen pounds? It allreally differs individually. It is up to the person to find a way to find andmaintain that balance, and exercising is usually one solution that many peoplepursue. 

When doesexercising become unhealthy? It becomes unhealthy when some people develop bad “fitness habits. They will exercise even whenthey’re sick, and oftentimes, they’ll exercise instead of working, spendingtime with friends or doing other hobbies. Those addicted to exercise will alsonot rest, even when they need it [to]” (Auburn Plainsman). College campuses are trying tofind a way to stop it, the trick is trying to catch it. It is hard to noticewho is going to the gym for healthy reasons and who is going to the gym forunhealthy reasons. Many people don’t realize it until it is too late, and theperson is already very ill. Anorexia Athletica “has become a serious problem atcolleges, and campus fitness centers across the country are taking steps toaddress the problem—that is, when they can spot it” (People).

Colleges aretrying to intervene into this “new” form of an eating disorder by even havingdoctors “[put] casts on the legs of sufferers in a desperate attempt to stopthem from working out” (People). Colleges have tried to find different methodsto try to stop this addictive disorder. “At Boston College monitors areassigned to make sure no one uses a cardio machine for more than 40 minutes ata stretch; Georgetown, meanwhile, has a written policy requiring staff toreport any suspicions of exercise bulimia to health services, and MiamiUniversity has suspended the membership of a student who exhibited signs of theillness” (People). For many colleges, it is still a challenge how to find a wayto stop such a disorder from occurring. It is a puzzling disorder to catch,monitor or stop completely. 

The thin lineof healthy exercising and unhealthy exercising is a slippery slope. “After all,when does a bit of healthy exercise cross the line into unhealthy?” (People).  It is essential not to feel thepressures that many start to feel corned by when they go to college. “Many are away from home for the firsttime and may feel heightened socialpressure, including pressure to be thin and fit” (McLean). Body image isusually the main reason that drives people to go to the gym and exercise anoverwhelming amount.

This focus on body image, combined withthe pressures of the media and the new college environment (and freedomassociated with college), make people become addicted to exercising. Finding abalance as a college student is hard, but making sure not to let the pressuresovertake you is key. For many, exercise provides a healthy release valve thatprovides fitness, helps keep them healthy and acts as a release valve to copewith pressures and stress.  As acollege student, it provides a healthy way to avoid the Freshman Fifteen.  However, there is a delicate balance.When the reasons driving someone to run another mile are not for fitness, butfor body image alone, that balance has been lost.  The challenge is identifying those who have lost thisbalance, identifying them early before their health is affected, and workingwith them on a healthy view of themselves and of fitness.




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"Risk Factors Associated WithOverweight and Obesity in College Students." 05 Sept. 2008. RedOrbit. 02Oct. 2008<>.