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How Sports Helped Me Conquer My Eating Disorder

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Last year was the first year I went to the beach heavier than I’ve ever been. And I wore a bikini and beautiful swimsuits and fabulous dresses. I had a ton of energy. We did a two hour trail hikes, I jogged, we played tennis, we danced. I didn’t overeat. For the first time I didn’t think at all about food or calories. If I wanted a glass of wine, I would have it. If I wanted bread, I would have it.

This is an ode to sports and their amazing “sidekick effect” on beating a long-overdue eating disorder.

I haven’t written about this much. I have struggled with anorexia and binge eating disorder for nearly half of my life. It started when I was 15 and it was pretty bad until my early 20s. I got better until last year when it all came tumbling down during some stressful times. This time I could see the signs, so I looked immediately for help and — for the first time — really opened up about it.

It’s hard to confess things like this. It makes me feel like a failure, like I am weak and futile and almost like I am a silly teenager with no self-esteem.

But you know what they say. There is no growth without pain.

I have been putting a lot of work into my recovery and the hardest thing is loving myself exactly as I am. Or, to put it bluntly, to love myself as I look in the mirror. Which is definitely not the same thing.

I read about alternative recovery models, listened to podcasts, reviewed my Susan Bordo literature and researched many “health at every size” advocates. It’s been long road.

Of course it makes no sense to starve myself. Nor do I find any way to rationalize being skinny as a twig makes me a better or more lovable person. 

During my worst crisis I was hiding from life, friends and fun. I was skinny, too skinny. Clothes wouldn’t even fit me. And guess what? I still thought I was disgusting.

This is the trouble with an eating disorder.

Anyway. I will say this. I don’t think this recovery journey would be the same had I not been so focused on sports.

Because running, boxing and CrossFit don’t care about your size. They care if you can hold your weight. If you can bend. If you can make the distance. If you can beat that distance. If you aren’t eating, you can’t do any of that.

In 2016, as I transitioned to a plant based diet and fell in love with sports for real, I felt stronger. My asthma is so much better. I can carry things. My feet — which had surgery and didn’t let me walk for six months — have been running every morning.

These tiny achievements alone are signs my body rocks. It is there with me, 100 percent, if I am there with it.

I still relapse with binge eating and restriction, yes.

But I feel so much better. And I think it shows.

The first day I got out and bought new jeans, I decided I would be proud no matter what size I was. All my friends asked me if I had done something, because I looked great.

Sure, I want to improve my diet for health issues and to finally be at peace with this disorder. But what gets me up and makes me want to recover are my athletic goals. Performing better.

If you want to know more about my journey, reach out to me!

Or start here with some of my favorite resources:

Linda Bacon

Isabel Foxen Duke

The Fuck It Diet

Christy Harrison

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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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: April 5, 2023
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