Compulsive Exercise Disorder and The Great Fitness Experiment by Charlotte Hilton Anderson (Book Review)

For the past nine weeks BTBS has review a fitness or weight loss related book. 

This week the book is The Great Fitness Experiment by Charlotte Hilton Anderson.

We all have a friend that's daring and brave (arguably crazy) enough to try dangerous activities just for the fun of it. This book is like that friend. The author spends an whole year trying all of the latest fitness fads, some of which, work to some extent, and others have the complete opposite desired effect (including weight gain!). Nearly all of them have their dangers and I certainly wouldn't be brave (crazy?) enough to try them out myself. 

As someone who has never tried a diet (by that I mean diets which have names, like Weight Watches, Atkins, South Beach, The Cabbage Soup Diet) and the most adventurous fitness trends I've tried are whatever's listed on the gym timetable, pre-approved and risk-assessed by professionals and supervised by instructors. So yes, I like to play it safe and let other, more-willing, people test and approve things for me. I like to learn from others and their mistakes and successes. Call it 'self preservation' if you will

Anderson battles and perseveres through tough workouts, risking life and limb (almost literally by the sounds of it!) in the name of experimenting. It's an entertaining and humorous read for those like me, who like to live vicariously.   

Compulsive Exercise Disorder
There is however a bit of a dark side to this book. The author admits to compulsive exercising, a problem which is just as serious, but often over shadowed by the two main eating disorders, anorexia and bulimia. Compulsive exercise (sometimes called 'exercise bulimia') is unlikely to be a problem for much of society, as chances are many people aren't getting enough exercise. For this reason, it tends to be laughed off, ignored and even envied! As someone who lives with a compulsive exerciser, I can promise you that it is not something to be envied or laughed off. It's difficult and at times, completely intolerable to live with. The author writes about her own experiences of it and if you or someone you know has an issue with compulsive exercise chances are her experiences are far too familiar! 

Some of the typical signs include: refusing to have rest days; feeling undeserving of food on a day where there was no exercise; missing work, family and friend's occasions because of a conflict with the workout schedule; and exercising despite serious injury when medical professionals have warned you to rest. Often these signs are passed off as being 'very committed' and to someone who isn't committed at all (in other words, the polar opposite) I can see why it would probably appear this way. There is however, 3 groups of people: those committed to their health's best interests and seek out moderation and balance at all times, those that don't give a crap at all about their health or fitness, and then thirdly, those who probably started off committed to their health, but ended up obsessive with it, to the point it becomes a disorder and the concept of moderation and balance goes out of the window. Often with this third group, it's linked to other aspects of life, for example, compulsively exercising to alleviate depression and anxiety or aid with escapism. If you or someone you know fits into the category, it's advisable to seek professional help to deal with the underlying causes, which the author of The Great Fitness Experiment has done.

Back to the book review...
If what I said above about compulsive exercise, rings true for you or someone else, I'd recommend this book just for that reason alone as it's the first one I've stumbled upon that goes into the personal experience of compulsive exercise disorder. Aside from this, it's still a great read if you want to know more about the latest faddy fitness trends without risking life and limb trying them for yourself...CrossFit, anyone?!

For more great fitness and weight loss books, be sure to check out BTBS's previous book reviews, which you'll find here: Weekly Book Reviews

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