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Exercise Addiction Induced Anorexia

Look at the two runners on the right.

Which of them looks more natural and healthy?

If you picked #396, you are correct. He looks way healthier than #301, mostly due to his more muscular physique, better form, whereas #301 looks like he could collapse and die any second.

The differences between #301 and #396 isn't limited to their clear differences in muscle mass however, it is also a matter of differences in how they trained their bodies, how much nutrition they gave themselves while training, and whether they overdid it during the training process or whether they optimized their training / nutritional habits.

There is also a difference in sport. #301 is a marathon runner, which requires endurance. #396 is a sprinter, which requires sudden bursts of sheer speed - which requires more muscle power. However being super skinny is not a necessity for being a marathon runner, rather it is a side effect of Exercise Addiction.


Exercise Addiction is very common to marathon runners because there is a strong tendency to get "Runners High". While running very long distances your brain starts to produce a variety of hormones which act as painkillers to the runner, so that they can keep running. Unfortunately those natural hormones make for a very unnatural cocktail of chemicals, and behaves like heroin on the brain. People get addicted to long distance running, they neglect their health in favour of going running, they aren't eating enough food to take care of themselves, and they end up becoming very skinny as their body starts cannibalizing their muscle mass as energy.

That cannibalization process makes the person head down a very dark road in which they slowly start looking like an heroin addict. (Celebrity and singer Amy Winehouse is an extreme example of this, as she had both an exercise addiction and a cocaine/heroin addiction before she died. She died of alcohol poisoning.)

Essentially what it comes down is that we should be encouraging people to take up sprinting more often, or hiking is also good, because jogging long distances clearly has its dangers.

Exercise Addiction also comes with a host of other health problems, including possible anorexia (which is potentially deadly).

Running marathons can be fun and challenging, but you have to know the risks and give yourself limits so you aren't hurting your body. eg. Anything more than 100 km per week is considered to be exercise addiction.'

Symptoms of Exercise Addiction
  • An unhealthy increase in exercise levels.
  • An unhealthy addiction to euphoric states, not just in the form of "Runners High", but the addict may also seek out other kinds of drugs to increase their addiction to euphoria.
  • Social dysfunction as their addiction causes the addict to push away friends and family.
  • Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, restlessness, depression, guilt, tension, discomfort, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, and headaches.
  • Exercising despite injuries and despite emotional trauma.
  • Obsession with appearance and maintaining a skinny physique.
  • May be combined with eating disorders.
  • May lead to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
  • Addict is dependent on exercise in order to feel happy and gains little or no happiness from social interactions.
As a personal trainer I try to steer my clients here in Toronto away from anything that could cause them physical harm, whether it be sports injuries or a mental disorder. It is in the best interest of my clients that they have a healthy appreciation for exercise and not an obsession which causes them harm. I have written a number of other articles about exercise addiction, often with respect to marathon running.

See Also

12 Tips for Running a Marathon

Tips for Marathon Runners

Running Gear

How to Succeed in a Marathon

Crossfit and Why it is Dangerous

The Importance of Rest Periods

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