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When I told my son Ben (who had a lethal exercise addiction when he was sick with anorexia) about this shocking new proposal, he said:
"If this had been around when I had my eating disorder it would have killed me, and I mean that. I saw it on the News this morning but didn't tell you, mum, because I didn't want to upset you."
Basically it would have given him the 'green light' to exercise even more than he was doing already. And, if you've read my book Please eat...: A mother's struggle to free her teenage son from anorexia, you will know that his exercise addiction went through the roof. Here's the bit where he 'confesses' his exercise addiction to CAMHS (and really the following is just the tip of the iceberg...):
Ever since the October heart scare Ben has been banned from doing PE at school. Unfortunately he’s exercising at home to compensate and to ensure he doesn’t “put on massive amounts of weight”. It’s a kind of purge, almost like a sufferer of bulimia might vomit to control their weight.
“Walk me through a typical day’s exercising,” says Linda as she reaches for a pen and paper.
Just when we think he’s listed all the “100 crunches, 100 sit-ups and 100 press-ups” for any one day he interrupts with “I haven’t finished yet!” Not once, but several times. School days differ from home days, weekends from week days. Ben is exercising from morning to night.
By the time he catches the school bus in the morning he’s already done 100 crunches and sit-ups during the 60 minutes we rush to get up, showered, breakfasted and out of the house. Meanwhile at school he deliberately makes himself late for lessons so he can run from classroom to classroom.
One reason he’s still only at school part-time is because he can’t handle the thought of “sitting around doing nothing” for the afternoon as well as the morning. When he gets home at lunchtime he pushes himself to do more crunches and repeats these throughout the afternoon - and before and after the evening meal. In addition he’s still doing weight sessions most days and going for a couple of runs every week. Meanwhile he can’t sleep because his mind is constantly racing as he tries to balance input and output.
The bland CAMHS consulting room feels like a bizarre confessional as Ben confesses his entire exercise regime and Linda’s piece of paper becomes several pages. Our very urgent task is to find a way of breaking the cycle. It’s a Big Ask. I sigh and look at Linda for an answer.
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