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Exercise, emotional eating, and eating disorders

Page Description: Exercise is becoming a significant part of most therapeutic sessions. However, most people are concerned about the role of exercise in treating emotional eating and eating disorders. Some people are also confused about emotional eating as an eating disorder. As you read further, this article explains all you need to know about exercise, emotional eating and eating disorders, and the role of exercise in treating emotional eating and eating disorders.  

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What is exercise?

Exercise refers to any physical activity involving some parts of the body or the whole body that enhances and maintains the fitness and overall wellness of the body.

People exercise for different reasons such as losing weight, building endurance, building muscles, improving heart health, honing sporting skills, improving and maintaining overall body health, hobby, and socialization.

Exercise varies from light to agile activities such as taking a stroll, walking up the stairs, dancing, jogging, jumping, cycling, squatting, swimming, skipping, hiking, pushups, lunging, planks, yoga, abdominal crunches, and rowing, amongst others.

Types of exercise

Exercise is broadly divided into two: aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Aerobic means with oxygen, while anaerobic means without oxygen.

1.      Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercises are exercises designed to improve heart health. Most people call it a breathing exercise, but that’s a bit vague. Aerobic exercise isn’t a breathing exercise. Instead, it involves activities that use oxygen as energy; hence, you need to breathe.

Aerobic exercises increase your heart rhythm and promote sufficient muscle blood flow. It also improves lung function, lowers blood pressure, helps the relaxation of blood vessel walls, aids in weight loss, regulates blood sugar, boosts the level of good HDL cholesterol, increases mood, relieves depression, reduces the risk of heart diseases, breast and colon cancer, diabetes, depression, and stroke.

Examples of aerobic exercise include swimming, cycling, jogging, walking, running, rowing, dancing, skiing, skipping, and skating.

2.     Anaerobic Exercise

Anaerobic exercises are High Intense Training (HIT) activities designed to build strength and endurance. Unlike aerobic exercise, which uses oxygen as a form of energy, anaerobic exercise burns glucose as a form of energy. The body relies on stored carbs, protein, and fat to work.

Anaerobic exercise helps to burn fat, increase body metabolism, build muscles, strengthen the bone, improve joint health, maintain muscle mass, and reduce high blood pressure. It also boosts mood, promotes blood flow and low lung function, regulates blood sugar, lowers cholesterol levels, corrects muscle imbalance, improves body posture, and decreases the risk of stroke, diabetes, certain cancer types, and heart-related diseases.

Examples of anaerobic exercise include weight lifting, pushups, dips, pullups, sprinting, jump lunges, jump squats, yoga, circuit training, Pilates, burpees, bench presses, and squats.

12 Benefits of exercise

Exercise is beneficial in keeping fit and maintaining the body’s overall wellness. The benefits of exercise are so numerous that we can’t list them all. However, here’s a list of some of the benefits.

  • Improve cardiovascular health
  • Improve flexibility and mobility
  • Aids weight loss
  • Improve brain health
  • Enhance sex life
  • Strengthen the bones and muscles
  • .Blood sugar regulation
  • Blood pressure regulation
  • Improved blood circulation
  • Reduce risks of developing chronic diseases
  • energy/mood boosts.
emotional eating

Emotional eating

People handle emotions differently. While some people cry, starve, or isolate themselves when they are down, others find solace in food. The act of finding comfort or eating in response to your information is known as emotional eating.

Emotional eating is characterized by cravings, mindless eating, and a lack of satisfaction. People who eat because of emotions crave foods and junk with specific textures and smells. They also eat, mostly above their gauge and not because their stomach is empty and feel guilty after eating. Although emotional eating can be relieving, most people feel bad about it.

Factors causing emotional eating include stress, health issues, financial issues, heartbreaks, relationship issues, big wins, breakthroughs, boredom, habits, social gatherings, and unclear emotions.

Emotional eating is not an eating disorder, but it’s not healthy. If you are an emotional eater, you are at risk of being overweight, which makes you prone to other health challenges. So, if you are concerned about your health and well-being, you must find other ways to cope with your emotions.

Handling emotional eating

The only way to handle emotional eating is to channel your emotions to other healthy activities. When you notice the cravings, instead of ordering your usual or getting it yourself, engage in something different, engaging, and fun.

One way of tackling emotional disorders is exercise. It’s an activity that keeps you engaged and distracted. It’ll help you lose weight and prevent the overweight that comes with emotional eating. You don’t need to do intense exercise. Aerobic exercises like swimming, dancing, or walking will do the magic.

Other activities that can distract you from emotional eating include:

  • Writing: this will help you straighten your emotions and relieve you of the burden you might be feeling.
  • Seeing a movie: you can watch the fun or thrilling movies that’ll take your mind off eating for a while
  •  Hang out with friends: go to fun places, see movies, and engage in other exciting activities, but avoid eating and, instead, drink water.
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Eating disorders

An eating disorder is a mental and psychological condition that alters eating habits. It can be so severe that it affects a person’s physical, social, and psychological function or even lead to death. However, eating disorders vary from person to person.

Studies show that eating disorders can result from biological, genetic, social, behavioral, and psychological factors. It is also known to be prevalent among teenagers and youth. However, it can happen to anyone, irrespective of age.

Eating disorders are often associated with other mental illnesses, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, alcohol and drug abuse, and mood and anxiety disorders. Most of their symptoms include obsession with food, body shape, and weight, liking and dislike for specific food types, and misuse of laxatives.

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Types of eating disorders

Eating disorders include binge eating disorder, pica, rumination disorder, bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, and other specified feeding and eating disorders. Here, we’ll discuss the three most common types of eating disorders.

  1. Binge eating disorder

Binge eating disorder is a condition characterized by excessive overeating. People who suffer from this eating disorder often find themselves eating without control, leading to being overweight and obese. Women are most prone to binge eating disorders than men. However, it can affect anybody.

Binge eating disorder could develop from uncontrolled emotional eating. When someone becomes so used to finding comfort in food, experiencing down moments for quite a long period could lead to food addiction.

Causes of binge eating include hormonal imbalance and irregularities, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dieting, genetic mutation, low self-esteem, traumatic events, physical and sexual abuse, tragedy, and bullying.

Symptoms of binge eating disorder include overeating without control, eating when you are full or not hungry, frequently dieting, eating till you are uncomfortably full, feeling depressed after eating, feeling guilt and shame after eating, and so on.

  1. Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a severe life-threatening eating disorder characterized by excessive overeating and unhealthy purging to remove extra calories afterward. People who suffer from Bulimia nervosa binge eat most time, after which laxatives flush their system.

Most people suffering from bulimia nervosa, usually teenagers and young adults, are often obsessive about their body shape and weight. Hence, after overeating, they use a laxative or force themselves to vomit to remove excess food from their system and prevent overweight.

Symptoms of bulimia include fear of gaining weight, aggressive use of supplements for weight loss, frequent use of laxatives, excessive exercise to prevent weight gain, and self-inducing vomiting to remove excess food from the system.

  1. Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a disorder characterized by an intense fear of weight gain. People suffering from anorexia are overly obsessed with losing weight. Hence, they practice extreme measures, including starvation, to prevent weight gain.

People suffering from anorexia also practice using laxatives, self-induced vomiting, or a rigorous diet routine, just like bulimia. However, the difference is that people suffering from anorexia often associate thinness with self-worth. So, anorexia is not just an eating disorder but also a mental disorder.

Symptoms of anorexia include excessive weight loss/thinness, fatigue, insomnia, dizziness, dehydration, low blood pressure, abdominal pain, constipation, dry skin, irregular heartbeat, and so on.

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Exercise in eating disorder treatment

Several research studies showed that closely monitored therapeutic exercise could effectively treat patients with eating disorders. However, because the signs and symptoms vary from person to person, therapeutic exercises may not work for every patient.

Most studies show that there has not been any adverse effect on patients whose treatment included therapeutic disorder. Instead, there was a significant improvement in their recovery process.

Eating disorders are severe and sensitive mental conditions that require caution in their treatments. Since there is currently no established dosage for therapeutic exercise in treating eating disorders, experts are advised to closely monitor the patients undergoing therapeutic exercise.

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Exercise is essential in improving and maintaining health and overall body wellness. It is also a very crucial part of most physiological and psychological treatments. Although it hasn’t officially been established, most studies’ results attest to the positive role exercise plays in treating eating disorders and emotional eating. Hence, we can now integrate therapeutic exercise –with close monitoring in treating emotional eating and eating disorder.


What are Eating Disorders?

Eating Disorders

What to know about exercise and how to start

Emotional Eating: What You Should Know

Emotional Eating and How to Stop It

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