Many aspire to the lean healthy body of the athlete. A six pack, and slim is the order of the day. However, at what cost should we strive for these goals? Anorexia and Bulimia are not uncommon in fitness circles - apparently, a massive 62% of elite and Olympic sports men and women suffer with eating disorders.
It isn’t at all surprising to me though. The obsessive nature of the people who strive for excellence can often lead to controlling habits that can be dangerous. I am of course, speaking from first hand experience. During my days as an endurance athlete I competed in long distance open water swimming competitions, the Lincolnshire league cross country running tournaments as well as the local half marathons and 10k road races.
The obsessive nature of competition doesn’t necessarily lead to anorexia though. On the contrary, I used to eat huge portions of food on a very regular basis throughout the day. The obsessive nature of my training manifested itself in the addiction to the endorphins. Pushing myself to new limits on a daily basis seemed like a good idea, but ultimately led to a destructive pattern which resulted in huge mood swings if I didn’t get my exercise ‘fix’ at least three times a day. The weight loss happened as a matter of course as I was burning far more calories than I could ever consume.
Although I wasn’t anorexic I was steadily losing weight. Of course, I saw that as a positive effect as I was increasingly running faster. I could see my ‘six pack’ and muscle definition and was extremely happy with my progress. However, the reality (beyond my obsessive vision) was that I was actually thin and unhealthy.
Thankfully, I have fully recovered now, although, I still understand the probability of picking up from where I left off if I start to train too hard again.
All of this happened over a period of time from around 1977 to as late as 1990. The problem wasn’t really understood at the time, or if it was, any help that may have been available wasn’t offered to me. Since that time I have become qualified in Sport Science and various other related subjects and understand the reason and remedy for my condition. In fact, I have been able to use my experience in a positive way as I have recognised the condition is several other people and have been able to guide and help them back to the path of ‘normality’.
Rather than a ‘pouring out of emotion’ or cry for sympathy, this is more a word of warning to those whom it may concern. Someone reading this may be able to relate to the problem in a friend or family member.
The questions remain of course; the decisions need to be made to decipher between healthy, healthy obsession and unhealthy obsession. Being overweight is not healthy and needs to be addressed so exercise and diet control are healthy and should be adhered to in order to avoid conditions such as stroke, type II diabetes, heart conditions and some cancers.
The line becomes a little greyer when you are trying to decide which is a ‘healthy obsession’ in the quest to compete and/or to become slim and lean. The unhealthy obsession can manifest itself in several different ways but hopefully you will now have a little more insight into the consequences of over training and becoming obsessed with excellence at any cost.
It is, without doubt, the voice of experience here that is telling you to disregard the notion that you have to be very slim or thin to be healthy. We all know that excessive body fat is bad for us but the consequences of too much weight loss is equally as bad. So, don’t judge yourself by the way someone else looks, but do question yourself and seek medical help if you are unsure what your normal body composition should be.