Monte Nido® Eating Disorder Treatment Center
"Between the stimulus and response is a space. In this space lie our growth and happiness."

Steven Covey

Athletes and Eating Disorders

Exercise and Exercise Addiction

At Monte Nido and Affiliates we place an emphasis on balance in all areas of life including exercise.  We were the first eating disorder treatment center to have a specific program devoted to exercise addiction and the first to incorporate exercise as a critical feature of our overall treatment. Since our opening in 1996 we have treated countless people with exercise addiction and numerous athletes many of whom suffered from an addiction to exercise.

Athletes, whether elite level or high school/college level, are at high risk for either having an exercise addiction, or developing one as the competitive stakes increase.  Many athletes are thought of as having an exercise addiction due to the amount and intensity of training they must undergo.  However, there are certain aspects of exercise addiction that separate a healthy athlete from one in trouble and at risk.  Whether an athlete or not, an exercise addiction becomes something that no longer is under the individuals ability to control and interferes with other areas of life. People with exercise addiction often, but not always have an eating disorder.

The following “Assessment for Exercise Addiction’ taken from Your Dieting Daughter, 2nd edition, 2013, may help you identify if you or someone you love is addicted to exercise.

Indicators of Exercise Addiction

  1. The person maintain a high level of activity, not resting or taking time off even when ill or injured.
  2. The person depends on exercise for self-definition, self-worth and mood stabilization.
  3. The person judges his or her day as good or bad based on the amount of exercise.
  4. The person has an intense, driven quality when he or she exercises.
  5. The person is resistant or angry about any suggestion to reduce the amount of exercise he or she does.
  6. The person seems to have the lack of ability to control or stop exercising.
  7. The person lies about, denies, makes excuses for and defends his or her amount of exercise.
  8. The person avoids or cancels family or social engagements in order to exercise.
  9. The person continually feels the need to increase exercise, e.g., adding laps, miles, time and weight.

At Monte Nido and Affiliates we assess for Exercise Addiction and provide the necessary treatment to the clients overall treatment plan. 

The Link between Athletes and Eating Disorders

For female athletes, in addition to potential problems with exercise up to 1/3 have some form of disordered eating.  Among high school athletes, 18.2% met criteria for disordered eating, 23.5% met criteria for menstrual irregularities and 21.8% met criteria for low bone mass (Nicholls et al. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 2006: 160: 137-142).  The results of these reports are not surprising since many female athletes start training at a very young age.  Some begin at age 4 or 5 when eating habits are being formed away from home in the school environment and the critical physical development of puberty is years away.  Soccer leagues, gymnastics and ballet accept children as young as 4 or 5. 

With early hard wiring from instructors and coaches who teach athletes: to push beyond the limits, endure suffering in order to win, to be leaner, faster, stronger, and to adhere to the commonly known slogan “no pain, no gain, ”  it is no wonder that the ability to exercise efficiently and moderately while eating in a healthy manner is a foreign concept to this population.  They are encouraged to push themselves further and further in order to win the tournament, award, college title, etc.  They sacrifice their health and personal relationships in order to please coaches, cooperate with athletic scholarships and fulfill what they think is expected of them.

At Monte Nido, we work with all our clients, including our athletes, taking into consideration their fitness level, degree and length of time their eating disorder has been present, and what their exercise level or athletic careers will look like after treatment.  We address the medical issues such as the long term effects of amenorrhea, osteopenia, and osteoporosis.  Our goals are to teach and practice appropriate types of training and implement healthy meal plans for each individual’s specific circumstances and needs.  We teach our clients what healthy eating and training looks and feels like, and through our unique level system, help them to achieve a balanced lifestyle that includes a healthy weight and an appropriate fitness level that can be maintained after treatment.


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