Compulsive Diet and Exercise

Addiction is a serious thing. It can ruin lives and the lives of loved ones. When we talk about addiction, however, we usually mean addiction to substances like drugs and alcohol. We must remember, though, that we can easily become addicted to behaviors. More accurately, we become addicted to the way these behaviors make us feel. Two of the most common behaviors to which people become addicted are exercise and dieting. We've put together something of a primer for those interested in either addiction so you can begin to understand these dangerous conditions.

Exercise Addiction

Everyone knows exercise is a good thing, but then again it's common knowledge that you can have too much of a good thing. Exercising can be a great thing for your health, but exercising too much can lead to negative consequences, such as injury. Continuing to compulsively exercise despite negative consequences is a sign that someone may be addicted to medicine. The negative consequences do not have to be physical. If someone is spending too much time at the gym in such a way that it negatively impacts their family, this can also be a sign of exercise addiction. Basically, if exercising hurts more than it helps, it may be time to pursue methods of treatment for exercise addiction.

Despite the fact that exercise addiction can be rather complex and complicated, it is treated in similar ways to other behavioral disorders. If someone becomes addicted to the behavior of exercising, they can be expected to be treated in a variety of ways, including exposure and response prevention treatments, support groups, and education. Sometimes people are unaware of the negative consequences of their actions, and education is all it takes.

Diet Addiction

Like exercise addiction, diet addiction is considered a behavior addiction. Also like exercise addiction, it is the compulsive need to engage in a behavior despite negative physical and/or emotional consequences. Despite the fact that dieting can be a great thing for your body, it really depends on the type of diet you engage in. If that diet is simply ensuring you're eating healthy food as often as possible, this is likely a good thing you cannot be too into. There aren't negative consequences to being cognizant of your nutrition, so there's no chance of being addicted to it.

However, there are unhealthy "diets" that can be abused and can lead to unhealthy behaviors. For instance, if you become convinced that eating protein is bad for you and you dedicate yourself to a no protein diet, this can lead to negative physical consequences. It is important to be committed to leading a healthy lifestyle without being obsessed.

One of the indications that you are addicted to dieting is that your diet is becoming more and more restrictive. Diets should include many different types of food to ensure you're eating balanced meals, but often someone addicted to dieting will be more restrictive, because as the diet works, weight loss eventually slows down. When this happens, people will often identify a "culprit" for the slow down and remove it from the diet. When this happens enough, it is possible that someone becomes addicted to a diet that does not provide enough nutrition.

Another indication that you may be addicted to your diet is what happens when you're forced to go off of it. This can happen when you are, for instance, on vacation with family and are not in a situation in which you can make the same diet decisions you normally would. When this happens, someone who is addicted to dieting can get extremely anxious, when in reality the dieting decisions they are making are likely still healthy for their body. Just the fact that these decisions are not as regimented as they might be otherwise can be enough to cause severe anxiety and unhealthy behavior.