Though it may seem like an oxymoron, eating disorders affect outdoor enthusiasts just like anyone else. In fact, studies show that people who engage in outdoor activities are just as likely to develop an eating disorder as those who don’t. While the disorder might manifest itself differently in someone who loves to hike or camp versus someone who sits at a desk all day, the danger is just as real.
Are outdoor enthusiasts more likely to develop eating disorders?
For one thing, people who spend a lot of time outside tend to be more in tune with their bodies and how they feel. They’re also more likely to be concerned about their physical appearance and performance in hiking and climbing activities. Add to that the pressure to conform to a certain “ ideal” body type (particularly for women), and it’s not hard to see how an eating disorder can take root.
What are some warning signs of an eating disorder?
Watch for sudden weight loss, changes in eating habits, excessively grueling exercise routines, preoccupation with food or body image, and withdrawal from friends and activities that were once enjoyed. If you notice any of these red flags, reach out to the person and let them know that you’re there for them—regardless of whether they have an eating disorder or not.
Common eating disorders
While eating disorders may be hidden in plain sight, there are four that are particularly common among outdoor enthusiasts: anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, and exercise bulimia.
Anorexia is characterized by a fear of gaining weight and refusing to eat enough to maintain a healthy body weight. People with anorexia often see themselves as overweight, even when they’re dangerously thin. Unfortunately, anorexia can lead to organ damage, heart problems, and even death. As a result, getting help as soon as possible is crucial if you or someone you know is showing signs of the disorder.
Bulimia, on the other hand, is characterized by bingeing—eating large amounts of food in a short period—followed by purging, which can be done through vomiting, excessive exercise, or the use of laxatives. This leads to a dangerous cycle of yo-yo dieting that can be difficult to break without help. Bulimia can also cause serious health problems, including heart disease and electrolyte imbalances.
Therefore, if you or someone you love is bulimic, it’s important to seek professional help. Choosing and joining a bulimia rehabilitation center can help on the road to recovery. These centers typically offer individual and group therapy, as well as nutrition counseling and medical care.
Orthorexia is a new term used to describe an obsession with eating healthy food. While there’s nothing wrong with eating healthy, people with orthorexia become so fixated on it that they miss out on the joy of food and the pleasure of eating. This creates a lot of anxiety and can lead to nutritional deficiencies. If you think you might have orthorexia, you should talk to a doctor or therapist who can help you get back on track.
Exercise bulimia, also known as “bigorexia,“ is a type of bulimia characterized by compulsive exercise. People with exercise bulimia often exercise for hours at a time and feel like they can’t miss a workout, even if they’re injured or sick. This leads to burnout and can cause serious health problems. If you think you might have exercise bulimia, consider speaking to a doctor or therapist who can help you get back on track.
Do you think you might have an eating disorder?
If you think you might have an eating disorder, it’s vital to seek professional help. Consider reaching out to a therapist or counselor who specializes in eating disorders. They can help you understand your thoughts and feelings about food and your body. Also, they can provide you with the tools you need to recover.
No matter what route you choose, remember that you are not alone. Eating disorders are serious illnesses, but they are treatable. With the right help, you can start feeling better and return to enjoying the activities you love.
If you love spending time outdoors, it’s important to be aware of the dangers of developing an eating disorder. Though it might not be immediately apparent, people who are active in outdoor activities are just as susceptible to developing an eating disorder as those who don’t spend time outside. Watch for warning signs in yourself and in others, and don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you suspect that someone you know might be struggling.