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Why I Will Not Participate in My Work's New Year's Fitness Challenge


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.

“Are you overindulging on holiday treats and eggnog?”

My stomach tightened and throat closed as I read the email from my work. A fitness challenge — an opportunity to get into teams and be more active. On the surface, there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to be more active. Exercise and activity are healthy, even wonderful in some cases. But for me, they are not an option. In my recovery from anorexia nervosa, I have been unable to exercise for almost a year. Even admitting that is painful.

When I read that email, I was overwhelmed with the prospect of the new year, a time filled with empty promises and overzealous resolutions. I am guilty of making these myself: exercise and lose weight. I am reminded of previous years spent meticulously planning my diet and exercise regime, praying that the number on the scale would keep decreasing.

2017 has been filled with ups and downs. Physically, I am in a much better place. I am weight restored and maintaining. My hair is shiny; my joints and muscles are not constantly aching; my skin is not grey; my body is no longer ice cold. However, mentally, I am still struggling. I feel the urge to restrict or exercise, constantly berated by the demands of anorexia.

And I do not need yet another reminder of what it felt like to be sick, entrenched in weight loss, in abusive exercise. For me, weight gain and a sedentary lifestyle are indicators of health. They signify that I am following my meal plan and no longer doing excessive cardio to purge calories. They signify that I am fighting my anorexia every single day, no matter how difficult it feels. They signify that I am on the long path to recovery.

As my psychologist always says, “Food is your medicine,” which means that yes, I will “indulge” in holiday treats and curl up on the couch. Because if I do, I will be enjoying time with loved ones rather than isolating. I will be laughing and making memories rather than shaking on the elliptical or going hours and hours without food. I will be me rather than my anorexia.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Getty Images photo via RossHelen