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Gym Dilemma #2


Back on February 4, I blogged about a dilemma one might face at the gym: What do you do when you think someone might be overexercising, at the risk of their health? And we got some very different responses. So I thought I’d just respond to them here and keep the conversation going. I hope you will chime in too!

Commenter #2, S:

The question I wanted to raise is: What if someone is in trouble and no one does anything? It wasn’t to look judge someone’s size. I can see how it could have been interpreted that way since I did mention the size of the woman. I apologize; exercise obsession can and does occur in people of all sizes. I am coming from this gym dilemma as a person who has recovered from anorexia nervosa. So believe me, I do understand.

I appreciate what RW said about exercise and body image. Unfortunately, most of us do exercise to achieve thinness. Studies show a physiological connection between eating disorders and excessive exercise and dieting. Many of us begin by dieting and exercising, but it can lead to a possible eating disorder, especially if what is driving these behaviors is unhappiness with ourselves and our physical appearance.

To see what their take is, I recently spoke to therapists who work with individuals with eating disorders and I received the following sage comments and advice: Patients with eating disorders say that no one else seems concerned about their problem, which helped them continue their denial. Denial is the hallmark feature of eating disorders. While it is true that people have the right to be as athletic as they want and have the right to make poor food/health choices, it is also true that some folks are acting out of illness.

Having our compassion, not judgment, is helpful. Eating disorders are the most lethal of all psychiatric disorders, and to ignore possible trouble due to misguided “political correctness,” or even just politeness, is tragic. Is it so terrible to merely ask, “Are you OK?”? If I see someone at the gym or McDonald’s who looks like they are going to pass out, regardless of size, I would want to approach them and ask if they are alright.

— M.R.

9 thoughts on “Gym Dilemma #2

  1. What about:
    “Would you mind if I asked the staff to turn over this music video because I find the images pretty offensive?” (gyrating very young women wearing little – all very thin)
    “I’m looking for someone to go running with a couple of times outside – you look like you are pretty fit, but you wouldn’t consider coming with me would you? (on the basis that friendship is a strong antidote to lack of self-esteem – which in turn may well be a strong influence on her illness)

    Or is there some other conversation that would lead to knowing how she is feeling about herself? (thus preventing us from offending the athlete)

  2. Alright, so understand where you are going with this scenario. But how do you judge when someone looks like there are about to pass out? I mean, just looking extremely tired can be mistaken for faintness. And nearing the end of my runs, i always look exhausted. I think that the suggestions of the above poster are great, because if someone came up to me all concerned for my health, i know i would be pissed.

  3. It is sad when an eating disorder goes neglected or ignored – but I think its a persons friends and family’s responsibility to support and help them, not a random stranger on the streets.

    I am a thin girl with a really positive body image, yet random people all the time go “You’re waay too thin” or discuss whether I have an eating disorder. I do not, and never had one, but when society sees a thin girl they immediately go “there’s something wrong with her.” This reaction actually hurts how women see themselves too – when you’re told that you look anorexic all the time, even though you eat healthy and work out moderately, you start to feel like there actually is something wrong with you…

  4. I believe that it is the gym’s obligation to make sure that the people there are using the gym appropriatly and if they suspect that it is being abused they do have the right to ask for doctors permission. It is in fact in most gym contracts.
    It is a fact that eating disorders are on the rise and many reside in the gym. I’ve known people with eating disorders who told others they were training for a marathon etc.
    In fact one person I knew at a eating disorder program told me how being “kicked out” of a gym planted a seed in her mind that she did indeed need some help. Only a small percentage of people at the gym having eating disorders, but I’m willing to bet most people at the gym are going to modify their bodies, not health as a number one priority.
    Unfortunatlly I do not have the balls to say anything to any staff memeber at the gym (or because I’m afraid they might say something to me).

  5. As for people who were clearly insulted with this blog, I would take a serious look as to why this is so. I am not saying this to say your wrong or your thoughts are not valid, but I am curious as to why this bothers you so much you feel the need to attack. For myself I know it almost always means I have some sort of issues with it. Just think about it.

  6. I love how InnerLoss you immediately jump to the conclusion that because i do not agree with some of the stuff on this blog i must be anorexic. You are ridiculous!

    And just for the record:

    In Canada, 36% of teenagers are overweight or obese. 59% of adults in Canada are overweight/obese. In the United States 44% of teenagers are overweight/obese and 71% of adults are overweight/obese. The statistics for anorexia/bulimia for both countries is a stable 4% of adult women and less than 0.5% of adult males.

    Maybe you will see why i have an issue with blogs like this. Which is the bigger problem (no pun intended), anorexia or obesity? Why does America continue the skinny debate when so much of the country is huge?

  7. Sheila. I’m afraid I’d question your statistics – simply on the basis of my own informal questionning 4% makes no sense. Perhaps we’re talking about 4% at any one time – but who is in the 4% changes.
    Anyhow, I don’t think that’s the point. As far as I’m concerned, the worry/panic about ‘obesity’ is part of the same thing. One way or another society finds a way to make sure that perhaps 95% of women feel really bad about who they are.

    This is worthy of pages of analysis, but a few lines will have to do…

    Women are told (over and over and over and over):
    – what you look like is really important
    – you should be very thin (but with very big impossibly self supporting breasts, and skin which is smoother than a baby’s)
    – you should look between 14 and 20 years old

    And at the same time women are told (over and over…)
    – to reach this ideal will take a huge battle (which will show you to be strong and worthy)
    – you’ll probably not make it because women are all weak (but don’t worry, we’ll all be failures together)
    – fatty sweet foods will make you happy.

    The real questions we need to talk about here aren’t anything to do with ‘obesity’ or ‘anorexia’ but are instead about power and social change.

  8. I agree with Innerloss, Sheila.
    I’m thin, and I exercise, and I agree with the 2 gym blogs posted.
    Why are you so threatened by them, Sheila? That concerns me.

  9. You make a very good point. in the depths of my ED i overexercised all the time…eventually the people at the gym did try to get in contact with me through email but i was too embarrassed to respond. I knew it was a problem when people i didnt even know were getting concerned. I think anyone who is on a machine for 3 hours is obsessed with exercise and it is a problem. Life involves so many more things than just exercise, moderation is the key in everything!

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