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Summer Side Effects: Binge Exercising

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Another great and insightful piece by our friends at Castlewood Treatment Centers! Just in time for…  ANYTIME you are questioning your body image 😉

Summer Side Effects: Binge Exercising

For many, the combination of body image and eating disorders are two sides of a very painful coin. Scan the summer issue of many popular magazines and you’ll find the negative messages presented through images of too-beautiful-to-be true sun worshippers. These messages leave the viewer asking themselves: How can I change my shape? Why can’t I be thin and sleek like that? How can I even dare to bare in a swim suit? Is this what happiness looks like? Pre-teens, teens, adolescents and adults have the same internal conversation. And not just women. According to national statistics, men also struggle with body dissatisfaction and body distortion issues. Binge exercising is a method frequently used to try to reach what is perceived as the perfect physique presented in summer body image media messages. Binge exercising is used to achieve a specific (but impossible) result.

Learning to believe statistics and not a photograph (and a digitally modified one, at that!) isn’t always easy. Self-acceptance is even harder. When the summer media images come out, binge exercising takes hold. This isn’t just true of those who have eating disorders, but of a large majority of the population. Not unlike that first kick start of New Year’s Resolutions, the baring of summer shoulders creates what can be a dangerous pursuit of something that doesn’t exist. Being continually confronted with fashion model thinness (when in fact 98% of women in the US aren’t built that way!) is a damaging message.

Body Image and Eating Disorders

Binge exercising is a common response to negative body image and eating disorders. Counteracting ingested calories through exercise is common among those who struggle with binge eating. While binge exercising doesn’t have one specific accepted clinical definition, the consensus is that binge exercising goes beyond exercise to maintain wellness. Binge exercising isn’t about achieving a healthy weight, it really isn’t about weight at all. Binge exercising is more closely related to an individual’s personal perception of their own body image and whether they deem it acceptable or not. Those in recovery for an eating disorder are often able to look back on how their internal body image has positively changed as their self-acceptance and self-celebration increases.

Binge exercising for those who have problems with body image and eating disorders can lead to significant physical problems. Binge exercising should never be minimized or ignored. Binge exercising (or any type of over exercise) can lead to joint strain and muscle damage, unintended dehydration and electrolyte loss, or breakdown of muscle tissue that can lead to kidney damage. While moderate exercise boosts the immune system, exhaustion from over exercise does just the opposite.

Accepting that the ideal body comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes is one important message that must be disseminated. Encouraging the increased use of real men and women in advertising is the second important message. This doesn’t rule out the use of naturally slender models, but it creates the reality that beauty is wonderful in its variety, and that a number on a scale doesn’t define beauty.

Castlewood Summer Body Image Infographic

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