Editor's Note: We're often "addicted" to Wednesday's trendy cardio or yoga class at the gym, or running to our heart's content to clear our minds every day, but the addiction can get serious and harmful to your health. A study from the Medical University of South Carolina found nearly 40 percent of patients with anorexia engaged in compulsive exercising. Yahoo! Shine recently asked women to share their stories about their obsessive workout routines. Here's one woman's account of how her commitment to just one more lap around the track and losing weight turned troubling and unhealthy.
One more lap around the track. Just one more lap.
One would turn into 50 on most nights. Never mind the fact that I had a novel to read for Intro to Lit -- or that my body was wilting from having only eaten a bagel (hold the cream cheese) all day.
Never mind the fact that I had just finished a rigorous hour on the stationary bike, followed by another hour of weight lifting.
Fifty laps around the track seemed like the logical follow-up. The logical follow-up for someone with an eating disorder and gym addiction.
It all started my freshman year of college, when I moved away from home to attend a private, liberal arts school. I didn't feel like I fit in at my all-female dormitory, and I spent most of my time alone.
Before long, I had grown obsessed with eating and exercising. I subsisted on dry bagels and salads with low-calorie dressing, along with copious cups of coffee and Diet Coke. Each night, I'd drive to the YMCA for my three-hour punishment for eating.
I'd weigh myself at the gym before driving back to my dorm, satisfied with the plunging number on the scale.
After my roommate Alexis went to sleep, I'd crawl out of bed and spread out on my rug, quietly performing a series of leg lifts and stomach crunches. I'd scrutinize Alexis as she slept, terrified that she would wake up and find me exercising. She was worried enough about me spending three hours at the gym each night.
By the time freshman year wrapped in May, I was a skeleton of my former self. I had lost 50 pounds and stopped menstruating. I was moody, depressed, and often hyper from so much caffeine and so little food. As I took laps around the track at the gym, my body would shake with dizziness.
Alexis attempted to stage an intervention during the last month of school. She shared her concerns with our resident advisor, Betsy, who contacted a local counselor to speak to our dorm. As the counselor spoke to us about the dangers of eating disorders, she looked mostly at me. I stared back at her with gaunt, vapid eyes.
Though Alexis' intervention didn't work, my mom's did. After packing me up to return home for the summer, she drove me straight to the doctor. I was underweight, anemic, and vitamin-deficient. I wasn't consuming enough calories for my extreme workout plan. The doctor told me my health was in jeopardy.
Slowly, but surely, I learned to balance my eating and exercising that summer. I'm not sure exactly what changed inside of me, but I attribute most of my recovery to my family's encouragement and support.
Now I have to be extremely careful when I go to the gym. Some of those old urges to take extra laps around the track strike when I least expect it. But my logical voice prevails, and after an hour, I force myself to leave.
I've never felt fitter.