It Takes Two: The Balance Between Food and Exercise
Because over-exercising can be linked to eating disorders, it’s important to be smart when planning your meals and exercise routines. To avoid unhealthy habits, keep in mind that the recommended daily calorie intake for women between the ages of 19 and 30 is 2,000 to 2,400. Doctors say that exercise addiction is often a companion to binge eating. It’s definitely important to eat, but make sure that you’re making healthy choices when it comes to what and how much you’re taking in! Re-fuel your body with healthy meals and snacks that include lots of protein (lean meats, nuts, grains, cheeses, etc.), fruits and vegetables, and make sure that you drink plenty of fluids. “Not many people are familiar with the symptoms of dehydration,” Cohn comments. Dehydration can cause dizziness and nausea, so it’s important to stay hydrated when you exercise. As long as you get the proper amount of nutrients and fluids, you’ll have the strength you need to get through a healthy workout!
Where Can I Get Help?
Because over-exercising stems from something more emotionally oriented, it can be incredibly difficult for someone who is suffering from the addiction to identify it in themselves. In Jane’s case, it was her friends who noticed it first. “I was exercising every day and all of my friends started to judge me, saying that I was too obsessed,” she says, adding, “[They] told me not to go to the gym.” Remember that it’s important to look out for your friends! If someone you know is more concerned with getting to the gym than anything else or is going unusually frequently — such as after practically every bite she takes —, suggest that she talk to a personal trainer about putting together a healthy exercise routine and schedule for herself. For collegiettes like Jane, Cohn suggests talking to someone at a health center about how to create a balanced routine. “College is about learning how to be your best coach,” she says. “At the health center, they will help you to communicate better with yourself, define realistic boundaries, and set goals that you can achieve.” Cohn says that looking on magazines’ websites such as SELF can also be a great resource; your questions will be answered by professional dietitians, and you know the workouts these magazines feature are healthy. Your campus’s mental health services are another key place to turn for help.
Keeping it Real: But I Want to Look Like Her!
Your physical health greatly depends on your emotional health, so steer clear of unrealistic goals when you’re exercising! “Don’t ever compare yourself to someone else in a negative way,” Cruickshank stresses to all of his clients. “You have to understand that you are a unique individual.” It’s okay to compare yourself to other women in order to help you reach your goals, but it’s important to only use comparisons to help you become the best version of yourself... not someone else! Everyone has a different body type, and if you eat and exercise with someone else’s body in mind, you’re not going to develop habits that are healthy for you. So next time you’re at the gym, instead of setting unrealistic goals based on someone else’s figure, think about how much you love the strong body that you’re building for yourself!
Stay active and healthy, collegiettes™!
Serena H. Chen, MD, director of reproductive medicine and ovum donation at St. Barnabas Medical Center
Lisa Cohn, nutritionist, director, and owner of Park Avenue Nutrition
Mike Cruickshank, C.S.C.S. NSCA
Naomi Sussman, LCSW
Kevin C., certified personal trainer, Columbia University freshman
Gretchen L., dancer
Paula Owens, M.S., nutritionist, multi-certified fitness expert and holistic health practitioner
*Collegiettes around the country (names have been changed)