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
"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."