trainer Robyn Baker does a yoga tree pose at the
Healthfit 4 Life studio at Personal Care Physicians in
Newport Beach, California.
ANA, Calif. ó Obese diners are free to gorge at McDonaldís.
Gambling addicts can spend every last dollar in a casino.
Cancer patients are allowed to buy cigarettes.
should gyms be different, as far as members who exercise too
much and often have eating disorders?
the scenario raised in a letter to the British Medical Journal
by an adolescent health researcher troubled by the workout
routine of an extremely thin, twentysomething woman he saw
during every visit to the gym.
Iím trying to wake up on the treadmill, Amy is coming out of
the early morning aerobics class, having finished an hourlong
workout," wrote Rony Duncan of Australia. "While the
others head to the showers, Amy heads to the bicycles. Often
she is still there by the time I leave. Ö Having shared
several concerned glances with fellow gym members, I suspect Iím
not the only one who is worried."
Duncan notes that businesses such as fast food restaurants and
casinos have no obligation to the well-being of their
customers, he wonders whether gyms, which exist to promote
healthy living, should be held to a higher standard.
fitness centers say they are aware of the problem. An article
posted on the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub
Associationís website includes tips on what to do if a
member is suspected of having an eating disorder. In
educational material posted there, one expert estimated 90
percent to 95 percent of people with eating disorders use a
Diego State University has a public service campaign targeting
excessive exercise, sometimes called exercise bulimia or
anorexia athletica, which asks: "Are you getting too much
of a good thing?"
Calif., resident Robyn Baker, a personal trainer and Pilates
instructor, understands the compulsion.
anorexic at 18, but after reaching a healthier weight, she
moved to over-exercising. She didnít miss a three-hour
workout in five years.
back, Baker said some gym members must have been disturbed by
her. But she also received compliments.
would come up to me and say, ĎYou look great; youíre in
here all the time. Thatís awesome.í They would praise me
and tell me I should be a model and Iím so skinny and Iím
so lucky. In my head, my eating disorder loved to hear
has worked in a number of large gyms and said none had
policies for handling a member who appeared to work out too
a very touchy subject," Baker said. "Itís not like
a bar; they canít cut you off. When you go to a bar and you
see someone drunk, a bartender isnít going to give you any
more beer. If you walk into a gym at 2 percent body fat and
bones are sticking out, they donít say you canít come
said she would love to see gyms offer education on signs of
eating disorders, as well as how to approach a member or
personal training client.
is a growing problem, and people donít know how to address
it, so they donít. They donít want to talk about it
because itís uncomfortable. Itís taboo."
Kanarek, founder of Rewrite Beautiful, a Newport Beach,
Calif., nonprofit group that uses art against eating
disorders, said those recovering from eating disorders can be
triggered by seeing gaunt women exercise excessively in the
wishes health clubs had counselors or psychologists available.
But she also said that such intervention doesnít always
also had an experience when I was at the gym. I had a woman
trainer who was taking my body mass index," Kanarek said.
"She mentioned to me, ĎYour BMI is really low.í I was
at the point where I wasnít really admitting I had an eating
trainer proceeded to talk about the risk of eating disorders
and too much exercise.
was completely offended and upset with her, and I never went
back to that gym."
Kanarek, who overcame anorexia, bulimia and compulsive
overeating, said if she saw a gym-goer who appeared to be
struggling, she would try to reach out.
if I was to see someone looking that way, I would definitely
become a friend of theirs," she said. "I would chat
with them. I would get to know them. I would say Iíve
struggled with this."