What It Feels Like to Run for Myself, Not My Eating Disorder
Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.
When I was at my sickest, I could really only focus on one thing — calories. My head kept a constant tally of calories in vs calories out. I knew, and still do, the amount of calories in practically everything. If I ate more than I had planned for that day an immense panic would sweep over me that could only be subdued if I either literally removed the food from my body, or burned off those calories through exercise.
Exercise, particularly running, really only served one purpose in my life — to help me reverse the “sin” of eating I had committed. As a result, I exercised with the sole purpose of burning calories. I would not allow myself to stop a run until I met, and exceeded whatever burnt calorie goal I had set. Exercise became a form of punishment for me. During runs, I could never stop the voice inside my head from berating me, calling me disgusting, forcing me to ignore any level of physical exhaustion and continue to push until I completed my punishment and temporarily satisfied the voice.
I spent years clearly misusing exercise. When I made the choice to try and fight my illness, a big part of my recovery journey involved giving up exercise. I simply couldn’t trust myself. For some, exercise is used as a way to improve their mental health. It can have a calming effect and when done properly can help you feel like your best self. It can give you a sense of accomplishment and empowerment. I was able to recognize that at that point in time, I was too sick to derive any positives from exercise and needed to remove it from my life.
It has been about a year since I started my journey to love, fight and care for my body. The eating disorder voice is still there, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say every day is a struggle. That being said, I have made progress. The progress I am the proudest of involves exercise. For about a month I have been able to run for the sake of running, I have been able to run for the sake of health, and I have been able to run for the sake of growing stronger. I am able to say I now know what it feels like to run simply because you enjoy how it makes you feel, not because you need to punish yourself. I am able to run for however long or short my body wants me to. I am able to run and actually feel happy while doing it.
In the past, I feel like I was transparent while running. Anguish was practically cemented on my face, because it was not something I enjoyed…who in their right mind enjoys punishing themselves? It hurt to run, and it was hard to run. Fast forward to today:
I ran today because I wanted to.
I ran today because it made me feel strong.
I ran today because it made me feel accomplished.
I ran today because it made me feel relaxed.
I ran today because I wanted to enjoy nature.
I ran today because I wanted to listen to some new music I recently bought.
I smiled today when I ran because I was happy.
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Thinkstock photo via Marjan_Apostolovic