Attaining fitness requires a balanced diet and regular physical exercise. These two should go hand in hand in order for you to be fit. If you fail to practice any of these, your progress will come slow or worse, you won’t have any progress at all. Exercising too much without having a balanced diet or restricting your food intake without any exercise won’t guarantee positive results. But contrary to popular belief, eating disorders can also affect your fitness in more ways than one. If you’re suffering several symptoms or the full extent of an eating disorder, your fitness will be compromised and even put your health at risk. When you have any kind of eating disorder, all of your attempts to be fit will be useless.
In its simplest sense, eating disorders involves a wide range of psychological disorders which is characterized by abnormal eating disorders. A person who is suffering from an eating disorder might have a distorted body image or obsession with food. An eating disorder might lead you to eat too much or too little and most often than not, you won’t even notice that you’re already suffering from an eating disorder. There are six common eating disorders:
- Anorexia Nervosa: Anorexia nervosa is common among teens especially in women. When you have anorexia nervosa, you’ll think that you’re overweight wherein fact, you’re already underweight. You’ll be too conscious of your body weight that you’ll avoid eating and severely restrict yourself from any calorie intake.
- Bulimia Nervosa: Unlike anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa is characterized by consuming large amounts of food in a short period of time. When you have this kind of eating disorder, you feel like you can’t stop eating or control what you’re eating. You’ll be binge eating different types of food, but usually, it’s with foods which you avoid. After binge-eating episodes, you’ll feel guilty about the calories you’ve consumed which can lead to purging behaviors such as forced vomiting, using laxatives and fasting.
- Binge Eating Disorder: Binge eating disorder is similar to bulimia nervosa – you’ll eat large amounts of food in a short period of time. However, binge eating disorder is different from the first two disorders because after episodes of binge-eating, you won’t have any purging behaviors. You won’t also restrict any calories when you’re suffering from binge eating disorder.
- Pica:Pica is an eating disorder which involves individuals who crave non-food substances namely chalk, paper, hair, cloth, laundry detergent or ice. Although taboo for some, Pica does occur especially in adults, children, pregnant women and people which have mental disabilities. If you have pica, you’ll be at risk of infections, nutritional deficiencies, and poisoning.
- Rumination Disorder: Rumination disorder happens when you regurgitate the food you chewed and swallowed, re-chew it, and then re-swallow or spit it out. This usually occurs during the first 30 minutes after taking a meal. This eating disorder is common among infants from three to twelve months old. Fortunately, rumination disorders disappear on its own.
- Avoidant or Restrictive Food Intake Disorder:Avoidant or restrictive food intake disorder was commonly called as feeding disorder of infancy and early childhood. When you have ARFID, you’ll experience disturbing eating which can be due to lack of interest in eating or distaste for the food’s taste, smell and texture. This kind of eating disorder can become the reason why you’d restrict yourself from eating certain foods and can lead to nutrient insufficiency.
How Can An Eating Disorder Affect Your Fitness?
Contrary to popular belief, eating disorders don’t easily go away once you decide to “snap out of it.” Eating disorders are real and complex conditions which have serious consequences on your health, career, relationships, and productivity. Additionally, eating disorders can also affect your fitness in a lot of ways:
- Cardiovascular system: The cardiovascular system plays a significant role in your body. It’s responsible for three major functions: transports hormones, nutrients and oxygen in different cells in your body while removing metabolic wastes such as carbon dioxide; protects the body from common illnesses and disease with white blood cells and antibodies; regulates body temperature and water content of cells. With an eating disorder, your cardiovascular system will be affected:
- When you don’t consume the appropriate amount of calories, your body will break down its own tissue in order to compensate for fuel. Muscles are broken down first, and if the eating disorder is untreated, the heart might be affected and broken down as well. Your heart will have less fuel to pump which can result to extremely low blood pressure and pulse. This can become the reason why you’d be susceptible to heart failure and other heart diseases.
- When you force yourself to vomit or use laxatives too often, you’re actually depleting some of the most important chemicals in your body called electrolytes. Electrolytes are important because it helps the heart beat and muscles to function well. Additionally, forced vomiting or purging can also cause an imbalance in electrolytes, chloride, and sodium. This can lead to heart failure and even death.
- You’ll also experience a reduced resting metabolic rate when you have an eating disorder. When this happens, your body can’t conserve energy.
- Gastrointestinal system:The main function of the gastrointestinal system is to digest food and absorb nutrients from the food. It breaks down food into smaller molecules which are absorbed by different organs of your body. The gastrointestinal system includes your mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, and liver, among others. An eating disorder affects your gastrointestinal system through:
- Eating too little can slow down digestion. Purging or forced vomiting disrupts the normal cycle of your stomach and digestion of nutrients which can result in stomach pain and bloating, blood sugar fluctuations, bacterial infections, and blocked intestines.
- You can also experience constipation in longer periods which happens because of inadequate nutritional intake and laxative abuse.
- Your stomach can also rupture due to binge eating. This can create a life-threatening medical emergency. The same can also happen when you force yourself to vomit.
- When you force yourself to vomit too often, the salivary glands in your jaw and in front of your ears can get swollen.
- Malnutrition and purging can lead to pancreatitis. This is a medical condition where your pancreas is inflamed. Some of the most common symptoms of pancreatitis are extreme pain in the upper abdomen, frequent nausea and vomiting.
- Over time, an eating disorder can become the reason why you’d experience intestinal obstruction, infection, and perforation.
- Nervous system: Your brain is one of the most important organs in the nervous system. Although this only weighs three pounds, it needs one-fifth of the body’s total calories in order to function well. When your brain doesn’t get the sufficient amount of calories due to extreme dieting, fasting, erratic eating and self-starvation, you’ll see yourself obsessing too much about food, and you’ll have trouble concentrating. Additionally, the nervous system can be affected with an eating disorder through these ways:
- Experiencing extreme hunger or fullness before bedtime can disrupt the quality of your sleep. You’ll either have difficulties in falling asleep or staying asleep. Sleep deprivation can heighten stress, adversely affects your mental health and even put your physical health on the line.
- Your body has neurons which need a protective layer of lipids so it can continually conduct electricity. When your body has low fat, the protective layer of these lipids is damaged and can cause numbness in your extremities. Commonly, you’ll also feel a tingling sensation in your hands and feet.
- The neurons in your body need electrolytes. Dehydration or imbalance in your electrolytes can cause muscle cramps and seizures.
- Without proper nutrition, your brain can’t continue pushing blood in different parts of your body. This can cause fainting and dizziness.
- When you’re overweight and suffers from an eating disorder, you can experience sleep apnea. This is a disorder wherein you’ll stop breathing while being asleep.
- Endocrine system:Your endocrine system is composed of glands that produce hormones and substances which are needed by the cells and organs of your body. This activity is responsible for regulating your body’s growth, metabolism and even your sexual development and function. Without proper nutrition, your endocrine system can be compromised too:
- Your body follows a cycle in order to produce hormones. In this cycle, fats and cholesterol are highly needed. With an eating disorder, you won’t be able to get sufficient amount of fats and cholesterol which can cause your hormones to fall. This means that sex hormones and thyroid hormones might not be produced in your body.
- When females have extremely low sex hormones, their monthly period becomes irregular or stop completely. Additionally, low sex hormones can also lead to bone loss, broken bones and fractures.
- Binge eating during an extended period can also make your body become resistant to insulin. This can lead to diabetes.
- Your body uses food and nutrients as fuel to its metabolic fire. Without these, your body temperature will drop, and you might develop hypothermia.
If you let eating disorders take over your life, all organs in your body will be adversely affected. You’ll be suffering from life-threatening illnesses and diseases. This is the reason why during the earliest stages of an eating disorder, you should seek professional help right away. TG Psychology, for example, can provide solutions for your eating disorders.
There’s No Shortcut To Fitness
Many people are very keen to their fitness. Some of them are naturally born skinny that’s why they look for ways on how they can gain weight. On the other side of the coin, people who are naturally born with bigger body structures will look for ways on how they can lose weight. There’s nothing really wrong if you’re doing any of these, but when you’re compromising your health and nutrition just so you achieve these goals fast, that’s another story. Eating too much or too little isn’t the best way to take care of your fitness. Sure, you might see results right away, but an untreated eating disorder can put your health and life on the line.