It is essential to consume a balanced nutritious diet along with daily exercise to stay on an optimum weight and lead a healthy lifestyle. However, every individual's food cravings and weight loss journeys differ a lot. Weight loss diets come and go, but it is pretty hard to get on a healthy meal plan. It is essential to take a proper balanced diet for healthy weight loss. Along with some physical activity like yoga, walking, exercise, running, swimming and dancing, a nutritious meal has to include essential nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats and many vitamins and minerals. However, in the motivation to lose weight, some people tend to get obsessed with it. Well, this is also a disorder called hypergymnasia or Anorexia Athletica. To dig more into it, Onlymyhealth editorial team talked to Dr. RK Singhal, Senior Director and HOD - Internal Medicine, BLK Super Speciality Hospital, about hypergymnasia, its symptoms, causes and treatment.
What is hypergymnasia?
Young people and athletes always want to lose weight so they indulge into excessive gyming and exercise. So, hypergymnasia or also called anorexia athletica is basically a disorder of the modern era. The people who are hooked on to losing weight just do gym and don't eat. They just want to lose weight, want to look better and they want to perform well in the athletic field. As per Dr. Singhal, "The athletes want to go for different categories like weightlifting which motivates them to do so. Ideally, they should do diet control but it surely takes time to provide results. So, to lose weight in a short span and through an easy way, they get hooked onto gym and don't take proper diet. A lot of young girls stop eating food and become thin like 30-40 kgs, leading to malnourishment."
Why is Anorexia common among athletics?
This disorder is more common in athletes because they want to reduce weight as it can take their performance up. So, the major factor is that they basically want to increase their performance. They think that with the extra weight, they won't be able to do well in their field. Hence, they want to reduce weight desperately by trying every measure that they can. And, once they are not able to take care by diet and exercise, they get hooked to extra exercise. They spend most of their time by indulging into some kind of workout. Sometimes, the level rises so much that athletes tend to faint due to this reason. This can lead to serious health problems and required immediate medical attention. Athletes suffer from the disorder hypergymnasia as they feel the need to lose weight in a short span of time.
Having a low body weight might be beneficial for those in the sports field. However, one should not be obsessed with their weight loss regime. There is a thin line between motivation and obsession to
maintain a specific weight and an individual has to take care of that. The symptoms of anorexia athletica are mostly recognised by a close one, but not by the person himself. According to Dr. RK Singhal, here are the signs that might indicate towards hypergymnasia or over exercise disease:
• Unable to perform
• Feeling too much guilty about having food or not exercising
• Disappointment with physical looks
• Unable to walk
• Inability to climb stairs
• Obsession to check weight frequently
• Not being able to do normal activities
• Fear of gaining weight
A major risk associated with anorexia athletica is that it often leads to nutrient deficiency. The body gets less amount of vitamins, energy, protein, electrolytes and calories. This disorder can make someone have very weird eating patterns, from eating nothing for 10 hours to have lots of fluid within 30 minutes. There are not many medical or genetic factors behind hypergymnasia but it is mostly influenced by self consciousness. According to Dr. Singhal, the main causes of hypergymnasia are:
1. Performance anxiety
Performance anxiety is one of the major causes of hypergymnasia and includes self consciousness, have low self confidence, getting intimidated and fear of embarrassment. Not performing well can have an emotional and physical effect on some people. And, it also leads to anorexia athletica.
2. Not succeeding in losing weight by diet
Weight loss often becomes an obligation for a lot of people. In fact, despite trying various weight loss diets, many individuals are not able to lose weight. This loss can make them try advanced weight loss methods. They tend to quit on calories totally and over exercise. Therefore, not succeeding in losing weight by diet is also a common cause for hypergymnasia.
3. Obsession to lose weight
Obsession to lose weight is seen in many people and is a reason behind hypergymnasia. The obsession to lose weight often begins when a person is halfway through the weight loss regime. Losing weight becomes an addiction and that can affect a person's personal relationships as well as their state of mind. They try each and every way to lose more and more weight.
4. To gain ideal weight in short span of time
Some people just want to reach their goal or ideal weight and that too quite quickly. Speeding up a naturally slow process with advanced methods is not good for your health. Losing weight in a short span of time is very difficult and mostly leads to the symptoms of anorexia athletica.
When you should visit the doctor?
In hypergymnasia, a person normally has to be taken care of by a family member, friends or the gym trainer. They are the people who can pick up on this. The patient will not understand the symptoms of anorexia athletica. Because if they did, understand they would not do this. Therefore, they have to be counselled by either the gym trainers or their friends, family or well wishers of what they are doing. Dr. RK Singhal said, "If a young person who loses weight like 10 kgs a month and they are not able to take proper sleep, can't eat or drink well and have lost all interest in everything. This clearly shows that they are just hooked on the fact that somehow they have to lose weight and it is time to visit the doctor. In such cases, they are eating, sleeping, drinking, but with the weight loss bell ringing in their mind constantly."
Mostly, the treatment for hypergymnasia is not medical. The patient himself has to make slight changes in their thinking and lifestyle to overcome this disorder. However, you can surely connect with your doctor for guidance. Also, if you leave the person alone then that can become a problem. And, one has to be medically cleared with their sodium content, diabetes status and blood pressure levels. As per Dr. Singhal, here are some things that you can do to treat hypergymnasia by yourself:
• Take your time to analyse, realise and understand
• You have to be taught properly that once you lose weight, you have to do a balance of everything
• Exercise in a time frame and there is a limit to which you can achieve.
• Understanding that you can't achieve your goal in a short span of time. It may take 6 months or one year.
• To lose weight, train yourself and take necessary supplements and vitamins
So, these were the symptoms, causes and treatment of hypergymnasia by Dr. RK Singhal. This disorder is a real problem that does not have a proper medical diagnosis yet. According to the Eating Disorder Foundation, around 46 percent of 10 year-old girls are on a diet and have the fear of gaining weight. It is important to spread more and more awareness about this over exercise disease.