Behind the Scenes

The Dilemma of Anorexic or Exercise-Obsessed Members

Do club owners or their staff have a responsibility to tell a member that they are exercising too much or that they are too thin?

During one of my personal training sessions, my trainer and I shared our concerns about a member of the club that we both think is a compulsive exerciser and suffers from anorexia nervosa. This member is in the club for hours at a time, moving from the treadmill to the elliptical to the Stairmaster—and then back again to each one. Her arms and legs are so thin that I fear for her safety on these machines, especially when she walks backwards on the Stairmaster.

My trainer has engaged this woman in a casual conversation and offered to help her add muscle. Her objective was to get the member into some training, find out about her nutritional habits and help her redirect her eating and exercising to a healthier level. Unfortunately, the member has not taken her up on it.

I know my trainer's heart is in the right place, and my initial thought was that someone at the club needs to say something to the member, but from what little I know of anorexia nervosa, the club staff might not have the capability to truly deal with this condition. Because people who suffer from this disorder have a distorted view of their bodies, getting through to them might take more than a few personal training sessions that involved nutritional guidance. It likely would take some psychological help, too. Still, I wonder if a trainer taking her under her wing could help her see that she needs help.    

What do you do in your club when you become aware of a member who has an issue such as this? Are you morally obligated to share your concerns with this member? How do you start that conversation? Do you have a plan of action in place to help these members? And if you have confronted a member with an eating or exercise disorder, what was the result?

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