Activity Anorexia

Activity Anorexia is a condition where an individual systematically decreases the amount they eat while increasing the amount they exercise. The more food is decreased, the more exercise is increased. This condition occurs when an individual values exercise more than eating healthily. Studies estimate that approximately 75% of people with anorexia nervosa have activity anorexia as a co condition.


  • Compulsive about weight and diet
  • Devotes time allocated to work, school, or relationships to exercise
  • Diagnoses self with food allergies to avoid multiple food types
  • Avoids eating prior to exercise, often claiming it causes gastro-intestinal problems
  • Athleticism used as an excuse not to eat
  • Compulsive calorie counting to the point of obsession
  • Never satisfied with athletic achievements or physical conditioning
  • Unbalanced vegetarian eating habits
  • Avoids social situations that involve food
  • Defines self worth in terms of physical conditioning and athletic performance
  • Secretive eating
  • Exercises even when exercise has been restricted by a medical professional

If you suspect a family member or someone you know of having activity anorexia you should encourage them to see an eating disorder specialist. As with most eating disorders, you will probably encounter resistance, anger, and denial.

Medical Risks:

  • Shrunken bones
  • Mineral loss
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Low body temperature
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Stress fractures
  • Loss of coordination
  • Stunted growth
  • Osteoporosis

External Resources

Activity Anorexia Research & Treatment (246 page online book)
WebMD Overview of Activity (Anorexia) Disorder