The power of community can sometimes save a life. Please take some time to read this recent article, featured in USA Today, to learn how a group of strangers at a YMCA stepped in and successfully intervened, leading a young woman to treatment for anorexia and compulsive exercise.
The daily messages and positive images are everywhere. Exercise is good, lots of exercise is better, and extreme exercise will turn your body into an exquisite machine. From spin class, to triathalon training, to hours at the gym, obsessive exercise is not only commonplace, it is highly celebrated in today’s society. More is more.
Except when it’s not. Increasingly, the compulsion around extreme exercise is having dangerous and damaging impacts: physical exhaustion, serious musculoskeletal injuries, dire cardiovascular complications, severe psychological disturbances, and withdrawal from work and relationships. The obsession to continue exercising in the face of these serious health risks can result in long-term harm and even death.
At Oliver-Pyatt Centers in South Miami, Florida, we are treating more and more women—elite and civilian athletes alike—who, even though they have become gravely ill, are terrified at the prospect of cutting back on their hours and hours of exercise. Founder and Chief Medical Officer Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, MD, FAED, CEDS, says, “Excessive exercise is all too often reinforced by society at large. But for a person with exercise addiction, what was once a healthy habit becomes a potentially deadly one.”
Returning each woman safely to her sport and exercise can be a delicate process of healing both body and brain. Like injuries on the field of play, the rehabilitation process must carefully build emotional, physical, nutritional, and behavioral strengths and take the necessary first small steps. Slowly but surely, movement and exercise are reintroduced with a focus on mindfulness—learning how to be acutely aware of all of the emotional and physical aspects of exercise and the pitfalls of highly repetitive activities.
Our nutrition, clinical, and medical teams work closely with each woman to address her unique, intense psychological and physical relationship with movement. At the appropriate time, our clients are provided the opportunity to mindfully reintegrate movement back into their lives, beginning with outdoor walks and yoga, then advancing to dance classes, individualized movement challenges, and exercise passes. Each step in our client’s relationship with exercise and movement is carefully monitored and guided by her team at Oliver-Pyatt Centers to allow her to forge a new relationship with exercise in body, mind, and spirit.