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How FITNESS can help fight eating disorders

Fitness As Medicine: Exercise to Overcome Disordered Eating Patterns

By far, the most important factor of our company is how we have been able to help Teen Athletes for over a decade, but this goes much farther than their PR's and athletic abilities. Since 2012, we have been working with Teens who are struggling with many issues but Eating Disorders have been a major issue amongst many of our athletes. While it is important that these individuals seek help (medical and therapy) we have found that adding fitness to their recovery program is a major asset.

For those struggling with eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating, incorporating fitness into treatment and recovery can provide major benefits. Both aerobic and resistance training have proven therapeutic effects when it comes to improving body image and normalizing harmful eating behaviors.

On a biological level, exercise helps repair and regulate appetite-controlling hormones like ghrelin, leptin, and cortisol which are often disrupted by eating disorders. It also triggers the release of endorphins that relieve negative emotions.

Additionally, focusing energy on fitness rather than obsessing over calories or rigid eating rules helps foster a more balanced mindset and relationship with food and your body. Exercising for function and health counteracts the tendency to manipulate food for shape or size.

Incorporating regular cardio, strength training, flexibility work, and activities you enjoy can therefore help in eating disorder recovery by:

- Regulating hormones

- Lifting mood

- Reducing anxiety

- Building confidence

- Changing focus from appearance to capability

- Promoting intuitive eating behaviors

With professional help, a nutrition plan, and an exercise program tailored to your needs and stage of recovery, healing is possible. Use fitness to transform not just your body but your inner dialog and mindset shift toward more positive behaviors.

*Personal Takeaway: While our training time with the athlete typically does not include conversations regarding their eating disorder, we will usually begin to hear the athlete talk about how they have increased calories and protein levels in their diet to help them reach their goals in and out of the weightroom. By giving them goals, such as a bigger bench, more powerful clean, or just a goal of achieving a higher level of fitness, the athlete will begin to understand the importance of nutrition and how it plays a key role in their lives.

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