Bulimia is a well-known condition in which those affected have an obsessive desire to lose weight, which shows up as bouts of extreme overeating followed by fasting or self-induced vomiting or purging. Less well known is the variation exercise bulimia, in which the urge to lose weight leads individuals to engage in a frenzy of gym activity as a socially acceptable way to purge their bodies of unwanted nourishment and remove the guilt associated with eating. It’s often hard to diagnose, since it may not be obvious whether a person is just exercising a lot or is out of control. The term is over a decade old, but has been receiving more attention recently because Jamie-Lynn DiScala, who plays Meadow in the US television series The Sopranos, admitted in 2005 to having the disorder. A less common term for it is anorexia athletica.
Her exercise bulimia started when she was in her 30s and her son was in the hospital. She’d run up and down the stairs to his room. When he got out, she continued the compulsive exercise by running seven miles a day, followed by stomach push-ups, sit-ups, leg lifts and other calisthenics.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 19 Mar 2006
If you find yourself going to great lengths to hide how much you hit the gym, or you feel depressed when you miss a session, it may be a sign that you have exercise bulimia and should consult a mental-health professional.
Town & Country, 1 Sep. 2005