Not too long ago, the idea of keeping yourself in shape meant going for a walk in the neighborhood after dinner or spending an hour or two at the gym. People knew that eating healthy food and getting some exercise throughout the day would keep extra pounds off and doctor visits to a minimum.
Today’s home-based or amateur athletes wouldn’t even consider that a warm-up. Extreme fitness programs like obstacle races, CrossFit, and long distance running are pushing people to explore the boundaries of their physical capabilities; simply for the sake of seeing just how far they can go. Marathons aren’t enough; ultra-marathons of 50, 75, and even 100+ miles regularly take place where athletes run for 24 hours without any rest. Extreme fitness programs push bodies to their breaking points as maximum heart rates are approached and then maintained for increasingly longer periods of time.
Not satisfied with what their bodies are able to accomplish on their own, more and more of these amateur athletes may be turning to performance enhancing dietary supplements to push themselves even further. And, some medical professionals are saying that a new eating disorder is emerging as a result.
Researchers at the California School of Professional Psychology conducted a study of 195 men, aged 18 to 65. These men had used performance or appearance enhancing dietary supplements in the past 30 days; all of which were legally obtained and consumed.
The men were given a questionnaire and the results of the survey are striking. Over 40 percent of them said their use of dietary supplements was on the rise and 29 percent were worried about their use of the enhancements. Eight percent had been told by their physician that their use of the supplements needed to be curtailed or stopped and three percent had actually been hospitalized because of the supplements’ suspected impact to their kidneys or livers.
Why are they doing this to themselves, even against the advice of their physicians? According to their questionnaire responses, the answer stems largely from issues of low self-esteem and dissatisfaction with one’s body. Issues of gender role conflict were also highlighted in the results.
One scientist involved in the study likened these results to the reasons that people suffer from other types of eating disorders and notes that a psychological disorder may be involved in some cases. Eating disorders take many shapes and forms and it is not just the obese that show an outward manifestation of those issues. On the surface, these athletes appear to be physical perfection incarnate. Inside, however, they may be fighting the same demons as the morbidly obese.
Eating disorders affect millions of people every day. If you or a loved one suffer from an eating disorder you should know that you are not alone in your struggle. Help is available. Contact the National Eating Disorders Association for more information.