Exercise! - This hurts to watch

View Full Version : This hurts to watch

06-30-2007, 12:15 PM
I know this is mostly just venting/storytelling, but I really have to talk to somebody who understands a healthy exercise lifestyle.

There's a woman at my gym who has severe exercise bulimia. She's there from noon until nearly close (10pm). She does a minimum of 3 spinning classes, my weightlifting class, and in between she's running on the treadmills or hefting weights in the weightroom. I'm not sure how she supports herself...maybe she works just mornings, or has a trust fund, or has a husband who can support them both. I dunno.

Unlike standard bulimics, exercise bulimics often get to scary low weights. She's roughly 40, about 5'7" (a bit taller than me) and must weigh less than 100 lbs. There's not a scrap of fat on her, and not much muscle...she's burned it all away.

I know a couple of the gym staff trainers have tried to talk to her, but she is very rude and tells them to mind their own effing business, she's paying her dues. Sadly, that's true, unless she's using the equipment in an unsafe fashion they really can't do anything.

It's just sooo hard to watch. She'll load up her bar for weightlifting with well over the reccomended weights and make little pained noises when she tries to lift. During cool downs in classes she'll either keep going full speed or leave to go run. Her skin has the most sickly tinge to it. I can't imagine what her kidneys must be like. And it looks like she might be losing her hair (I know that can be a sign of all kinds of bad things).

It's like watching a slow suicide. I know one of these days (possibly very soon) she won't show up for class and we'll all know what happened.

Even the "skinny chicks" who come to the gym, curl a 5lb weight, check out the guys, then leave give her frightened looks. When a 110lb college girl looks at you like you're too skinny you know you have a problem.

Just very very scary. Everybody, watch your exercise!

06-30-2007, 12:25 PM
Margaret (hey, I'm a Margaret too! :D ), we had a gym member just like that too. It was very scary and sad to watch. Everyone knew what was going on but there's wasn't anything that could be done. People spoke to her, of course, but her response was anger. I believe the gym staff even contacted her husband out of concern for her health.

She disappeared one day - just like what will probably happen to your member - and no one knows what happened to her. I think about her sometimes and wonder if she's still alive. It's so tragic.

06-30-2007, 12:48 PM
Even worse than not showing up one day, she may keel over in the gym.

06-30-2007, 01:05 PM
Sorry - not to be antagonistic, but how do you know how long she is at the gym for? How do you know it is ten hours? Do you work at the gym? Have you spoken to her? (please just take these as valid questions - there is no sense of 'tone' available by reading posts, and I am not sitting here, hands on hips, saying 'What do YOU know?!' - Not at all! - and I don't want you to think I am :) )

No doubt she is overdoing it, but there could be a whole slew of things going on. The reason I say this is because my best friend worked out for six months like a fiend - she would do two to three hours, four times a week, at her gym. She had lost hair, weight, muscle mass. Her skin was a horrible colour, and well-meaning people would 'speak' to her 'for her own good' regularly. What they were not aware of was that she was recovering from leukemia, and that she needed the aerobic exercise and weight training to salvage what muscles she could. It was a horrible time for her, made far worse by people at the gym. Of course, the staff knew (she was cleared by the doctor), so it is a different situation than that mentioned if the staff are unaware of any reason for her 'excessive' workouts.

It must be VERY hard to watch!


06-30-2007, 01:13 PM
I've actually discussed it with the gym staff and owner. They know the hours she's keeping and they're all very concerned.

06-30-2007, 01:19 PM
I'm realizing now that this might be an inflamatory subject. Please feel free to lock this thread and let it fall off the front page.

06-30-2007, 01:26 PM
I don't think this inflammatory -- you are concerned about someone else like most of us would be. There should be more concerned people around!!

As with anything, there are excesses -- eating, drinking, exercising, anger, etc. It is unfortunate to watch and not be able to do anything. But, as we all know, she has to want to help herself. She is overexercising for reasons only known to her. As a "recovered" bulemic I know that even the best intentioned individuals can anger you when you aren't ready to seek the help you need.

Has anyone tried to befriend her, without commenting on her overexercising? Maybe that would help if someone was willing to make the effort.

I hope she is able to help herself and know that the help she needs is out there, she only needs to ask for it.

06-30-2007, 02:05 PM
We have one such person in our community. She is anorexic and exercises like that. She walks 17+ miles per day and goes home to exercise. She eats less than what would sustain a cat (1/4 c of dry cereal once per day and popcorn). Everyone in town knows her and she was on Dr. Phil a few months back. On his show she said she'd give inpatient therapy another try (previous attempts didn't work). Unfortunately, I have not heard an update lately. It is sad. And the thing is, she knows she has a problem, but just can't seem to stop. She looks like a walking skeleton.

06-30-2007, 02:12 PM
She walks 17+ miles per day and goes home to exercise. She eats less than what would sustain a cat (1/4 c of dry cereal once per day and popcorn).

How do you know this, though?

If it's okay to interfere with another adult wrecking her health by working out too much and eating too little, is it okay to interfere with an adult who is wrecking her health by eating too much (or eating poorly) and exercising too little?

06-30-2007, 02:36 PM
If this woman was on Dr. Phil, she probably shared her dietary and exercise habits with everyone. Maybe that's a cry for help. I think "interfere" is the wrong word to use MariaMaria. I think caring and compassion for another human being are more appropriate. If this person was on drugs you would want to help them, right? That's just human nature in my opinion.

06-30-2007, 02:50 PM
Watching someone self-destruct (however they choose to do so), is painful to watch. When, whether, and how to voice concerns, interfer, intervene.... it's a tough decision. What is appropriate, and even legal is sometimes unclear.

The gym should probably consult an attorney for their own protection. If bars can be sued for serving an intoxicated person, I would imagine her family could sue the gym for being complicit in her injury or death. The gym probably does have the right to pull her membership (gyms have been known to do so for crazier reasons). Regardless, the gym should consult an attorney regarding their legal responsibility toward her. Especially since gym staff is talking about her behind her back, (which in iteself could be illegal with all of the complicated current privacy laws).

06-30-2007, 04:22 PM
You know, this topic got me thinking, and I hope I don't sound cruel, as I feel very badly for the women being discussed and their problem. I wish them both well, and I hope that they get the help they need to be healthier, well rounded adults.

However, I wonder- why is it that more folks have compassion for skinny people than they do heavy people? For instance, an obese person has the same chance of dying because of their lack of will power to control their sugar binges/intake of fattening foods. Yet, a skinny person doesn't eat enough, but some folks feel compassion for her, but those same people feel disgust for the obese person who has probably been on more diets in her lifetime than she can count, yet daily, she faces humiliation and the stress to try to lose weight.

I speak from personal experience on this. My sister, whenever she is stressed out or worried, drops weight like you wouldn't believe, and fast! The compassion towards her is incredible, as opposed to me, the fat, obese, can't control myself one in the family, as well as the "biggest and fattest person ever on both sides of the family", in spite of my every effort to lose weight. I've had people give me unwanted advice (whether I am dieting or not), been told to exercise more, blah blah blah.

I shocked one family member when I challenged them to see who would last longer on the treadmill. They laughed, and took the challenge, thinking they would win easily. The horror on their face, as they saw me keeping up with them was just incredible. Yet, had my skinny sister been on that treadmill, she wouldn't have lasted five minutes on it, and she's the first to tell you that, lol. Thankfully, she's always been in my corner, and myself in hers, when it comes to our weight problems. She tells people all the time, she should be fat and I should be skinny, just for our activity levels alone. :D

Still, it amazes me how one weight loss problem generates compassion and caring, while the opposite weight problem generates disgust and a rash of advice that chances are, they already tried it before, and it didn't work for them.

Anyone else hear what I'm saying? :)

06-30-2007, 05:11 PM
I think I get ya, Steelslady. I think there are a LOT of obese people out there who struggle harder to try to lose weight than most thin people do to stay the way they are.

However, I think I can sort of guess the answer to your question.

People like those mentioned in this post are perceived as exercise/diet-aholics, doing the "healthy thing" past the point of health and right back into the danger zone. However, most obese people are viewed as too lazy, unmotivated, and gluttonous to even try eating healthy and exercising. While the dangerously thin are working too hard and depriving themselves, the dangerously large are (supposedly) not working at all and eating whatever, whenever they want.

Now we at 3FC of all places know that's just not true, and so do our loved ones and a few others. But can you deny that that is a fairly common perception on the part of outsiders?

I personally am not sure whether a physical or mental obstacle (as surely these women have - they can't STOP exercising and fasting) deserves more sympathy, because both can be extremely serious and difficult to get past, so I guess I probably feel as concerned and sympathetic for both. (I'm definitely concerned about myself if I don't turn my health around!) :(

06-30-2007, 05:13 PM
Very thought provoking, Steelslady. For me personally if someone is losing alot of weight, I'm thinking illness, etc. At least I don't think I would insult them by asking them what's going on. On the other hand, if a friend/relative is gaining alot of weight, I probably wouldn't say anything for fear of hurting their feelings. I do agree that just because someone is thinner, it doesn't make them necessarily fit. I think that's hilarious about the treadmill incident though.

06-30-2007, 06:26 PM
We broached this subject on a previous thread about why obesity isn't viewed with as much sympathy/concern/pity, etc. as anorexia or bulimia. It has a lot to do with the media's perception of eating disorders, but I think the main reason people have less sympathy for obese people is due to their lack of knowledge about the struggle. It's easier to assume that obesity is due to lack of exercise (or simply laziness) and improper nutrition, rather than any other problem that person may be struggling with. And then actually losing the weight and keeping it off -- that's another creature. It's the most difficult thing that most people will ever have to do in their lives. The general public (who haven't been there) are acutely unaware how hard it is -- I think most people think that a person can just lose weight -- if they really wanted to. Hmph. Everyone here knows that there's more to it than that.

I do have to make a point of obesity not always being caused by an eating disorder (a psychological illness) whereas anorexia and bulimia are mental illnesses. Obesity is not a mental illness. It can be caused by binge and compulsive overeating, but there are not enough statistics to show exactly how many obese people are indeed suffering from a diagnosable psychological illness and need treatment in order to overcome their addictions. Personally I know obese people who do simply not exercise and eat poorly. They aren't addicted to food. I do have to say I have more sympathy with a woman who is in a hellish cycle of exercise bulimia rather than an obese woman who stops by Mcdonald's on her way home from work and then later than night drives her car down to her mailbox. But I would feel the same pain for an obese woman who is in a uncontrollable cycle of compulsively bingeing. But how can I tell the difference? I can't. So even as someone who is formeley obese, I have a difficult time garnering the same symapthy for obese people that I do for anorexics and bulimics because I know some of them just have never been through the ordeal of having their lives taking over by an eating disorder (I lost 3 years and have been struggling with eating disorders for 8). They may have their reasons (or excuses) for being obese, but it simply isn't the same thing.

07-01-2007, 01:11 AM
I don't know about that, as far as some obese folks not having a psychological disorder. It takes a VERY strong person to lose all that weight themselves, and let's face it, there are a few obese folks who do go for counseling to find out what it is that makes them eat. I know that for a fact, as when I was thinking of having the weight loss surgery, the doctor made me go for a couple of counseling sessions to see what the problem was with my lack of weight loss. If they think that your weight problem is psychological, they won't allow you to have the surgery, as they feel the surgery won't resolve your problems with eating. I was so close to getting it (I was approved), but I chickened out- the thoughts of being carved up scared me, and not to mention the dangers of the surgery.

Also, yoyo dieting is a concern. Most of us have done it. Think of how many people have lost a lot of weight, only to gain it back within a couple of years. Think there isn't something psychological going on? Depression? Stress? Fear of something? Worries? Loneliness? Missing someone they loved dearly who either passed away or moved away?

What woman/man in their right mind wants to be fat? I know I don't, but I will admit, I have felt very helpless and frustrated when I see how easy it is for me to gain weight, while my thin family members can chow away on anything and everything, and not gain a pound. Many of my family members don't own any exercise equipment, go to gyms, or work out. Me, I've been heavy most of my life, but never this big until after my third child was born. I've always been very physically active, so that is a plus in my favor.

I mean, we have folks telling us all the time "just stop eating so much, and exercise!", as if we haven't tried to do that. Who would dare to tell these overly thin folks to "just eat and stop exercising!"?

Don't get me wrong, I feel sorry for them. It's awful to watch a loved one dwindle down to nothing like that- I've had to coach my sister and niece on the phone, to take a bite of something every half hour, then every fifteen minutes, etc, til their appetites came back. It isn't easy one way or the other, but it just seems to me, we have to work so much harder to get to where we need to be. *sigh* I wouldn't mind having someone tell me I need to gain weight for a change. :)

07-01-2007, 02:13 AM
If they think that your weight problem is psychological, they won't allow you to have the surgery, as they feel the surgery won't resolve your problems with eating.

This validates my point of not every obese person having a psychological problem that the cause of their weight -- or no obese person would be approved for surgery.

I mean, we have folks telling us all the time "just stop eating so much, and exercise!", as if we haven't tried to do that. Who would dare to tell these overly thin folks to "just eat and stop exercising!"?

Sadly, people DO tell anorexics that. "Eat a cheeseburger!" has now become the sister phrase "put down the cheeseburger!" They get it too :( It can be blamed on the massive misinformation out there floating around about eating disorders in general. It will never be as simple as eating or not eating a

07-01-2007, 09:03 AM
Can't a gym pull someone's membership for misuse?

07-01-2007, 02:58 PM
Some gyms have been known to pull memberships because a person was too overweight or otherwise didn't fit the gyms "image," and two of the gyms my husband and I have joined stated in their contracts that they could cancel a membership without even having to state a reason.

Misti in Seattle
07-01-2007, 11:13 PM
Ummm.... I am a little surprised here by the comment that the gym staff is discussing with other patrons how much time this woman spends at the gym, etc. Isn't this a breach of her confidence?

07-02-2007, 12:22 AM
Ummm.... I am a little surprised here by the comment that the gym staff is discussing with other patrons how much time this woman spends at the gym, etc. Isn't this a breach of her confidence?

Well, I just read through my gym contract (which would be the same as hers) and there's nothing in it about confidentiality except with regards to credit information. All my little discussions have been informal, and kind of trying to "tattle" on her to be sure I wasn't just seeing things and that others noticed that she might need help. I hope I wouldn't get anyone in trouble, I think they just were worried because I was worried and wanted to tell me I wasn't crazy.

Misti in Seattle
07-02-2007, 01:19 AM
Hi Margaret... I didn't mean that you were "out of line" in any way and your concern is certainly legitimate and caring! At a gym I used to work out at there was a woman also who ate so little and worked out so hard that her hair was falling out and her skin looked pasty. I was always concerned about her also.