Asking for help
So Weiner sought the advice of a nutritionist. Her nutritionist sent her to a therapist, who helped her sort through the emotions underlying her exercise addiction. "Once I learned the language of this problem it was a lot easier to talk about," she says. Weiner also attended group therapy. "It was really empowering to meet with seven other women who had gone through the experience. I realized that I'm not alone."
Weiner received both individual cognitive therapy, aimed at changing harmful thought patterns and emotions, and behavioral therapy in group sessions, aimed at shifting destructive behavior. This sort of multifaceted approach is typical, says Sacker. He recommends that exercise bulimics find a team for support, including therapists and a physician who can help diagnose and treat the physical effects of overexercise.
Weiner has a message for others who are struggling with an exercise addiction: "Recovery is 100% possible." The first step, she says, is admitting you have a problem. "Take a risk and talk to someone about it." And find a doctor or psychologist who can help you work through the root cause of your problem.
Finding new ways to deal with emotions is an important part of the healing process, says Sacker. Many women in Weiner's therapy group discovered that journal writing helped them work through their emotions in a constructive way. Most also sought other ways of expressing themselves, often through artistic pursuits like dance or painting. One woman even wrote songs about her experience.
Weiner turned to theater as an alternative outlet. She began scripting one-woman plays about body image, exercise addiction, self-hatred, and other issues facing young people. Today she travels around the U.S. acting out her play, Body Loathing, Body Love, which chronicles her struggle with exercise bulimia. Her latest project is a television show focused on teen issues.
"Recovery is a continuum," she says. "It took years and years to build these attitudes; you can't fix them overnight. But you can choose to stop relying on exercise as a coping mechanism."