For many people, moderation is the key to a healthy, happy life. After all, how much fun would life be if you swore off M&Ms forever, or if you always chose exercise over other activities and relationships?
But for some people, the quest to adopt a more healthful lifestyle progresses from earnest to overzealous, and, ironically, these people may end up doing more harm than good.
Magazines and websites are brimming with health information. Those same publications often feature stick-like models and celebrities. The message? No matter what your size, you can—and should—be thinner. As a result, some people become overly concerned about their eating and exercising habits.
The media can have a negative effect on how you feel about your yourself. Most people cannot attain the level of weight loss they see in media. When you feel badly about yourself, you may change your eating and exercising habits to reach a false goal. This overconcern with weight loss can be detrimental to your physical and mental health.
When people exercise too much or eat too restrictively, they set themselves up for physical, mental, and social problems.
Overdoing exercise can cause overuse injuries. People may also become so fatigued that their usual exercise routine becomes difficult. Their immune systems may also weaken, making them more vulnerable to common illnesses, like colds and the flu. They may even experience depression, nausea, and sleep problems.
Likewise, eating too restrictively can deprive people of valuable minerals and vitamins, such as iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin E. Without these nutrients, they risk developing osteoporosis, anemia and protein deficiencies, and other problems. An eating obsession can also lead to eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa .
So what's the solution? Recognizing the problem and then working to achieve moderation.
Knowing when your eating and exercising habits have gone awry involves paying attention to subtle signs.
To check your exercise habits, evaluate if you've felt depressed, been unusually fatigued, or experienced increased illness or injury. Perhaps you've begun choosing exercise over other activities, like getting together with friends or family or going out to eat. Maybe you have difficulty skipping even one day of exercise, which may be causing problems at work as well.
Problems with eating habits may manifest themselves in behavioral problems. Notice if you've begun isolating yourself from people and eating alone. Have you started getting into patterns with your eating, such as never eating certain foods together or pushing food around on your plate? Do you think about food constantly? Have you divided food into good and bad categories and eat only good foods? If so, you may have a problem.
To introduce moderation into your eating and exercising habits, follow these tips:
American Council on Exercise
American Dietetic Association
Public Health Agency of Canada
Blowers LC, Loxton NJ, et al. The relationship between sociocultural pressure to be thin and body dissatisfaction in preadolescent girls. Eat Behav. 2003;4(3):229-244.
Easy exercise tips. Helpguide website. Available at: http://helpguide.org/life/exercise.htm. Updated December 2013. Accessed January 16, 2014.
Griffiths MD, Szabo A, Terry A. The exercise addiction inventory: a quick and easy screening tool for health practitioners: Br J Sports Med. 2005 Jun;39(6):e30.
Healthy eating. Helpguide website. Available at: http://helpguide.org/life/healthy_eating_diet.htm. Updated December 2013. Accessed January 16, 2014.
The effects of social pressure to be thin on body dissatisfaction and negative affect. Untiversity of Texas website. Available at: http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/HomePage/Class/Psy158H/PrevHonors/Fall00/Z25/litreview.html. Accessed January 16, 2014.
Last reviewed January 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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