Many fitness professionals suffering from secret eating disorders

fitness instructors and EDEating disorders can be very secretive conditions, with sufferers often too afraid or ashamed to tell people of their secret struggles.

This problem can be worsened depending on a person's profession, where increased stigma may be attached to suffering from an eating disorder.

Speaking to the BBC, Nisha Obaidullah, who is 34 and a fitness professional with eight years experience, appears to be in peak health.

However, since the age of six, she has in fact faced eating disorders.

Ms Obaidullah, from Bristol, admitted that it is only in the last three months that she has managed to eat properly without restrictions or obsessive behaviour.

She is now helping others and working as a body confidence coach, but is keen to encourage honesty within the fitness industry, as this is a group she argues can be affected by diseases like bulimia and anorexia nervosa.

“It’s a very secretive disease. You would not believe the number of fitness professionals who suffer. I want to spread awareness so people are not afraid to come forward for help,” Ms Obaidullah said.

The main problem with talking about eating disorders is people don’t want clients to think that they were unable to do their job properly.

She said: “The big thing in the industry is if you’re telling a client to do x, y or z, you should be doing it times 100. You’ve got to be perfect.

“The pressure to look great and conform to that image is really great. They’re always talking about what percentage body fat have you got.”

Despite only admitting to friends in January 2012 that she was bulimic, Ms Obaidullah acknowledges that her problems started long before becoming a fitness trainer, despite it worsening later.

After being diagnosed with celiac disease at 21, she began a healthier diet and started concentrating on her fitness, before discovering laxatives.

At her most extreme, she was taking 30 laxatives a day and rapidly lost a dramatic amount of weight.

However, after restricting her diet to extreme levels, over-exercising and taking laxatives quickly caused Ms Obaidullah to become “really depressed”, leading her to binge eating.

She underwent therapy, which she credits for changing her life.

“It’s been an uphill struggle, I haven’t taken laxatives now in about three months, I have breakfast and I try and have three meals a day,” Ms Obaidullah revealed.

She is now on a mission to change perceptions within the fitness industry and encourage a more open culture of support and understanding.

“There’s so much more to fitness than eating and training. The core of fitness comes from being happy in your own life. I want to see a massive change in the industry,” Ms Obaidullah went on to say.

The Register of Exercise Professionals told the BBC that while there are no figures for the number of instructors with eating disorders, professionals are aware of the importance of healthy eating and lifestyles choices.

Anyone with concerns about themselves, friends, family members or colleagues are advised to seek professional support.

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