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Eating disorders and compulsive exercise on the rise during pandemic

THE WOODLANDS, Texas – In this time of COVID-19, eating disorders are on the rise, according to the Eating Recovery Center in The Woodlands.

Yes, it's young teens frequently suffering but it's also moms. With moms increasingly more stressed about balancing working from home, homeschooling, job losses and more, some women are more at risk for an eating disorder, according to the Eating Recovery Center.

Sometimes it’s not just restricted to food. Sometimes the disorder manifests as compulsive exercise. The pandemic can be a nightmare for people susceptible to eating disorders because of current event triggers:

  • Empty grocery shelves
  • Feelings of uncertainty and loss of control
  • Messages about avoiding the “Quarantine 15″
  • Many people think of purging as one of the more common eating disorders, but it’s actually over-exercising.

Deborah Michel, MD, said there is a strong link between compulsive exercise and eating disorders.

Signs of compulsive exercise include:

  • Exercise begins to take on rigid, perfectionist characteristic.
  • If individuals are not able to exercise the way they may want to, they may feel guilt, they get angry, irritable, feel depressed.
  • They may go to great lengths to fit the workout in.
  • Sacrifice food, family and other daily needs in order to workout.

Working out itself isn't normally a bad thing since it can be a way to cope and reduce anxiety, but like with anything, too much can be harmful.

“When it’s something that is relied on overly so - that’s when we start to see people getting in trouble,” Dr. Michel said. “It can be used as a means as permission to eat, it can be used as a way to compensate for any food eaten. It can be used as a way, the only way to reduce stress, reduce anxiety. It becomes a way for the individual to regulate emotions in a rigid manner to the point where it controls them.”

Virtual sessions with the Eating Recovery Center are now available for patients. These sessions aim to interfere less with people’s daily lives and keep a safe social distance to get back to feeling like your normal self during the pandemic.