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Marci Warhaft-Nadler

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When Being Too Healthy Is Bad for Your Health

Posted: 08/14/2013 12:30 pm

Could being too healthy be bad for your health? The short answer is no. However, it is entirely possible and sadly, becoming more and more common for people to start out with a quest for fitness and end up with a dangerous obsession with exercise and restrictive dieting. We all know that obesity is on the rise and with it brings a never ending supply of articles, ads and campaigns aimed at getting us out of the refrigerator and into the gym.

While healthy lifestyle changes are a good thing, it can be surprisingly easy to cross the line from fit to fanatical. It's not hard to understand the dangers that come from eating too much of the wrong types of food or not getting enough physical activity, but it can be much harder to grasp how too much of a good thing can also put your health at risk. While inactivity can lead to health issues, so can compulsive exercising. A nutritionally void diet can make you sick, but so can an extreme preoccupation with eating healthy.

Weight loss has always been a popular topic of conversation, but with an influx of social media sites and weight loss TV shows, it's now become inescapable. Whether we're watching television, browsing through Facebook, Instagraming, tweeting or perusing pictures on Pinterest, the message is clear: Everyone wants to lose weight and we should too! But how we do that isn't nearly as important as how quickly we can get it done and how much positive attention we can get in the process. I am a firm believer in the importance of physical activity and am very aware of how being active benefits us physically as well as emotionally, but sometimes looking fit and actually being fit are not the same thing.

We see a super lean, toned, muscular physique and just assume it belongs to a person who takes extra special care of themselves and that they possess the type of dedication that we should all aspire to. Maybe they do, but what we don't consider is the fact that maybe, while on the road to reaching their fitness goals they managed to get off track and ended up being more interested in having bodies that looked the best instead of ones that worked well. Can we even consider the possibility that the thinnest woman in the room might not be the fittest or that the guy with the biggest muscles might not be the strongest? What if the woman's flat stomach and low body fat come from too many workouts and not enough sleep or calories to keep her body working as efficiently as it should? What if steroids and other PEDs are responsible for building that man's muscles while simultaneously destroying his internal organs and will be the reason he's dead by the time he's 35? Are we still supposed to feel inspired?

With such a strong focus being put on obesity, our perception of fitness has become so twisted that no amount of dieting seems too extreme and no amount of exercise too excessive. As a result, eating and exercise disorders are gaining steam. One of the reasons why it can be so incredibly difficult to recover from such disorders is that our society tends to glorify weight loss of any kind.

I recently met a woman whose teen daughter is battling Anorexia Nervosa. As soon as this mom saw possible signs of an eating disorder, including quick and dramatic weight loss, she stepped in and found the help they needed. Her daughter wants to get better, but while her parents and doctors are telling her she needs to gain weight, she still has some friends and family members telling her how great she looks thinner. Without realizing it, they're cheering on her disorder instead of encouraging her recovery.

A young woman I know who used to work reception at a fitness club was amazed at the amount of compliments she got from gym members after a two week battle with a nasty flu resulted in her losing 10 pounds from her already thin frame. When she explained that her weight loss was unintentional and that she was still feeling quite ill and weak, she was blown away when someone responded with, "You're so lucky! I wish I could get sick like that!"

I believe that the fitness industry itself has gotten confused and in some cases, lost its way. We hire trainers to get us into the shape we want to be in and put our trust in them completely. That is a huge responsibility and one that some fitness professionals take too lightly. It's crucial that trainers remember that fit bodies can come in different sizes and to help their clients achieve a body that's right for them and that they can maintain long term. The best trainers teach their clients to focus less on the weight they're losing and more on level of fitness they're gaining.

Jodi Rubin is a New York based therapist who specializes in eating disorders and is the creator of Deconstructively Fit, which is a training program that empowers fitness professionals with the confidence and knowledge needed to address the issue of eating disorders.

Unfortunately, while it is not uncommon for trainers to come across clients who are engaging in disordered behaviour at the gym, it is uncommon for them to know how to approach the issue. Jodi believes that trainers can be a huge resource in helping their clients come up with healthy, realistic fitness goals if they're given the tools to do so. She explains that she's spoken to many fitness professionals who want to learn how to recognize symptoms of eating and exercise disorders so they can effectively discuss the issue with their clients. Destructively Fit bridges the gap between fitness and mental health. As a fitness lover herself, Jodi understands the importance of exercise on our well-being but also knows the risks that come from a desire to put physical appearance ahead of physical fitness. The most important factors in a client/trainer relationship are trust and communication, so it's necessary to make sure that everyone is comfortable with the goals that have been set up.

It's a sad fact, that too many of us are more impressed the with how our body's look than what they can do. Until this changes, the body shaming ads and campaigns will continue as will the increase in disordered eating and exercise.

Over exercising and under eating might get you the body you want, but it won't last and it could end up causing serious damage in the end.

Self-worth shouldn't be measured in pounds.

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  • Stand At The Bar

    Rather than nursing a drink sitting down, belly up to the bar, or grab dinner at a high table with bar stools. <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20534367_4,00.html" target="_hplink">Leaning against a high stool</a> is a step up from sitting, but can be more comfy than standing all night, <em>Health</em> magazine reported.

  • Mini Golf

    This old-timey favorite is fun for kids and adults alike, and can burn 100 calories in just 30 minutes. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/machineisorganic/6740536715/" target="_hplink">Machine is Organic</a></em>

  • Take A Swim

    You don't have to be Michael Phelps to get a water workout. Even some leisurely splashing around can shave off 200 calories, and it's a great way to stay cool in the heat, too! <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/joeshlabotnik/311692139/" target="_hplink">Joe Shlabotnik</a></em>

  • Build A Sand Castle

    Instead of just lounging on the sand working on your tan, get up and move around if you're at the beach this weekend. Bonus: Digging in the sand can be a surprisingly <a href="http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/great-summer-workouts?page=3" target="_hplink">good workout for abs and obliques</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/donhomer/7200149722/" target="_hplink">Michael Bentley</a></em>

  • Dance

    Let the music move you when you're out on Saturday night. A little boogying can burn 150 calories in just 30 minutes.

  • Throw A Frisbee

    You're not chained to that park bench! If you're already enjoying the outdoors, why not throw around a Frisbee or a football, pass a volleyball or kick a soccer ball? It doesn't have to be strenuous -- you don't even have to be any good! -- but it will get you up and moving. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/perspective/458811240/" target="_hplink">Elvert Barnes</a></em>

  • Go On An Exercise Date

    If you've got a date night planned this weekend, skip dinner and a movie in favor of something that gets you off your rears. It doesn't have to be a trip to the gym or a jog -- it can be anything active you like doing together. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/78428166@N00/7283892652/" target="_hplink">Tobyotter</a></em>

  • Row A Boat

    Many local parks, rivers and lakes have row boats, canoes or kayaks available for rent. No matter your vessel of choice, it's a fun, seasonal way to burn some serious calories. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/inner-eye-photo/6849944748/" target="_hplink">Josh Hawley</a></em>

  • Play Fetch

    During the busy week, you sometimes might just let your pet out in the backyard to dig up his own trouble. This weekend, spend a little extra time moving with him. Play fetch, give him that much-needed belly rub or take him on an extra-long walk. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/footloosiety/4255290603/" target="_hplink">footloosiety</a></em>

  • Catch Up On A Walk

    If you've made plans to meet a friend for coffee, take your catch up session to-go instead and gab on a walk. Even strolling at a snail's pace will burn 85 calories in 30 minutes!

  • Play Bar Games

    Put down the drink for some foosball or pool if you're at a bar this weekend that offers it. Thirty minutes of pool can shave off 85 calories, not to mention you may save yourself a few if your hands aren't wrapped tightly around that pint glass. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/15216811@N06/5842783313/" target="_hplink">Nicola since 1972</a></em>

  • Take A Hike

    Head for the hills! Depending on where you live, a hike can be a weekend expedition or a quick afternoon adventure. It's a change of scenery and a great way to spend some time outdoors. If you're feeling sporty enough to tackle some hills, you can burn almost 250 calories in just 30 minutes. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/4104101152/" target="_hplink">mikebaird</a></em>

  • Go Cab-Free

    If you typically find yourself hailing a taxi on the weekends, try hoofing it instead. If your destination is too far to make it on foot, try public transportation -- and leave the seat for someone else. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/tmab2003/3180940701/" target="_hplink">TMAB2003</a></em>

  • Play Lawn Games

    If you have plans to barbecue this weekend, break out the lawn games to get you out of your seat. Try <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/27/lawn-games-calorie-counts-memorial-day-_n_1546462.html" target="_hplink">croquet</a> or badminton, which can burn more than 150 calories in 30 minutes. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessabc/5835828281/" target="_hplink">Jessa B.C.</a></em>

  • Go Window Shopping

    Those people who do their exercise walking around the mall are onto something. Whether or not you plan to buy anything, browsing around your favorite shopping center gets you moving -- especially if you decide to wiggle in and out of a few things in the dressing room. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimmyharris/2774384836/" target="_hplink">jimmyharris</a></em>

  • Visit A Museum

    Spend some time strolling through the halls and galleries of your favorite museum. You'll give your brain a workout while you're at it!

  • Get Takeout Instead Of Delivery

    Pick your favorite nearby joint and walk to pick up your meal.

  • Wash The Car

    Sure, it might take a little longer than sitting through the drive-thru, but you get the pleasure of working those muscles a little bit.

  • Cook

    Instead of sitting at a restaurant waiting to be served, why not whip something up at home? You'll be on your feet slicing, chopping, mixing and more, not to mention cleaning up after yourself. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/janicecullivan/4262146921/" target="_hplink">mamaloco</a></em>

  • Plant A Garden

    A number of <a href="http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/lawn_garden/home_gardening/vegetables/Variety+Of+Vegetables+Can+Be+Planted+In+Late+Summer.htm" target="_hplink">fall veggies</a> are ready for planting now. Spending an hour digging, crouching, weeding and planting in your garden <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/24/memorial-day-chores-calories_n_1543691.html#slide=1018494" target="_hplink">can burn more than 300 calories</a>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/7682623@N02/7343305940/" target="_hplink">auntjojo</a></em>

  • Take A Bike Ride

    You don't have be imitate the Tour de France! Even the most casual rides can burn 200 calories an hour. Don't own a bike? Many cities now have <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/2011-05-08-bike-sharing-programs_n.htm" target="_hplink">bike share programs</a> that allow you to take a short spin for a small fee, and some parks have bikes available for rent, too. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/chinny_chin_chin00/6137088467/" target="_hplink">machernucha</a></em>

  • Play Laser Tag

    Go old-school, and grab a group of friends to head to the nearest <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/30/make-fitness-fun_n_1465840.html#slide=921050" target="_hplink">laser tag</a> arena. You'll run, jump, squat, crawl -- all in the name of fun and (healthy) competition. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/shawnzlea/324447996/" target="_hplink">shawnzrossi</a></em>

  • Go Rock Climbing

    With the increase in <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/03/sports/the-sport-of-bouldering-climbs-in-popularity.html?pagewanted=all" target="_hplink">popularity of bouldering</a>, you no longer need a load of gear (and experience!) to reap the fitness benefits of rock climbing. Try it out at a local gym -- you'll burn calories and seriously work those arm muscles. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/toolmantim/6728078909/" target="_hplink">toolmantim</a></em>

  • Go Bowling

    It's not just for dads in bowling shirts! Grab a pair of nerdy-chic shoes and aim straight. You may even wiggle a little arm workout out of it! <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/junklab/68904368/" target="_hplink">junklab</a></em>

  • Start A Wii Fit Competition

    Dreaming of a couch-potato weekend? Turn that screen time into something more productive by challenging a roommate, spouse or kid to a Wii Fit boxing or tennis match. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sashawolff/3190273060/" target="_hplink">SashaW</a></em>

 

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