Compulsive exercise a challenge for some men during COVID-19 pandemic

The pandemic is driving some people to extremes: Extreme stress, extreme eating, or in some cases, extreme exercise.

Extreme exercise is a more common eating disorder than you may think. It’s one that often affects men who may not identify they’re struggling since eating disorders are typically thought to be a female issue.

Eating disorders are on the rise during the pandemic, according to the Eating Recovery Center.

One Richmond man wanted to tell his story so other guys can get help before it’s too late.

Rich Beckwith said he was exercising to reduce anxiety but pushed it to a point it made him sick.

“When I first got diagnosed with the eating disorder, I had stage two kidney failure, liver failure, my heart was dipping to the side,” Beckwith said. “Doctors were telling me if I kept going... I wouldn’t be alive.”

From 2004 to 2011 Beckwith lost so much weight he was hard to recognize.

At that time, he was waking up in the middle of the night to work out for hours and hours. Beckwith said he built up his running endurance to 15 miles twice a week while only eating 2,000 calories because he was terrified to regain weight.

Today, he says he’s working on his recovery all the time. He didn’t have to give up exercise completely, but does have to focus on a healthy balance. He does it with help from an eating recovery program. His therapist and support network are extremely important during the pandemic when there’s so much focus on staying healthy, which is a common trigger for people with eating disorders to slip back into compulsive behaviors.

“As a male, it took me eight years to get treatment. It took my wife, my family, everybody to say ‘hey you need help. You are not doing what is healthy,'" he recounted. “Don’t be ashamed about it. Don’t be scared. If you feel you have compulsive exercise, seek help.”

If you need help, try contacting the Eating Recovery Center. They have one location in Houston and another in The Woodlands.