Do you ever feel overwhelmingly guilty if you can’t make it to the gym? Or does what you have for dinner change depending on whether or not you got your cardio fix in? Do you find yourself plagued with obsessive thoughts about whether you’ve burned off enough calories during your last workout? These are all symptoms of exercise bulimia, a condition that, while lesser known than eating disorders like anorexia, is more common in men than you’d think.
Exercise bulimia is a psychological disorder in which a person feels compelled to compensate for eating (or, in some cases, binge-eating) through exercise. Someone with exercise bulimia might want to immediately hit the trails after a large lunch, or tack on an extra ten minutes to a workout if they opted for a side of fries over your usual broccoli.
Exercise bulimia is a subset of bulimia, in which people feel compelled to vomit or purge after meals. “Bulimia will always entail some type of compensation – so the behavior here is compensating food eaten through physical exercise rather than purging, or a diabetic skipping insulin for example,” says Kate Rosenblatt, MA, LPC, the clinical director of BALANCE eating disorder treatment center in NYC.