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How I Found My Passion for Sports Again After Eating Disorder Recovery

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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 741741.

I have always been into sports. As a teenager, I competed internationally in rhythmic gymnastics, I trained 35 hours a week and had the core  strength to show it. However, when I turned 17 and started my a-levels, I decided to retire from this beautiful sport. I wanted to focus on my studies and I didn’t have the time to commit to competing.

Soon after beginning my a-levels, my eating disorder started to sink in. I had quickly lost my toned figure and wanted it back, so I thought a quick “diet” would solve my problems. This, combined with moving schools, relationships and ongoing depression meant that my diet quickly turned into a deadly eating disorder. I became obsessive and wished I hadn’t quit gymnastics. It would have been the perfect excuse to exercise all day!

I sought any excuse to burn calories. I would go to the gym in my free periods at school and then work out into the night on my bedroom floor. As the weight fell off, my mind deteriorated. I hated my figure more and more each day, despite losing more weight than I had originally sought out to. Exercising no longer brought me joy; it was just a form of self-punishment and torture. I hated every minute of it, but I had to keep going to stay thin.

Soon I was banned from all forms of exercise. I argued that they were taking away my passion, but deep down I knew that it was destroying me. By following a meal plan, going to therapy and being fully supported by my parents, I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Many months later and with a healthier mindset, the day came when I was once again granted my right to exercise. I was terrified. Sports had nearly killed me; how could I go back? I didn’t trust myself to stop when my body needed it. I sought a personal health coach at my local gym who offered advice and a watching eye over my routines. I felt cared for and slowly learned that cardio wasn’t the only option at the gym! I tried all the new machines, weights and stretches that I once used to dismiss.

I know I could never go back to gymnastics. It would hurt too much to see how far everyone has progressed during my years out, and the competitiveness would be harmful to my recovery. I have, however, taken up adult figure skating. Starting at the edge and tootling my way along the barrier… there wasn’t much risk of over-doing it! I was in a supportive, non-competitive class with people of all ages. I fell in love again.

I have been training on the ice for over two years now and just took part in my first ever performance: our Christmas gala. We dressed up as the cast of “The Greatest Showman,” and there were no judges to impress: just a happy audience clapping and singing along. I didn’t care what I looked like; I was happy.

I always hoped that I would find my passion within sports again; I just never expected it to be on the ice. I now know how to care for my body and embrace what it can do, not to punish it. It has been a long journey, but it has been worth it. Whether you are a dancer, kick boxer, swimmer or horse rider, if you look after your body, there is no saying how far you could go!

Follow this journey on the author’s website.

Originally published: February 10, 2020
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