4 Ways Lifting Might Help You Overcome an Eating Disorder
February 22-28 is National Eating Disorders Awareness week. Why is this important? Because, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), approximately 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer a “clinically significant eating disorder” at some point in their life.
At this point in my life, I’m one of those 10 million men. I speak from experience when I say that eating disorders—anorexia nervosa, in my case—are a complicated, underdiagnosed problem with grave physical consequences. Bulimics may experience dangerous electrolyte imbalances, tooth erosion, and chronic irregular bowel function. Anorexics contend with slow heart rate, hormonal imbalances, organ damage or failure, muscle loss, and a host of other health issues.
Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness. In my struggle with anorexia over the past year or so, I’ve been hospitalized twice. I’ve been in recovery, relapsed, and am once again on the road to recovery. Part of what has worked for me in battling this disorder is a commitment to strength training.
Here are four ways that I’ve found strength training helpful in overcoming an eating disorder.
1. Being stronger is better than being sickly.
Contrary to popular belief, eating disorders aren’t just about wanting to be stick thin or achieving a certain physical aesthetic. Eating disorders are also about control. Control over what you eat and controlling your weight. Weightlifting helps you change and control your body in a healthy way.
2. You have to eat to get stronger.
It’s not possible to build mass or obtain a bench press PR without eating a sufficient amount of food. This mindset of viewing food as not only pleasurable but as muscle fuel really helped me increase my daily intake enough to see positive results in my strength training. Progress was slow at first as it took me a while to mentally adjust to the increase in calories, but over time, persistence paid off and I saw gains.
3. Lifting helps you meet new people.
Having an eating disorder puts one in a really lonely place. Secrecy about eating and exercise habits combined with the exhaustion of being malnourished resulted in seclusion and isolation. I found that lifting with people my own age added a great social aspect to my life that my eating disorder had taken away from me. There is a lot of support to be found from fellow lifters. Forums on sites like Bodybuilding.com
can be hugely helpful and encouraging.
4. Progress is addictive.
One of the best things about weightlifting is the ability to set goals, accomplish them, and sculpt your physique all at the same time. This effect translates to other spheres of life, creating motivation to tackle all sorts of goals. To read more about eating disorders and find support in combatting them, check out the following resources:
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