Health & Body

Ask Amy: Can Overexercising Be a Kind of Eating Disorder?

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Can overexercising be an eating disorder? My friend says she's not anorexic, but she's obsessed with cardio as a way to be skinny. —Emma

Most dancers do some form of cross-training outside of ballet—and that's okay. But obsessive overexercising can be a sign of an eating disorder if your friend's behavior interferes with her personal and professional life. Dr. Constance Quinn, DSW, site director of The Renfrew Center of New York (an eating disorder treatment facility), says that while there's no formal diagnosis for it, compulsive exercising fits into the composite of an anorexia-binge-purge disorder. "The idea that you can't eat unless you exercise afterward, and the obsessive/compulsive drive behind it is harmful," says Quinn. "What at one point was an exercise routine can become something completely disruptive, to the point where the person can't live without it."


If you decide to approach your friend, choose your words carefully. "We often assume we know what's going on," Quinn says, but that's not always the case. Keep questions very general, and be supportive and compassionate: "Is everything okay? I'm here if you want to talk." If she doesn't admit to having a problem, don't push. But if she doesn't improve, be more direct: "We never see you anymore, and I'm worried about you." Eventually, you may need to tell a trusted adult what's going on.

Do you have a question for Amy? Click here to send it to her, and your question may be answered in an upcoming issue!

The Conversation
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Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB

Your teacher at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Marcia Dale Weary, recently passed away. What impact did she have on you?

I feel deeply indebted to her. She shaped my life's course, and I know that were it not for her, I would not be living out my dream today. She led by example through her remarkable commitment to her work, as well as her genuine kindness and generosity.

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It was an exposure to different schools of thought. We were mostly in the full-lengths, and watching run-throughs of Sleeping Beauty and Don Quixote was revolutionary for me. But I was young and far away from home. That transition was hard. My body started changing. It wanted to be fleshy. Biology is cruel in that way. I desperately wanted to fit in, but it wasn't meant to be.

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