You've heard of bulimia. But exercise bulimia? Thus the headline on Luke O'Neil's piece in Esquire: "Most People Will Never Understand My Eating Disorder." Think of it this way: A person with bulimia feels the need to purge by vomiting. For those with exercise bulimia, the purge comes through obsessive exercise. O'Neil figures he hits the gym 360 days a year, and he recounts tales of vacationing with his wife in exotic locales, only to find himself pumping weights in a shabby gym while she sees the sights. "You wouldn't know it by looking at me," writes O'Neil, who is 6 feet tall and weighs between 180 and 190 pounds. "I am by no means the picture of health or even particularly muscular-looking—not for someone who exercises this much, and definitely not compared to most of the men I see at my gym."
That might be because once his regimen is over—only when he feels like he's "earned it"—O'Neil has a big meal, thus setting the cycle in place for the next day. Exercise bulimia isn't categorized as its own ailment in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but as a subset of bulimia nervosa, and no firm numbers exist on how many people have it. But "it's a problem as destructive as any other type of addiction," writes O'Neil, even if the idea of going to the gym is hard to fathom as a self-destructive habit. He delves into its various manifestations, along with how to recognize symptoms and get help, but his main point is in simply speaking up about it. "You're not going to die from the embarrassment," he writes to others who might be in the same boat. "Your eating disorder, on the other hand, might do the trick if you let it." Click for the full piece. (Read more Longform stories.)